Opinion | Elisabeth Lawrence: Affordability, housing, accessible child care will be my focus
Candidate for Summit County commissioner
Occupation: Current Summit County commissioner
Years in Summit County: 21
Family: Spouse, daughter, three doodle dogs
Civic involvement: Board member at the Summit County Chamber of Commerce, High Country Conservation Center, Breckenridge History, Early Childhood Options, Breckenridge Creative Arts, Colorado Counties Inc. Summit High School Accountability Committee, Summit Medical Center High Altitude Research Committee, Chair of Summit County Wildfire Council. Member of Father Dyer Church in Breckenridge
I am currently serving in my fourth year as Summit County commissioner, after having served on the Breckenridge Town Council as mayor pro tem and working as the director of community relations at The Summit Foundation.
During my time as county commissioner, we have seen unprecedented changes in Summit County, many due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
I am proud of how our community came together during this unprecedented time, but we are now living in the aftereffects: Increased housing costs that have hit our local workforce hardest, staffing challenges that continue to impact our small businesses, and the stress and mental health challenges that have affected students and families especially hard.
With a lot of hard work and collaboration with our local partners and those at the state and federal level, we have worked hard to address those impacts. We’ve continued to preserve open space, developed more workforce housing and child care opportunities, and engaged the community on ways to balance our economy and livability.
I’m grateful for the opportunity to work in a role that requires full-time dedication to effectively represent Summit County and represent our community’s values.
Priority No. 1: Quality, affordable child care for local working families
I am proud of my 17 years of work in child care. Over the last year, I have served as the only elected official on the governor’s task force focused on a new Department of Early Childhood. I currently serve on the Colorado Shines statewide workgroup to revamp the quality standards we use across the state. In Summit County, we have expanded the popular prekindergarten program to 3- and 4-year-olds in our preschools. We also broke ground on the Wildflower Forest Preschool in Silverthorne, set to open for September 2023, which will serve close to 100 children. In partnership with Early Childhood Options, we are working to implement the countywide tuition assistance program in 2023, based off the award-winning Breckenridge Tuition Assistance Program, which I was involved with since inception. This assistance allows local families to pay less than 16% of their monthly income on tuition.
In 2006, I paid an unsustainable 45% of my income to child care. It’s my priority to help other parents access care for much less. When quality child care is available, it supports businesses as parents can go to work. Additional expanded capacity is a priority, and at the county, we continue to work on a new child care center in the Keystone area.
Priority 2: Multipronged workforce housing strategies
To thrive, Summit County needs a community from all backgrounds and incomes, including a workforce that can live and work locally.
My personal story includes the devastation of losing affordable housing. That firsthand experience led to a commitment to provide more housing for Summit County.
I’m proud of projects like Wintergreen in Keystone, with more than 300 units, the Alpine Inn in Frisco with over 37 units, and the purchase of the old Wayside Inn in partnership with Breckenridge. We’ve also built and sold 12 Dillon Valley Vistas homes, and rolled our numerous programs such as Lease to Locals and Housing Helps, to help secure and preserve more units in our community.
We’re planning 52 units in partnership with Breckenridge, and a joint project with Frisco, to redevelop the state’s workforce site. Construction will begin in 2023 on townhomes in partnership with Habitat for Humanity and we have begun the process of utility infrastructure for Lake Hill. With over $20 million committed to housing in our 2023 budget, we are making great progress.
Priority 3: Continued representation of Summit County regionally, statewide and federally
Having relationships with our representatives at the state and federal level is incredibly important, and I will continue to foster those. Summit County might have a small population, but as one of the top tourist destinations in the state and home to the most visited national forest in the country, we serve a much larger population. This work requires collaboration and advocacy to ensure support for needs like housing and infrastructure and recreation, and that includes wins like our newest national monument.
It’s been an honor to serve, and I hope to earn the trust of my community for another term.
Elisabeth Lawrence is the incumbent candidate for the Democratic Party seeking reelection to the role of Summit County commissioner.
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