Summit County Comissioner race: Allen Bacher hopes to balance county with conservatism
Editor’s note: An article on incumbent Dan Gibbs’ candidacy for District 1 county commissioner will run in the Oct. 13 edition of the Summit Daily News.
Andy Barrie and Ceil Barrie’s fight with Summit County over 10 acres they owned south of Breckenridge became a cause célèbre for conservatives across the English-speaking world this year. It was a narrative presented by Fox News and other new outlets as a clear abuse of governmental power.
The county said it was preserving open space when it bought the property after a long, fractious legal dispute. However, the Barries and their supporters said the county’s use of eminent domain to force the sale was a shocking overreach depriving the Barries of their mountain dreams.
No one was more outraged than Allen Bacher, a semi-retired adjunct economics and business professor at Colorado Mountain College in Breckenridge. He believed the county’s use of eminent domain deviates sharply from what the framers of the U.S. Constitution intended.
So the 69-year-old Republican candidate is doing something about it. “That’s why I’m in this race,” he said.
Bacher hopes to unseat District 1 Summit County Commissioner Dan Gibbs, the Democratic incumbent, in November.
Though he believes Gibbs is “a nice guy,” Bacher said the commissioner has bought fully into a “liberal, progressive ideology.”
Bacher, in contrast, believes in small, get-out-of-the-way government. And also unlike Gibbs — who has served as a state representative, a state senator and an aid-de-camp for then-U.S. Rep. Mark Udall — Bacher points to his business background as his strongest selling point.
“I asked my father what business was,” Bacher said. “He said, ‘You have to figure out what people want, provide it to them for a price that they can afford and make a reasonable profit, and create jobs for others.”
Bacher, a Breckenridge resident since 2006, is a board member of the Summit Chamber of Commerce. He’s also a member of the Breckenridge Resort Chamber and the Dillon Business Association.
Bacher said businessmen and -women and entrepreneurs can make life better for a community. However, government, he explained, just makes things worse through swelling tax burdens and wasteful spending.
Bacher said he is committed to the “20/20/20” principle: Reduce the county budget by 20 percent over five years, reduce the tax burden by 20 percent and give 20 percent of his salary as county commissioner to local nonprofits.
Despite his conservative views of government, Bacher grew up in Washington, D.C., where his father, a World War II veteran, ran a lithographic business. Bacher’s Colorado roots, however, are deep.
His grandfather, a Swiss-German Lutheran, made his fortune mining in Leadville. He then bought land in the southwest corner of Missouri to raise a family. Then the Great Depression hit and Bacher’s grandfather lost his farm to the county because he couldn’t afford the property taxes.
In the 1930s, the family moved to Grand Junction and raised strawberries as sharecroppers. Bacher’s father, one of 11 children, worked in the mines of Leadville, quarried in Marble and was an avalanche patrolman near where Vail Pass runs today. After a long military career, Bacher’s father settled his family in Washington, D.C., and northern Virginia.
Bacher remembers visiting the High Rockies, including Summit County, when he was 6 or 7 years old. Atop a mountain, he says he remembers doing a 360-degree turn and thinking that he one day would live in the mountains. In 2006, after becoming the first in his family to attend and graduate college and after a long career as a successful businessman, Bacher moved full time to Summit County.
Though he has an abiding affection for the landscape, Bacher is a sharp critic of the county’s recent efforts to buy up open space in Summit. That responsibility, he said, should be left to the private sector, to billionaires like Ted Turner and the like, who can purchase large swaths of land and put them under the oversight of land trusts and foundations.
He also argues that the county has done a poor job in helping to diversifying the local economy, which Bacher called a “one-trick-pony” hitched to the fickle ski industry.
Ultimately, his core campaign message has been that the county has gotten too big for its own good.
“What’s happened in government — it’s bloated,” he said. “We can’t sustain the size of the government at the federal, state and local level.”
Not surprisingly, Bacher will be voting no on ballot item 1A, which calls on voters to authorize $3.73 million in temporary annual funding for eight years for 911 upgrades, ambulance service and water-quality projects.
“Throwing more money at it doesn’t solve the issue,” he said.
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