Incumbents look safe in Saguache County

Article by Ed Quillen

1996 election – November 1996 – Colorado Central Magazine

Incumbents look safe in Saguache County

by Ed Quillen

For Saguache County, the ’96 election sounds about as exciting as watching grass grow. The only local race is for two county commission seats.

“We’ve got two incumbents, one from each party, and each has an opponent from the other party. Pretty much the same old same old,” said Dean Coombs, publisher of the Saguache Crescent.

“I’ll go way out on a limb and predict that the incumbents will be re-elected by big margins,” Coombs said. “Nobody seems fired up about this election.

Keith Edwards, the incumbent Republican, is being challenged by Democrat Bill McClure, a former mayor of Center, in one commission race.

In the other, Democrat Bob Philleo of Crestone faces a challenge from Republican Mike Oliver, who was recruited by Edwards.

Philleo said the major issue is finding a way to cope with growth. “The county’s population has increased by 20% in the past five years, and we’re anticipating more growth. housing is tight, rentals are scarce and getting more expensive.”

Saguache County has no building or zoning codes, “but some people think we don’t have any rules, and we do enforce the plumbing and electrical inspections required by the state. We’re trying to keep regulations to a minimum.”

That may please some people, but there’s pressure for more regulation, Philleo said, and that would raise housing costs. “There are people who live here who don’t have much money, and they’ll ask us at meetings, `Are you trying to drive us out?'”

Philleo said he isn’t. “But all the time, you’re dealing with people who do have money, and they’re pushing us commissioners to act against those who don’t. It’s really hard to know where to draw the line.”

Oliver, Philleo’s opponent, has criticized the incumbent board for failing to take stronger action against the U.S. Forest Service after it closed a route west of Center to motorized vehicles.

“We got the Forest Service to review the closure,” Philleo said, “and they came back and said it was justified. There’s not much more we can do, unless the `county supremacy movement’ catches on in the courts.”