City commission hopefuls speak out

City-commissionminiBy Christina Calloway
Senior writer
ccalloway@pntonline.com

Roosevelt County Commission candidates were asked a series of questions to help voters understand their positions on the issues. District 3 and District 4 are the only contested commission races in the June 3 Republican primary. There are no Democrats running for those positions.

Charles Bennett

Charles Bennett

District 3
Charles Bennett
, 62, is a business owner who has worked in real estate for 28 years. Bennett went to school in Causey and got a degree in agricultural business from Eastern New Mexico University. He’s served on several community boards including the Roosevelt County Fair Board. He wants to be a commissioner because he feels there are problems coming from outside influences that he deals with in his business and he feels his experience allows him to address those issues.
What are the top three issues facing your district and what are your solutions?
• Drought
Solution: There’s very little a commissioner or anyone can do, there’s only one thing you can do and that’s pray.
• The listing of the lesser prairie chicken as a threatened species
Solution: I think we need to form a seven-county coalition on the southeast side of the state. We need to step up and start telling (the federal government) you’re not just going to come down here and rule us with unreasonable requests. If the chicken’s truly endangered, let’s handle it that way, but let’s not take any solutions off the table. Let’s not do long-term planning on the lesser prairie chicken based on data today based on rainfall, because as soon as it starts raining, the population will grow.
• State and federal laws and too much control
Solution: We’re just going to have to stand up and tell them “no,” that we’re capable of running our own communities and we need to find legal ways to prevent them from dictating us.

Do you vote by what you feel is best for your district or the way your constituents want you to vote?
The reason anybody ought to vote for me is that they watch how I conducted myself in the past. I do the research, I’m going to get all the input I need to see what’s best for my district and county. The only good solutions are when everyone’s a winner, and then I’ll vote what I feel like is the best, not only for my district, but for the county.

What areas of the county’s budget need more funding and what areas could stand to be cut?
I’ve not been involved in the financial decisions of the county. I can’t tell you what can be cut and what can’t. The budget’s light. We just have to figure out how to be more efficient with what we do have.

What experience do you bring to the position?
Everything I’ve talked about I’ve dealt with. It’s not new to me. These are issues I’m dealing with in my private business. I deal with bureaucrats, attorneys, professional people. I make a living getting opposite sides to see things close enough that they can make a deal and that what we need, solutions for everybody.

Lewis Shane Lee

Lewis Shane Lee

Lewis Shane Lee, 42, is a rancher who has always been interested in public office. He wants to be a commissioner so he can help his neighbors and see his community grow.

What are the top three issues facing your district and what are your solutions?
• The listing of the lesser prairie chicken as a threatened species
Solution: I haven’t been up on it as much as I should be. I’m going to have to research that more to find out what we can do. We’re going to have to get a committee together to figure out most of these problems.
• Water conservation
Solution: I put in some stuff called sub-surface drip irrigation in my system. My well used to pump 300 gallons of water a minute and I’ve cut back to 108 gallons. We need to educate. Farming has been a part of this community forever. If we start conserving now, we’ll have water for our grandchildren and great-grandchildren. We need to conserve water, more people can do it. I think there needs to be a tax break on land that doesn’t take that much water.
• Wind energy development
Solution: We need to go talk to our neighbors up north and help get the big wind farms started.

Do you vote by what you feel is best for your district or the way your constituents want you to vote?
I would vote whatever is best for the community as a whole. When you do that, most of the time it’s 70-30, 70 percent of the people are going to be happy. It’s never 50-50. And that’s the way I would vote, which ever percentage it will help the best.

What areas of the county’s budget need more funding and what areas could stand to be cut?
I’m not really up on the budget to know who all gets what money. That’s something I would have to look at and see for myself because I really don’t know what all the sheriff’s department expenses are and road expenses are. I know there are places you have to cut back on even though you don’t want to, to take care of unseen expenses. Before I start cutting and adding budgets, I’d have to have hands-on experience first.

What experience do you bring to the position?
I’m a very good people person and commissioners are elected by their neighbors. I’m good at being able to listen. I will listen to both sides of the story before I make up my mind on everything. Before I can believe everything that one person tells me. I’m very self-conscious about not taking one side before I hear the other side.

Scott Burton

Scott Burton

District 4
Incumbent Scott Burton, 39, is a real estate broker who was elected to the commission in 2010. He also serves on community committees including the Roosevelt County Com-munity Develop-ment Corp. Board and the Local Growth Manage-ment Committee. He’s running for re-election because he wants to continue the projects he’s started with the current commission.

What are the top three issues facing your district and what are your solutions?
• The county budget
Solution: The budget is not an easy fix. That’s just something we have to work on each and every year and see how our gross receipts taxes are. This year it looks a bit better. It’s a year-to-year basis on what goes on.
• Lesser prairie chicken
Solution: We’re already doing it as a commission, we’re going to start fighting it with the ranchers then we’re going to the state level. We’re going to sue the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. If this thing happens, they’re going to start taking our land away from us. We need to start with it right now at our level.
• Dealing with the possible expansion of the Melrose Bombing Range
Solution: Through the LGMC, we’ve tried to get the contract where we work together with (the U.S. Air Force). I think they’re going to want to expand to get bigger and they need to and it’s great but we need to work together.

Do you vote by what you feel is best for your district or the way your constituents want you to vote?
I do it both ways. When we have an issue, I’m able to talk to my constituents. I try to talk with them, visit with them. I vote the way I feel it needs to be voted for our county.

What areas of the county’s budget need more funding and what areas could stand to be cut?
As far as the budget goes again, that’s really a trick question. There’s no where to cut. Everywhere needs a little bit more money and all the elected officials have been good in tightening it. There’s nowhere to cut money from. Really, we need to add.

What experience do you bring to the position?
I’ve been here for 3 1/2 years. I think we run it very well, there’s more technology in there now than we’ve ever had before. We keep progressing and things are looking up.

Gene Creighton

Gene Creighton

Challenger Gene Creighton, 72, is a former two-term commissioner, elected in 2002. Creighton serves on the board for the Roosevelt County Electric Cooper-ative, and a former board member of the RCCDC and the Elida school board. Creighton said he’s running again because he felt he served the county well in his previous experience and he wants to see a lot more projects be completed.

What are the top three issues facing your district and what are your solutions?
• Drought
Solution: There’s not a whole lot you can do besides maintain roads, take care of equipment and increase revenue.
• Lesser prairie chicken
Solution: Best way would be for the federal government to do away with the (Endangered Species Act). We could put pressure on them. You have to legally pursue it and put pressure on state officials and federal officials.
• Getting more revenue
Solution: We need to lobby Santa Fe to drop regulations that they have in the oil drilling because the oil people don’t want to drill with the regulations they have to meet.

Do you vote by what you feel is best for your district or the way your constituents want you to vote?
If I think it’s wrong, I won’t vote against my conscience, but normally I vote for what they want because that’s who I represent.

What areas of the county’s budget need more funding and what areas could stand to be cut?
There’s never enough money because every department wants to expand and it just can’t happen. You just have to keep it in the budget.

What experience do you bring to the position?
I’ve been a life long resident of Roosevelt County and been in business here all my life. Eight years with the commission has taught me experience. I know most of our local politicians in Santa Fe.