Senator Kefalas, Dougherty run for Larimer County Commissioner

Blake O'Brien

Students may be consumed with midterm exams, but there’s another midterm on the horizon: The 2018 Colorado General Elections will occur Nov. 6, and for citizens of Larimer County, that means electing a member to the Board of County Commissioners.

Citizens will have a choice between two candidates for the position – Republican nominee Sean Dougherty and Democrat John Kefalas – when filling out their ballots.

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The board is the main policy-making body in the county, according to the Larimer County Government’s website. It’s made up of three members that serve four-year, staggered terms and represent different geographical areas.

This year the election will determine county commissioner for District 1, the northernmost region of Larimer County that encompasses Colorado State University.

With only days until the first votes are cast, Kefalas and Dougherty spoke about the issues, themselves and their plans if elected.

Sean Dougherty (R) 

sean dougherty poses for campaign photo
Sean Dougherty is running for Larimer County Commissioner, a role which he currently fills on the County Commisoner’s Board. (Photo courtesy of Sean Dougherty.)

Dougherty currently represents District 1 on the Larimer County Board of Commissioners. He was unanimously appointed to the seat by the Larimer County Republican Party in September after his friend and fellow Republican, Lou Gaiter, died.

Thus far, the experience has gone smoothly, Dougherty said.

“I knew what I was walking into,” Dougherty said. “This is all stuff that was not unknown to me.”

Dougherty has lived and worked in Larimer County for almost two decades and has held a variety of leadership positions. As a real estate agent, he served as president of the Fort Collins Board of Realtors in 2010. Dougherty was also chair of the Larimer County Planning Commission, a role which ended in July.

I’m ready to step in. I’m already there, but I’m ready to actually be elected and step in and do the job. I want to serve the community; I want to serve the entire county and the region.” Sean Dougherty, Republican nominee for Larimer County Commissioner

With experience in these positions and 18 years of knowledge about Larimer County, Dougherty said he’s developed the skillset needed to be commissioner.

“The three County Commissioners are basically the three co-CEOs of the county,” Dougherty said. “You have to know how to lead to be able to do that, and I’ve learned how to lead.”

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Dougherty said his campaign has covered a variety of issues, but three of particular importance have been transportation, the creation of a behavioral health facility and managing the county’s growth, which includes the security of attainable and affordable housing.

“Being in real estate, attainable and affordable housing is extremely important to me,” Dougherty said. “The commissioners don’t really have a specific role in affordable and attainable housing, but we do have some opportunities to help work on it.”

He said working on things like changing the land use code and creating a better communication system between Larimer County municipalities could significantly help housing issues in the area.

In terms of transportation, Dougherty plans to tackle infrastructure issues involving roads and bridges in the county. He is also looking into new transportation programs such as VanGo, a carpooling service for people traveling to similar destinations.

“I’m ready to step in. I’m already there, but I’m ready to actually be elected and step in and do the job,” Dougherty said. “I want to serve the community. I want to serve the entire county and the region.”

More information on Dougherty and his campaign can be found here.

John Kefalas (D)

On April 21st from 9-10:30pm, state Senator John Kefalas will visit Momo Lolos coffee house to mainly discuss PERA reform and the state’s $29.9 billion budget. (Ashley Potts | Collegian File Photo)

Kefalas doesn’t currently sit on the Board of Commissioners, but he does represent Larimer County’s District 14 in the Colorado Senate. He’s been part of the legislature for 12 years – the first half as a state representative and the latter as a state senator – but he rejects the title of “career politician.”

Kefalas said that while there is an impending term limit in 2020 for his current state senate position, that is not the reason why he’s running for County Commissioner.

“I wanted to continue and extend my public service to a more local level, and to focus close to home and bring folks together,” Kefalas said. “My entire adult life has been about that.”

Kefalas has deep ties to CSU and Larimer County. He graduated as a Ram in 1976 and has taught graduate courses in public policy at the University for the last 7 years, aside from 2013 and this year.

“Basically, (Larimer County) has been my home for the last 42 years,” Kefalas said.

I have always felt, and practice has proven me right, that when we set aside our labels and are willing to work together in a collaborative way, we can transform challenges into opportunities. I think we can create better policy when we’re able to sit down and deliberate. It’s real and it works.”Sen. John Kefalas, Democratic nominee for Larimer County Commissioner

If elected, Kefalas said that there are a variety of things he plans to work on. In terms of the most important, he agrees with Dougherty, citing sustainable growth, affordable housing and workforce development as critical issues in Larimer County.

“A high priority for me is the idea of smart growth and sustainable growth,” Kefalas said. “I think another aspect of that is that people really value open space, and how do we balance that with development – striking that urban-rural balance.”

Regarding economic development, Kefalas said there are three barriers for citizens that need to be recognized and dealt with: housing affordability, childcare and transportation.

More than anything, Kefalas hopes to bring more cooperation and communication to Larimer County if elected.

“I have always felt, and practice has proven me right, that when we set aside our labels and are willing to work together in a collaborative way, we can transform challenges into opportunities,” Kefalas said. “I think we can create better policy when we’re able to sit down and deliberate. It’s real and it works.” 

More information about Kefalas and his campaign can be found here.

Ballots will be sent out the week of Oct. 15, giving students just under a month to turn in their ballots before elections take place.  

Blake O’Brien can be reached at news@collegian.com or on Twitter @BTweetsOB