Candidacy: District 3 Ouray County Commissioner, Republican
Education: No formal post secondary education.
Occupation: Self-employed masonry contractor
Family: Partner of 22 years Patty Bennett; three children; lives in Ridgway
Prior Government Experience: 30-plus years in local government in Ridgway and Ouray County; has held positions including Ridgway Planning Commissioner (1980-1996), Mayor of Ridgway (1984-1996), Ridgway Town Manager (1996-2000), Ridgway School Board member (1998-2008 and again in 2011) and Ouray County Commissioner (2001-2009).
Don Batchelder stood on the grassy edge of the Solar Ranch soccer field, watching well-drilled teams of high school boys from Ridgway and Bayfield vie for control of the ball, and talking about his latest candidacy for the post of Ouray County Commissioner – District 3.
After being sidelined from county politics for the past four years, term-limited Batchelder now hopes for another chance to get back in the game.
It was a very hard decision, he said. Although he thoroughly enjoys doing the type of work that goes along with being an elected official, and has done a lot of it, he’s not so crazy about what it takes to get there.
Simply put, Batchelder acknowledged, “I hate elections. I hate all the stuff. All the B.S. that’s associated with it. I intensely dislike it. I’ve always said that the skills that it takes to get elected are exactly the skills you don’t want in an elected official.”
Batchelder lists three reasons why he decided to overcome this aversion and enter the race.
First, a lot of people asked him to – “some pretty hard-core Democrats, and some pretty hard-core Republicans, and a lot of other people,” he said. “What they told me was, ‘We felt comfortable with you in that position, because although we may not agree with you, we know you are rational and fair.’”
Second, he feels he has a unique set of skills and experience. From 1980 until 2010, he was constantly in an elected or appointed position, and sometimes two elected positions at once. “I enjoy the mental stimulation,” he said. “There is a certain gratification that you don’t get in other things. I say, tongue in cheek, that I have an illness I haven’t figured out how to cure yet.”
Third, Batchelder said, he has continuously been drawn to governmental systems when he sees situations where the system is not working to its full potential. Batchelder’s supporters say he is like grease – he’s got the kind of leadership style that loosens things up and lets discussions and processes work better.
And true to his New England roots, he runs a tight, efficient ship. No lengthy, meandering discussions on this Connecticut Yankee’s watch.
Batchelder is turned off by what he sees as a current trend in the community and on the BOCC toward “my way or the highway” positions as partisan and special interest groups exert pressure and try to gain more control of the governmental process.
It’s one of the reasons he says he was asked to, convinced and decided to run again.
“All polarization does is lead to argument and entrenchment,” he said. “And it doesn’t work. It’s not good for local government. You need to have compromise and people working together. You need to see where the commonalities are.”
Batchelder is passionate about budget and policy matters, and sees that as the true role of government at the county level. “The things I would concentrate on primarily are efficiency-based,” he said. “Any organization can always run more efficiently. For governments, especially counties, to really function for the next few years, that needs to become our mindset.”
• Supports guarding the financial well-being of the County and ensuring tax dollars are well-utilized.
• Supports fostering a culture of efficiency throughout the county, particularly relating to areas where commissioners have direct statutory control like land use and roads.
• Supports making the regulatory process transparent, equitable and predictable.
• Has pledged to represent the views of all county residents.
• Supports seeking commonality and consensus in BOCC actions.
• Supports existing Visual Impact Regulations and sees a role for county commissioners in preserving the landscape, but feels that current VIR discussions have taken too long.
• Says he would probably have supported the Sneffels/San Juan Wilderness proposal.
• Says Gunn was treated unfairly by the BOCC in regard to the tire cleanup.