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Toss your hat in the ring

It’s an election year, and here in Pagosa Country there are elections coming in which participation genuinely matters — participation as a voter, for sure, but more pointedly, participation as a candidate.

It’s time to make a contribution.

We live in a society rife with whiners. We are often exposed to loud and frequently untutored abuse of public servants and policies, as well as shrill criticism of government in general. Further, it is all too common for people to take items to the vote via referendum or initiative in order to press issues, to secure decisions by circumventing representative government.

We believe, in all but the rarest cases that call for referendum, that representative government serves a democracy best. The election of individuals tasked promote the common good, while hardly perfect, remains our best form of governance — counter to the assertions of those who believe they exist as individuals apart from an established social network, and against the claims of those who demand overwhelming centralized control of a society. And local representative government works especially well — but only when there is active participation by the citizens of a community.

The first of the upcoming local elections is set for April 6 when voters in Pagosa Springs go to the polls to select a mayor and three council members. Terms expire this year for Mayor Ross Aragon and council members Darrel Cotton, Mark Weiler and Don Volger.

Residents of Pagosa Springs who want to run for any of the positions will be able to circulate petitions. Petitions can be picked up at Town Hall as early as Feb. 12, but cannot be circulated until Feb. 15. Information concerning districts and candidate requirements are also available at Town Hall. A valid petition must contain at least 25 signatures of registered voters living in town. In the case of the council seats, the signatures must be from residents in the district the candidate wishes to represent.

These are difficult jobs, with no pay. The challenge is far greater than that faced by those who merely want to whine and to act the critic.

In May, seats on two boards that have been embroiled in controversy recently will be contested. The PAWSD board of directors will have two of five seats (four-year terms) up for election — seats currently held by Karen Wessels and Harold Slavinski. Candidates must file a self-nomination form with the district no later than Feb. 26. The details and eligibility requirements will be posted in a legal ad in The Sun in the next couple of weeks.

Three of 10 seats on the San Juan Water Conservancy District board will be vacant — seats held by Windsor Chacey, Fred Ebeling and Jack DeLange. The members are appointed by the District Court and details concerning letters of interest will be printed in The SUN in late February. Many people have complained that Chacey, Slavinski and Wessels sit on both water boards. It will interesting to see how many of those who complain toss their hats in the ring.

Finally, a number of county officials will be elected in November: clerk, treasurer, coroner and surveyor. And several positions that always draw flak: sheriff, assessor and one seat on the county commissioner (District 3, currently held by Bob Moomaw). The party process is open to any and all registered Republicans and Democrats (as well as unaffiliated candidates who follow the correct petition procedure). Those Pagosans who have spent the last few years speaking out so sharply on the performance of various county officials need to figure out how they intend to run their campaigns.

In a phrase: It’s an election year — time to put up or shut up.

Karl Isberg