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  • The Denver Gazette

    Q&A with Rhonda Fields | Candidate for Arapahoe County Commission District 5

    By Kyla Pearce kyla.pearce@denvergazette.com,

    22 days ago
    https://img.particlenews.com/image.php?url=131LGr_0tzRe3GO00
    FILE PHOTO: State Sen. Rhonda Fields, D-Aurora.  Ernest Luning/Colorado Politics

    Arapahoe County residents will vote for three county commission seats this year, with two candidates vying for District 5.

    The races in Districts 1 and 3 are uncontested. Incumbent Carrie Warren-Gully and Scott Brown are running for each district, respectively.

    In District 5, it's a contest between Rhonda Fields and Hashim Coates.

    Bill Holen currently holds the seat, which includes northern parts of the city of Aurora and unincorporated Arapahoe County. Holen was appointed in January 2012, elected to his first term in January 2013 and sworn into his third term in January 2021.

    Arapahoe County is made up of five districts, divided by population. Commissioners, who are elected to four-year terms, serve as the governing and administrative body for the county.

    Commissioners are responsible for creating and adopting the county's annual budget, appointing residents to serve on community advisory committees and boards, representing the county on regional and national authorities, boards and commissions, and handling property tax protests.

    They meet every second and fourth Tuesday of each month.

    The Denver Gazett sate down with Rhonda Fields, who has served in the state legislature for 13 years. She previously worked in United Airlines' management, according to her campaign website. She was motivated to work in public sector after the double homicide of her son, Javad Fields, and his fiancé, Vivian Wolfe.

    Denver Gazette: Tell me about your background and what makes you a good candidate.

    Fields: My background is extremely extensive and I did not follow the traditional path of entering into the political arena. I started with a career in higher ed, then decided to change my career to work for United Airlines, where I was in management and responsible for human services and managing flight attendants and airport operations. Then my son was murdered and it changed the course of my life in reference to what was meaningful and what I wanted to do. It was devastating — a mother should never have to bury her child. I found my voice after that tragedy as a survivor to help other people harmed by crime. I decided to run for office and it took me all the way to the state Capitol as a state rep for six years and another eight years as a state senator. I think what makes me really unique is leadership and how I've used my leaderships to get real results to people at the local level and at the state level.

    DG: Why are you running?

    Fields: I'm running for county commissioner because it gives me an opportunity to laser-focus on the people that I live around. I've lived in Arapahoe County for over 35 years. It gives me an opportunity to focus on local government because at the state level everything is really big. County commission really brings it home for me. I can leverage everything I've learned in my years of experience to remove barriers and create more access and opportunities for the people who put me in office.

    DG: What's the first thing you'd do in office?

    Fields: I would learn all the players on a different level. As a commissioner, I see myself rubbing elbows more with the people who labor to provide direct services to the community, so I was to really get to know those people. If I had to do something right away, it would be addressing the cost of living and seeing what I can do to address those who are unhoused, those with food and economic insecurities. Also issues related to transportation, our roads and bridges, and protecting our seniors and our most vulnerable people.

    DG: What would you like to change about how the current commission operates?

    Fields: I have the utmost respect for the commissioners serving right now and I can't say there is anything I would change. I'm looking to amplify and strengthen the work that's already been done.

    DG: What are the Top 3 challenges the county is facing?

    Fields: Good governance is about protecting our environment, our air, our water, our people. I want to make sure we're building communities that are inclusive and affordable for everyone to thrive and retire here like my parents did. Of course, increased revenue, accessibility, housing, economic mobility, workforce development, inclusiveness, a focus on our seniors, which includes many veterans, our roads, public safety. We're seeing a lot of crime in pockets of our community and we need to make sure everyone feels safe.

    DG: What do you think needs to be done about the budget shortfall? Are you supportive of increased taxes?

    Fields: Many counties have already de-Bruced* and we have the opportunity to look at ways we can increase revenue by de-Brucing. We can't increase taxes without the public vote and it's the same if we want to de-Bruce. If we want to retain some of that tax revenue, it's up to the people to decide. I'm in favor of asking the people who live in the county if they want to de-Bruce in order for us to become more efficient and responsive to the growing needs of the county. (Editor's note: The term "de-Bruce" is a reference to retaining and spending revenue above TABOR limits. It is derived from the name of TABOR author Douglas Bruce)

    DG: In the case that the county has to cut services to save money, what do you think they should cut first?

    Fields: It would have to be very strategic and surgical. We would have to look at the budget, look for input from department heads and ask where funding can be reduced. It has to be a unified approach. At the state level, we've had to do this and it's painful. These are tough decisions and they have a ripple effect. I don't have access to all of the operational and financial pictures, so it's unfair for me to say what we should cut.

    DG: What are your thoughts on the Lowry Ranch Community Action Plan (CAP) and the county's oil and gas regulations?

    Fields: That's been a long-standing issue in the county and a major concern for my citizen friends because nobody wants to live near a drilling facility. At the state level, when we deal with the operators and the EPA, we've tried to be really sensitive and responsible for making sure we're creating a healthy environment for everyone. There are good conversations taking place right now and decisions have to be made in a process that includes all of the appropriate people to make sure everyone has their input before we move forward.

    DG: What does the county need to do to combat homelessness and make housing more affordable?

    Fields: We need to step up to the plate and address the issue. It's time that we not see these being as invisible or disposable because they're not. We really need to take the blinders off and address the complexities of homelessness and, for me, that has to start with wraparound resources, which looks like economic opportunities, affordable housing, access to behavioral health support. We need a comprehensive program to address housing and it has to be incremental and we have to bring a lot of people to the table for ideas.

    DG: Why should voters choose you over your opponent?

    Fields: I have a proven record of success and accomplishments. When I think about all I've been through and where I'm at now, it's really shaped my maturity as it relates to policy and how to get things done. I've passed over 380 bills on a wide range of issues and I have an understanding about just what it takes to run government. It's different work because it's not about the state, it's about local government, and I want to contribute on the local level for safer and more secure communities.

    DG: What do you love about Arapahoe County?

    Fields: The diversity. I love the jazz, the noise, the realness. I love taking RTD to get to work and the hustle and bustle of Arapahoe County. People are starting businesses, opening restaurants. It's about the blending of the culture and language and people that just has a certain jazz about it that inspires me. What I love most is that this district is made up of hard working people who just want the opportunity to have a good quality of life. We have trees, suburban areas, rural areas, and it's all very accessible.

    DG: What do you do for fun?

    Fields: I like going into the community and engaging myself and talking to people. I like relating to and helping people. I also enjoy being at home. COVID helped me really understand what it means to be still. For me, it's important to be still and just be thankful for what my life looks like. I love having friends over and cooking.

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