Arapahoe County Commissioner District 5: Two Aurora-area leaders face off for most city-centric ArapCo commission seat


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Bill Holen vs Bob LeGare

Aurora is far and away the biggest city in Arapahoe County. And the county’s commissioner District 5 is centered around Aurora. The race to represent it features two well-known Aurora politicians: incumbent Democrat Bill Holen and Republican Aurora City Councilman Bob LeGare. The LeGare and Holen names are regulars on local ballots. LeGare has won several city council races over the years and spent 14 total years on council. Holen worked for Congress both in Washington, D.C., and in Aurora before he was elected to the District 5 seat in 2012. The district stretches north to East Colfax Avenue and includes many of the city’s older neighborhoods on the northwest side of town. It also includes Glendale. In recent years the relationship between Aurora and the three counties it covers — Arapahoe, Adams and a small sliver of Douglas — has been at-times strained over issues pertaining to the county services provided inside Aurora’s borders. City officials seriously considered converting Aurora into a city and county but have largely scrapped that idea after deciding the plan was too costly.

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By BRANDON JOHANSSON, Staff writer

Two Aurora-centric leaders face off for most city-centric Arapahoe commission seat

Arapahoe County Commissioner District 5 is as Aurora-centric as any of county’s five districts.

Spanning roughly from Yosemite Street east to almost E-470 and East Colfax Avenue south to East Alameda Avenue, the district includes some of the city’s oldest neighborhoods, as well as the Aurora Municipal Center.

And on this fall’s ballot, the race to represent that district pits two local leaders very familiar to Aurora’s political observers — Bill Holen and Bob LeGare.

Bill Holen
Bill Holen

Holen, an incumbent Democrat, is seeking a second term as commissioner.

LeGare, a Republican, has been on Aurora City Council for 14 years across two separate terms.

Aurora officials have long toyed with the idea of turning Aurora into a city and county, effectively breaking the city of more than 350,000 people away from the three counties it currently spans.

That idea was never especially popular with leaders in Arapahoe and Adams counties.

Bob LeGare
Bob LeGare

After years of study, city officials last year largely moved away from the city-and-county idea, which means Aurora and Arapahoe County will have to work together for the foreseeable future.

LeGare said that relationship is an important one, and one he is ideally suited to tackle.

“I understand how cities operate and why some of the tensions exist between cities and the county. Because of my background and experience, I would hope for an improved opportunity to interact with various city leaders within Arapahoe County,” LeGare said.

Still, LeGare said he doesn’t think efforts to make Aurora its own city and county are dead.

“The city and county of Aurora effort never dies, it just goes dormant for years at a time,” he said. “It’s probably gone for the next five to 10 years but, in the meantime, Aurora and the associated counties should work together on the issues that drove some council members to seek city and county status.”

Holen said Aurora was wise to scrap its plan for a city and county of Aurora considering the costs associated with it.

With that issue behind them, Holen said he anticipates a new era of cooperation between the county and its largest municipality.

“I would strive to encourage this new spirit of cooperation to continue and flourish as new mutual challenges come before us,” he said.

That cooperation is especially important, Holen said, because federal resources aren’t pouring into counties the way they once were.

“Local governments must strive to collaborate more to find adequate funding and additional resources for capital projects and policies. I would like to see more communication between the county government and local municipalities,” he said.

That cooperation could help with projects including expanding East Sixth Avenue and better access to transit oriented developments, he said.

Bob LeGare has lived in Aurora for more than four decades and spent a significant chunk of that time representing his neighbors on the city council. He initially served nine years on council before leaving office in 2003. But LeGare, who works in commercial real estate, didn’t quite shake the municipal-governance bug then and he ran for an won another seat on council in 2011.

Both as an elected official and a staffer to other politicians, Bil Hollen has been a regular face in the halls of government in and around Aurora. A Vietnam veteran, he worked on the staff of Congressman Ed Perlmutter when the Wheat Ridge Democrat’s district included Aurora. He was then elected to Board of County Commissioners in 2012. His wife, Debi Hunter-Holen, also served as an Aurora city councilwoman.

What makes you the most-qualified candidate? I believe that my 14 years serving on the Aurora City Council has given me valuable exposure and experience in the areas of land use, planning, open space, human services, public works, capital projects, budgets, government finance, debt and numerous other areas that are similar to county operations. In addition, I served on the Arapahoe County Open Space and Trails Advisory Board (OSTAB) for five years, which gave me a glimpse into county operations. This experience will be very beneficial in the transition from an elected city council member to county commissioner.

As commissioner, what steps would you take to improve the relationship between county administration and the various municipal governments in Arapahoe County? I think I am uniquely qualified to improve these relationships because of my long experience as a local elected leader at the city level. I understand how cities operate and why some of the tensions exist between cities and the county. Because of my background and experience, I would hope for an improved opportunity to interact with various city leaders within Arapahoe County.

Now that Aurora has largely scrapped its efforts to become a city and county, how do you see the relationship between Aurora and Arapahoe County changing in the coming years? The City and County of Aurora effort never dies; it just goes dormant for years at a time. It’s probably gone for the next five to 10 years, but in the meantime Aurora and the associated counties should work together on the issues that drove some council members to seek city and county status. Not all of those issues can be easily fixed, but there are many that can be improved.

What should the county do to increase available water for development and reduce wells in the aquifer? I’m not aware of Arapahoe County having direct involvement in the water business other than some commissioners serving on the ACWWA board of directors. Higher-density residential developments should not rely on groundwater wells as a permanent water supply. It is the county’s role to set the standards for renewable water source requirements for urban housing densities in the unincorporated county.

Should the county consider increasing taxes to improve services to the unincorporated sections of the county not already served by a municipality? I would need to learn more about the Arapahoe County budget and resources to answer this question adequately. As an Aurora City Council member for over 14 years, I have worked with budgets in good and bad economic times. I would first seek to learn about all the county needs and how taxpayer funds are currently being allocated. Only then would I be able to opine on whether or not to ask the voters for a tax increase.

What makes you the most qualified candidate? My experience at the county level as the current commissioner demonstrates my compassion and commitment to improving the quality of life of the constituency of Arapahoe County. And my past experience as an aide to both the US House of Representatives and the US Senate have made me aware of the importance of serving the people. Working with local officials and other county commissioners, I have been successful in bringing many new businesses to the county. I initiated the development of a prescription drug task force that addresses the increasing threat that prescription opioids bring to the citizens of Arapahoe County. I serve on the Commander’s Group for the USAF Space Command and the 460th Space Wing at Buckley Airforce Base. In addition, I serve on several local boards that include the Denver Regional Council of Governments, the All-Health Network, the Aurora Chamber of Commerce, and the E470 Board.

As commissioner, what steps would you take to improve the relationship between county administration and the various municipal governments in Arapahoe County? With the depletion of federal resources to county governments coupled with the restraints of the Taxpayer Bill of Rights, county and local governments must strive to collaborate more to find adequate funding and additional resources for capital projects and policies.  I would like to see more communication between the county government and local municipalities. By working together, we can accomplish many important programs like the expansion and widening of Sixth Avenue, improving local and county access to TODs and working to improve the quality of life for all Arapahoe County residences.

Now that Aurora has largely scrapped its efforts to become a city and county, how do you see the relationship between Aurora and Arapahoe County changing in the coming year? Aurora wisely abandoned its plan to create its own county because the financial burden of finding the funding to take on the responsibility of major programs like Human Services, a county clerk and record and other mandated governmental functions were too expensive and administratively burdensome. In addition, Aurora’s lack of an adequate property tax base would not support these new capital and administrative costs. Since that decision, I sense a new of cooperation and a collaborative spirit between the county and Aurora. I would strive to encourage this new spirit of cooperation to continue and flourish as new mutual challenges come before us.

What should the county do to increase available water for development and reduce wells in the aquifer? Water is precious resource to Colorado. Nearly 80 percent of Colorado’s adjudicated water is used for agricultural and natural resource development leaving only 20 percent for residential, municipal and commercial use. Through research we are finding ways to reduce agricultural water consumption and at the same time improve crop yield. In addition, local government and the counties are working hard at finding innovative ways of reducing water consumption by the use of water saving residential devices. While at the same time water providers are working on water recycling technologies that can purify water for reuse. I am committed to seeing all these alternative water saving and reuse methodologies being embraced as a means of reducing the overall water consumption and limiting the need to drain our precious aquifers. I will continue to carefully review any new developments in the county to ensure that adequate water is readily available for any future growth.

Should the county consider increasing taxes to improve services to the unincorporated sections of the county not already serviced by a municipality? Arapahoe County has maintained a structurally balanced budget for many years. The Board of County Commissioners are working hard to ensure that our financial obligations to our many programs and capital improves are fully met. During the recent recession, the county maintained a balanced budget without having to dip into our reserves and not having to lay off a single employee. My goal is not to have to raise taxes and continue to find innovative and creative ways to continue to provide a high level of services to Arapahoe County residents and continue to provide a highly skilled county work force.

What food do you hate most? Eggplant.

Do you indulge in recreational marijuana? No.

Who would play you in a movie about your life? Clint Eastwood.

What Olympic Sport do you wish you could win gold at? Gymnastics.

What was your favorite childhood candy? Necco wafers.

If you could be an eyewitness to one event in history, what would it be? The first moon walk.

If the Secret Service gave you a code name, what would it be? Nine.

If you had to sing karaoke, what song would you sing? Car karaoke counts. “ROAR,” by Katy Perry.

What epitaph would you like written on your tombstone? “Mayor, I move to amend…”

Is a hot dog a sandwich? Nope, it’s a hot dog if it is on a bun.

What is the last concert you attended? Loggins and Messina at Red Rocks.

What movie do you never tire of watching? “Star Trek Insurrection”

Dogs or cats? Cat.

What’s the most overrated thing about living in Colorado? I moved here from the Chicago area 42 years ago and I don’t think there is anything overrated about Colorado.

What food do you hate most? Army C-Rations.

Do you indulge in recreational marijuana? No.

Who would play you in a movie about your life? William Holden.

What Olympic sport do you wish you could win gold at? Fencing.

What was your favorite childhood candy? Hersey with almonds.

If you could be an eyewitness to one event in history, what would it be? Signing of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

If the Secret Service gave you a code name, what would it be? Warrior

If you had to sign karaoke, what song would you sing? Car karaoke counts. “A Man of Constant Sorrow”

What epitaph would you like written on your tombstone? He helped make the world a better place

Is a hot dog a sandwich? No.

What is the last concert you attended? Aurora Symphony Orchestra

What movie do you never tire of watching? “It’s a Wonderful Life”

Dogs or cats? Cats.

What’s the most overrated thing about living in Colorado? Legalized marijuana.

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