For three terms, since 2011, Republican Tom Jankovsky has served on Garfield County’s Board of County Commissioners (BOCC). This November, voters will decide whether to grant Jankovsky a fourth term or elect Democrat Ryan Gordon to represent District 1.
The Sopris Sun interviewed each candidate individually about their motivations to run, the challenges they see ahead for Garfield County and what differentiates them from their opponent. This article weaves together their responses to the same questions.
Both candidates were born in Colorado. Jankovsky, a third-generation Coloradan, was raised in Sterling and his grandfather served in the state legislature. Gordon is from Glenwood Springs and, after receiving a civil engineering degree from Colorado State University, he lived in California and Portland, Oregon before returning to the Valley with his family in 2016.
Ryan Gordon, pictured with his family, enjoys the technical side of brewing beer at home to share with friends. He also enjoys rafting, camping, hiking, biking, skiing and generally “being outdoors.” Courtesy photo
Tom Jankovsky, pictured with his grandkids, practices Jiu Jitsu every week, “primarily for exercise,” and keeps a penny collection. Courtesy photo
Jankovsky’s expertise is in business. He was the general manager of Sunlight Mountain Resort from 1985 to 2018 and continues to serve on the resort’s board as its secretary. Other boards that he has sat on include the Colorado Ski Country Board (for almost 30 years) and the Glenwood Springs Resort Association (in the 1990s); he was chairman for both. Jankovsky told The Sopris Sun that his “extensive executive experience” makes him a qualified leader on the BOCC with administrative, accounting, budgeting and other skills.
Gordon, by contrast, studied civil engineering. Since returning to Colorado, he has been employed by SGM Engineering, Inc. Through his work, Gordon has become acquainted with staff and elected officials in the towns and communities of Garfield County and nearby. He’s also gained a detailed understanding of local governments, working through SGM as the town engineer for Parachute for two years and now as the engineer of record for Snowmass Village and water engineer for Minturn.
Additionally, Gordon understands infrastructure expenditures, keeping up assets and other technical things. “Engineers, we’re problem solvers,” he told The Sopris Sun. “And we’re very practical.” He added that engineers must see far-reaching ramifications of decisions and understand their personal limitations. “As an engineer, one of the things really drilled into our heads is knowing what you don’t know and knowing when to ask for outside help,” he said.
According to Jankovsky, it was a nearly four-year process to truly understand the intricacies of being a county commissioner. He is now that board’s liaison for the budget committee, working with department heads, the county manager and finance manager on an annual basis. He is also the commissioners’ liaison on the investment board, which generates about $1 million per year in interest and dividends from investments.
Jankovsky sits on the Northwest Colorado Resource Advisory Council, advising the Bureau of Land Management on everything from wild horse management to oil and gas drilling. He serves on the county’s Human Services Commission, is the board’s Club 20 representative and is treasurer for the Garfield Clean Energy board, of which he was a founding member.
Challenges facing the county, Jankovsky said, include a precipitous decline in revenue with “property taxes from oil and gas industry [dropping by] almost $10 million.” This has led in recent years to difficult budgets to balance; achieved, he continued, by reducing expenses, including staffing by 5% “through attrition and early retirements.”
Gordon considers diversifying the county’s revenue a top priority. To accomplish this, he thinks the county’s economy should be “de-carbonized,” i.e. less reliant on fossil fuel extraction. “I’m not advocating that we do this instantaneously,” he added, “things are transitioning and we need to transition with it. Oil and gas will always have a role in our society, but we do see there’s going to be less revenue.”
In addition to more aggressive investment in renewables, Gordon would support capitalizing on outdoor resources for tourism and citizens, farms and ranches for locally-produced food and promoting light manufacturing by improving access to the interstate and railroads.
Gordon was inspired by his two young daughters to run. On his journey back to the county, he counts himself fortunate to have found a job and housing. He wants opportunities for his daughters, including a healthy environment and a strong economy for their future; “That we’ve done the right things locally, made the right decisions.”
Jankovsky’s energy policy, by comparison, is an “all of the above approach,” including fossil fuels, solar, wind, hydro “and nuclear, if necessary, to get us back to energy independence.”
Another top concern for Jankovsky is public safety, with a rise in crime in Garfield County, including violent crimes. “We are not defunding the police, so to speak, or the [District Attorney],” he said, “We’re making sure they’re adequately funded.”
When 9th Judicial Circuit Attorney Jeff Cheney came before the board in 2020 asking for $700,000 more for four new positions and pay raises to help with backed-up cases, Jankovsky reported, the commissioners found a way while still maintaining a balanced budget. In the next budget cycle, they are discussing adding two resource officers for schools in unincorporated Garfield County.
A major challenge that Gordon sees ahead for the county is affordable housing. With long commutes for many workers and a subsequent lack of labor for many jobs, “it’s really going to drive a lot of the situations and issues going on,” he said.
In order to address the regional challenge of affordable housing, Gordon continued, “working collectively and collaboratively” will be essential. “The issues are large and complex, and require collaboration,” from Pitkin to Mesa County, the governor’s office, senators and beyond. “We need to be working with everyone in our region … leveraging every angle we can in order to solve our very complex issues.”
He considers the choice of Garfield County’s current commissioners not to join the new Greater Roaring Fork Valley Housing Coalition earlier this year a mistake. “I think that’s the wrong approach. I think that’s not showing leadership at all,” he said. For Gordon, partnership on affordable housing and other issues, is “not an idea,” but “a philosophy” he would bring to the role.
“It will take work from all of us,” Jankovsky agreed, citing initiatives in place such as $3 million available in Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) dollars for first-time home buyers for a down payment or mortgage, as well as inclusionary housing guidelines requiring one of 10 units in new subdivisions to be affordable, grants to nonprofits like Habitat for Humanity and more.
Jankovsky’s vision for a fourth term includes helping to assure a regional detox center is built and operational, continuing to improve broadband access, fire safety and resilience achieved in part by thinning trees with prescribed burns and incentives for wood product industries, completing the West Garfield County Landfill masterplan and guaranteeing water rights are protected in Western Colorado.
And, “We’re not quite done with COVID yet,” Jankovsky cautioned. “The president hasn’t ended the emergency health declaration that he put in place.” Jankovsky predicts this will happen after the election, and that the “unwinding of that health order” will result in some people losing Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefits (food stamps) and Medicaid. “There’s going to be a bit of a squeeze in those two programs,” he said. “There may be more need for assistance to food banks and so forth.”
If elected, Gordon believes he can cut through partisanship to work on common areas of concern with commissioners Mike Samson and John Martin. “Both John and Mike are reasonable people that can look past politics as well,” he said. “I think that for many of the issues we need to resolve, there is common ground.” For other issues, Gordon believes he can “make the case,” and achieve priorities they could get on board with. “It’s literally about getting things done.”
Regarding political division, Jankovsky said his is a limited government philosophy and “decisions we make are local decisions and it’s not partisan, per se,” rather most are administrative decisions. As for potential remedies, he said, “The first thing you do is listen.” And ultimately, there are three basic responsibilities: water, sewer and access/transportation.
In conclusion, Jankovsky said he is motivated by public service. At the local level, “I can make a lot bigger difference here than the state house or even Congress,” he said. “We need to feel safe and have a good quality of life in our community.” He encourages voters to consider the difference of experience between the two candidates. “He’s a good man, as I am, but I just don’t think he’s quite ready for the position.”
“Generally speaking, our current county government is not as proactive as they should be,” Gordon critiqued. “I think we need folks that are going to take decisive action and make decisions, as opposed to follow.”
To learn more about Tom Jankovsky, visit tomj2022.com
To learn more about Ryan Gordon, visit ryangordonforgarco.com