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  • Dylan Anderson

Unaffiliated candidate wants to bring city, rural experience to Routt County Commissioner's office

Molly Baker said she is running without a party affiliation to represent a broader perspective that includes experience in the rural and urban areas of Routt County.  

Molly Baker, who until earlier this year owned a consignment store in Steamboat Springs and now operates a ranch off Highway 131, announced she is running as an unaffiliated candidate for Routt County Commissioner on Monday, becoming the second announced candidate in the race.

Baker, who owned Déjà Vu Consignment in Steamboat and works on a ranch called Baker’s Acres between Steamboat and Oak Creek, said she has long been an avid observer of local government, though she has no prior political experience.

“Rather than just sitting back and watching the world happen, or expressing my frustrations to my husband, I’ve actively researched the subjects, tried to understand all sides of them and then let my voice be heard,” Baker said. “I think that’s how government works best is to hear from the people.”

Baker has lived in Colorado since 1997, with the last 17 years being spent in the Yampa Valley. Her candidacy makes her the second announced candidate for the District One seat currently held by Commissioner Tim Corrigan, who lives in Yampa and is not seeking another term. Democrat Angelica Salinas announced her candidacy for the seat in August.

Because Baker is choosing to run as an unaffiliated candidate instead of seeking a political party’s nomination, she needs to acquire signatures to petition onto the ballot. According to the Colorado Secretary of State, Baker needs enough signatures to equal 2% of total votes cast in the most recent county election cycle. That is just shy of 300 signatures, but Baker said she is shooting for double that.

“I decided to run unaffiliated so that I could represent what I believe to be a broader perspective,” Baker said. “I’ve run a business in Steamboat Springs. I am now facing the challenges of working on a ranch. … I’m really seeing things from a city perspective and a rural perspective and I think that would be a valuable contribution to the way decisions are made.”

One observation Baker had was that she is seeing more division between rural parts of the county and in Steamboat Springs, noting that the ski town is a “completely different world” from other parts of the county like Oak Creek.

“I can really speak to city issues [and] I can speak to rural issues too because I’ve lived in both of those worlds,” Baker said.

One particularly important issue is affordable housing, Baker said, adding that it is an issue that is made harder to address by some of Routt County’s zoning policies. She pointed the Oak Creek Fire Protection District having to disassemble some temporary housing they had set up earlier this year and her own struggles to offer space to people looking for a place to stay as areas where regulations could be loosened to allow for more options.

“I think that the way that Routt County goes about it with their zoning — dare I say overly restrictive zoning — is causing some roadblocks for affordable housing,” Baker said. “The affordable housing thing is coming all onto Steamboat, and I do think that we can be a little bit more nimble as a county and look at some innovative ideas for affordable housing.”

Baker said she also wants to be a strong voice of support for the local ranching community in the commissioner’s office. Since she has started working a ranch herself, Baker said she has started to understand how difficult it can be to make money on a ranch and wants to help support ways for operations to diversify their business.

“It’s extremely hard to make money off the land, especially when you’re small,” Baker said, adding that she has explored various forms of agrotourism on her ranch. “I’m open to continuing the evolution of ranching so that it can be sustainable in the long term [and] it can be economically viable.”

Baker said she would also want to review how Routt County handles short-term rentals and potentially consider allowing them in some cases. Currently, STRs are not allowed in unincorporated parts of the county, but Baker said they could make sense in some cases. For people with an extra bedroom to rent out, it could be another source of income, she said.

Baker cannot start circulating her petition until May 16. She will then have until July 11 to turn in the appropriate number of signatures. Until then, Baker said she is working to learn from the community and hear from people from throughout the county.

“I really want to hear from my neighbors … What is important to them?” Baker said. “I have a place on my website where people can email me and let me know what they’re thinking and I’d love to hear that.”

Top Photo Caption: Molly Baker says here combination of city and rural expereince would be an asset to the Routt County Commissioners. (Molly Baker/Courtesy)


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