La Plata County Commissioner Clyde Church will run for a second term after more than three years in office.
Church announced his candidacy for La Plata County commissioner representing District 1 on Thursday at the Durango Public Library. Church, the third candidate to join the race, plans to run on a platform that centers on wildfire mitigation, economic development and transportation infrastructure and aims to appeal to independents who can help sway the race.
“I think my background and knowledge really do prepare me pretty well,” Church said. “I’m an engineer by practice, chemist by education and have quite an employment history in Fortune 500 (companies) and universities, and I enjoy serving.”
At a gathering of supporters at the library, Church said he has kept his promises during his first term in office. Those promises included working full time to represent all county residents, engaging in transparent and collaborative decision-making, and listening carefully and considering issues critically, according to a news release.
“We’ve got a lot of work to do here on fire mitigation, watershed protection and transportation,” Church said. “The other thing that I’m really interested in is finance and economic development.”
Church noted that as the current county commissioner from District 1, he serves as the liaison for the Treasurer’s Office and serves on the boards for the Region 9 Economic Development District and the Southwest Regional Transportation board.
For about two decades, he has worked in some capacity on economic development, which he said was an easy extension from his engineering background.
“Economic development and economics in general are a subset of engineering,” he said.
Shortly after moving to Durango, Church and his wife, Paulette, watched the 2002 Missionary Ridge Fire threaten and destroy homes and degrade the landscape, spurring his involvement in wildfire mitigation.
Church is running for commissioner from District 1, which covers roughly the western half of La Plata County, excluding the city of Durango. Any registered voter in the county can vote for the seat, but candidates must live in the district for at least 12 months.
Church joins Jack Turner, an independent candidate who filed to run in July 2021, and Brad Blake, a Republican who filed to run in October.
Turner, who lost to Marsha Porter-Norton in the 2020 election for District 2, announced his candidacy after he moved districts to run.
Church enters the race behind both Turner and Blake in fundraising. Blake leads the way having raised $2,500 so far and Turner is a close second having raised about $2,060.
Church has yet to receive campaign contributions to date.
Though early in the campaign, Turner is outspending both Blake and Church. Turner has spent more than $500 as of Friday, while Black has spent less than $20. Church has yet to spend any money.
While his campaign lags the finances of his competitors, Church said he feels like he has a good shot to win.
According to Church, it’s his more than three years in office and the institutional knowledge and experience that he’s gained that set him apart from the other candidates.
“When I see things, I just know how they work, or who to talk to and how to accomplish something, whether it’s finance or forest fire mitigation or land use,” he said.
Blake previously served as county commissioner from 2015 to 2019, but his gap in office is a detriment because much has changed in the last few years, Church said.
“Institutional knowledge is critical,” he said.
Church previously beat Blake in the 2018 election cycle. Blake led his Democratic challenger by 47 votes on election night but ultimately lost to Church by 23 votes.
In what could be another close race, Church hopes to attract independent voters to win November’s election.
He plans to do that by focusing on his track record and issues that are important to residents rather than partisanship.
“As a county commissioner, it’s really not a partisan job,” Church said. “A lot of the things the county does are truly not partisan. They’re for the citizens.”
Part of addressing the issues that are important to his constituents will be listening to the future they want for the district.
Church said there’s been interest in keeping rural areas rural in the district.
“I think we’re trying to do that,” he said. “... People want the quiet enjoyment, we should do our best to give it to them.”
With a slew of challengers, Church faces a competitive re-election campaign.
“I look forward to a spirited race,” he said.
An earlier version of this article incorrectly stated candidate Brad Blake had spent almost $3,700 on his campaign as of Friday. That figure included previous expenditures from Blake’s last run for county office. Blake has spent $12.66 on his campaign so far on his November 2022 election.