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Young La Plata County residents: how many commissioners can you name?

Additional On The Road event added to target engagement with a younger crowd
La Plata County commissioners will host a youth-oriented On The Road meeting Oct. 11 at Zia’s Taqueria. (Jerry McBride/Durango Herald file)

The three La Plata County Commissioners are Clyde Church, Marsha Porter-Norton and Matt Salka. But some county officials wonder: do young people know who the commissioners are, or how to participate in county government?

If you’re a part of the county’s younger crowd, the commissioners would like to meet you on Oct. 11.

“I think most people in their 20s don't really think about local government,” said La Plata County spokesman Ted Holteen. “They'll get involved in the Biden-Trump arguments and things like that, but they don't know who their county commissioners are or who their city councilors are.”

The idea for the event came to the county’s digital media specialist, Jasmine Beaubien, following the last of the commissioners’ On The Road meetings. The events, which occurred throughout the summer in Hesperus, Vallecito and the Animas Valley, were held in grange halls and community spaces with the intention of bringing the elected officials into the communities they serve.

However, Beaubien noticed the average age in the room was no younger than about 60.

“I looked around that room and I was just like, ‘I don't care about what these people are talking about’ because it doesn't affect me, because I can't own a home. I don't have money to live in the Valley,” she said.

Although the issues before commissioners are often not as controversial as those that grab national headlines, La Plata County elected officials make decisions on a weekly, if not daily, basis that inevitably affect the lives of young county residents.

“Think about what the commissioners have been just dealing with – Chapter 90 and a new health department,” Holteen said, referring to the recently passed regulations governing oil and gas development.

The issues are not exactly top-of-mind for young voters.

So, commissioners are holding a bonus On The Road. This one will take place at Zia Cantina’s north location and provide an opportunity for younger residents to meet with commissioners outside the board room to discuss what’s important to their demographic.

The first goal is to have “people show up,” Beaubien said.

While some 60 people packed the Animas Grange to voice concerns over a pending development project, officials say it’s harder to get young people out when the topics of discussion are not as relevant to the demographic.

The poster advertising the event says topics include, but are not limited to, the housing crisis, climate change and water, homelessness, addiction and health care.

By engaging younger residents in an informal setting, county officials hope to increase engagement in other ways.

The final On The Road will take place at Zia Cantina, located at 2977 Main Ave. in Durango on Wednesday, Oct. 11 from 6-7:30 p.m.


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