Hill Plans Run for County Commission
by Ari Armstrong, July 2, 2003
Carol Hill, currently a member of Leadville's city council, said she plans to run for county commissioner next year. Her likely opponent is Chet Gaede, who currently serves as mayor of the town.
Hill was elected to the non-partisan council when she was registered to vote as a Libertarian, but she has since registered as a Democrat. She said she originally became a Democrat in order to support Ken Olsen in his primary for county commission, and then she decided to remain a Democrat for her own run. Hill would leave her four-year term on the council early to become a Lake county commissioner.
In 2001, Hill became part of a four-person Libertarian majority on the city council. Joe Swyers, then a sitting council member, soon switched to unaffiliated, citing friction over the Libertarian tag. More recently, another Libertarian, Ken Cary, resigned his position. Now that Hill has become a Democrat, Lisa Dowdney is the only registered Libertarian on the council. It is rumored that some residents of the town are attempting to convince Dowdney to run for mayor this fall. Dowdney was also appointed by Governor Bill Owens to sit on a civil rights board, Hill said.
Hill said that, when Libertarians held the majority, Gaede would frequently dismiss plans or ideas as part of a "Libertarian agenda." Unfortunately, Hill said, many people in the community didn't understand what the libertarian philosophy actually entails, and it was sometimes difficult to cut through the labels and deal with the issues. (Cary and Dowdney switched to the Libertarian Party right around the time Hill was elected.)
Hill says she, Swyers, and Dowdney remain influenced by libertarian ideas, and she also frequently finds support with other members of the council. She described her relationship with Swyers as "cordial," even though the two have disagreed on a number of issues. For instance, Hill said Swyers favored increasing the salary of the mayor, while she opposed the move. Swyers also voted to hire another fire fighter, while Hill felt the force was already sufficiently large. Hill won the first contest; Swyers won the second.
Hill described "Leadville Democrats" as fiscally conservative and supportive of the right to bear arms. "Leadville is very Democratic because of all the unions that were here, but it is also a very independent town," she said. "Democrats are the small-government fiscal conservatives" in the area, she added. Thus, Hill believes her new political affiliation is compatible with her views. "I'm not disenchanted with the libertarian philosophy: I truly believe it," she said.
Gaede, on the other hand, is "more like what you would think of as a Boulder Democrat," Hill said. (Gaede lived in the Boulder area before moving to Leadville.) Hill anticipates a positive, issue-oriented race in which the two candidates describe the "very clear differences" in the way they look at the world. Gaede is expected to run as an independent.
Hill said she's tired of people "thinking of libertarians as ultra-right-wing conservatives -- I'd like people to get over that." While libertarians generally favor less government spending, they also support individual rights and a robust sphere of personal privacy.
Hill is no longer sure the Libertarian Party is the best way to achieve victories at the political level. "You can build a party, or you can get involved in politics. I don't see how you can do both," she said. In "real-world politics," she added, "you've got to nail down" the issues without getting tied up in protracted philosophical discussions (even though philosophy has its place). Also, "you've got to pick and choose your battles," Hill said; it simply doesn't make sense to address issues people don't care about.
Hill believes county commission would be a good move for her at this point. She said that, while State Representative Carl Miller is term limited, she's not interested in running for that seat at this time.
One factor influencing her decision is her recent purchase of the Book Mine, a shop in downtown Leadville she's managed for years. She said one of the benefits of ownership is that she's been able to develop the libertarian section. She also carries books about the region and information about the town. The shop is located at 502 Harrison Avenue, the main street through Leadville.