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Board of County Commissioners - News

Posted on: June 9, 2021

Dahlkemper Offers Insight to Being a County Commissioner

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There's an old proverb that says, if you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together. It truly captures the spirit of our work as county commissioners. You’ll often find us in communities across Jeffco doing what we love most – listening to constituents’ concerns, working to find common ground, and solving complex problems in partnership with community members.  

For more than two years, I’ve served as your county commissioner in District 3 or south Jeffco, which includes Conifer, Littleton, Ken Caryl, Morrison, and portions of Evergreen and Lakewood. My district spans the largest geographic area of unincorporated Jefferson County and the day-to-day issues I work on are as varied as the district I serve. 

Our work, however, as county commissioners is not limited to our districts. Far from it. The decisions we make about COVID recovery, the county budget, public lands, growth, affordable housing, and other policy issues involve many partners and affect more than 580,000 people in Jefferson County. 

Among those pressing issues is wildfire risk. Last year alone, Colorado saw the three largest wildfires in its history. These fires occurred in what’s called the wildland-urban interface – or WUI – where development is near or on forested lands. 

More than two-thirds of our county is in the WUI, including Evergreen and Conifer. They rank in the top 10 nationally in the potential risk of property loss due to wildfire. Wildfire also negatively affects air and water quality in communities across our county.

Reducing wildfire risk is a top priority for the county as we work closely with fire chiefs, Sheriff Shrader, Jeffco Open Space, Jeffco Planning and Zoning, forest health managers, water experts, community leaders, and others. Our efforts include:  

  • Creating the county’s first ever Wildfire Risk Reduction Task Force, which I chair and is made up of 31 members representing stakeholders across Jeffco. County staff and task force members are now working on recommendations approved late last year by county commissioners focused on forest mitigation, community education, and improved funding.
  • Enhancing the county’s building and residential codes to harden new and existing homes against wildfire risk.
  • Improving forest health on 1,000 acres of Jeffco Open Space over the next five years by significantly thinning dense tree stands – a seven-fold increase in activity that will decrease wildfire fuels and risk in mountain areas. 

Jeffco’s Emergency Management Team also is working with partners to update the county’s Multi-Hazard Mitigation Plan.

Still, more work remains as we address growth and development in high fire risk areas, including requiring an evacuation impact report for certain rezoning applications in the WUI and proof of fire protection to obtain building permit, as well as a myriad of proposals suggested by fire protection districts and engaged community members. 

We are not only focusing on wildfire at a county level, but partnering with our state and national leaders. I serve as one of two county commissioners representing the interests of counties statewide on the Colorado Fire Commission, a group created by the Governor to address wildfire issues. We successfully advocated for legislation this session on mutual aid, enhanced resources, and more.

Together, we’re seeking collaborative solutions as we learn from 2020 and move forward in 2021 to keep Jeffco safe from wildfire and protect our public lands for generations to come.

If you missed our Jeffco Foothills Town Hall last month on wildfire risk, you can read reporter Deb Hurley Brobst’s story here. Look for details soon about our next Foothills Town Hall, which I co-host with Commissioner Kerr, Senator Story and Rep. Cutter. I also invite you to join me for Civics and Stouts. Rep. Lisa Cutter and I team up to share the latest from the county and the state. Find out more about these events and others by following me on Facebook or Twitter.

Thank you for the privilege of serving as your county commissioner and I look forward to hearing from you. Please email me at ldahlkem@jeffco.us or call my direct line at 303-271-8510. 

Here’s to a safe, enjoyable summer!

Lesley

To learn more about the Jefferson County Commissioners, visit our website. The Jeffco Board of County Commissioners’ public hearings are held on most Tuesdays at 8 a.m. Click here for details.

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