WELLS — Easier access to medical care, a more diverse economy and the possibility of racial tensions are just a few of the topics discussed by Elko County Commission candidates Wilde Bough and Ismael Gutierrez during a live candidate forum Tuesday evening.
Republican Brough, 67, and Democrat Gutierrez, 54, fielded questions for about an hour from Wells City Hall, both sharing their goals for the future of Elko County and why they believe its citizens should vote for them.
Broadcast on The Elko Daily Free Press Facebook page from 6-7 p.m., both candidates were asked what past experiences make them qualified to serve on the Elko County Commission.
Gutierrez was the first to respond, sharing that he has lived in West Wendover since 1976 and is currently serving his third term on the city council.
“I think my experience as a councilman will definitely help as a county commissioner,” he said during the forum.
Gutierrez said that throughout his time as a councilman, he has tried to do what is best for the people, regardless of if it was an unpopular move politically.
“It is not red or blue, it is red, white and blue, and the reason I say that is because there is a lot of division in communities now,” he said. “I just want to do what is best for the people, I will work for the people.”
Brough said his lifetime of living in Elko County and serving on the board of the Elko County Public School District for eight years, with two years as president, have helped prepare him for the task of serving as a county commissioner.
“I think living here in Elko County is probably the biggest experience,” Brough said. “I know all of Elko County.”
Brough said during his time on the school board, he made it out to probably every community that makes up Elko County, and he has friends in all those places.
“Knowing the people. I was on the school board for eight years and president of the school board for two years here in Elko County. So I know, we went to school board meetings probably in every community.”
“Somebody asked me a question, ‘why do I think we need another cowboy on the Elko County Commission?’” he said. “Well really I will be the only cowboy on the Elko County Commission.”
“I make all of my living on cows,” Brough added.
Both candidates were asked to explain the plans or initiatives they would like to see implemented if elected to office.
Gutierrez said he would like to see Elko County reach out to large-scale companies such as Amazon, and work with them to make growing their business in the county both viable and attractive.
“I understand that sometimes people move out to ranching communities, and I respect that, so we definitely have to work with the people,” he said. “We have to attract businesses.”
Gutierrez said the county needs to look at its local laws to make it easier for new businesses to open up, and also for ways to help existing businesses succeed.
Brough said he would like to see Elko County’s economy diversify, and not be so entirely dependent on a single industry.
“We have Wendover and Jackpot who rely on one single industry and then we have Elko, pretty much 85 percent of their economy is the mines, so they are pretty much a one-horse town also,” he said.
Brough said he believes developing Highway 93 with some passing lanes and guardrail will attract more travelers from Interstate 84, bringing more people through eastern Nevada.
“Once we start picking up some of that traffic from I-84 and get them coming down through Eastern Nevada, I think our economy will be much better,” he said.
Both candidates were also asked to share their views on racial injustice in the United States, and were specifically asked if they feel Elko County has a racial or diversity issue that needs addressing.
“I have traveled all 50 states actually, and Elko County is probably one of the ones that I have least encountered those kinds of incidents,” Gutierrez said.
He said those types of racial incidents tend to occur more often in larger cities.
“It is happening, I don’t think that much in Elko, but let’s not let it get out of hand,” Gutierrez said. “Let’s not let it come to our county, let’s be ahead of it.”
Brough said that throughout his travels, he has not seen firsthand any racial issues in the United States.
“I honestly don’t think the United States has a racial problem,” he said. “I think there is a small group of people and they are being financed somewhere, because they certainly are not working at their jobs.”
“I have personally have not seen any racial injustice, so I tend to believe that a lot of this is politically motivated and maybe in November a lot of this will come to an end,” he added.
The winner of the election will succeed outgoing Elko County Commissioner Demar Dahl, who has termed out following his last election. Both Rex Steninger and Jon Karr are running for re-election unopposed.
The Elko Area Chamber Government Affairs Committee and the Elko Daily Free Press are presenting four candidate forums this month, and each of them will be broadcast on Facebook Live, with Matt McCarty of the Great Basin College Foundation serving as moderator.
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