Eagle Editor John Waters interviewed Liza Marron, Democrat running for Saguache County Commissioner for District 3. The following interview has been edited for clarity and brevity.
WATERS: Please tell our readers about yourself?
MARRON: I came to the San Luis Valley thirty-five years ago with my husband and children to work on the High Meadows Buffalo Ranch in Center. Those buffalo summered over at the Zapata Ranch, part of which is Great Sand Dunes National Park. The Zapata herd are descendants from the bison we worked. As a nineteen-yearold I worked as a ranger for Rocky Mountain National Park, on the west side, in Grand Lake. Please mention the Young Adult Conservation Corps. I ended up moving Saguache way, and I went to work on an organic farm in the summers. And I had a position doing low-income energy assistance with the Saguache County Department of Social Services.
I’ve always been deeply entrenched in agriculture and community ‘Ag’ activism; those are two things that have driven me over my life. In the San Luis Valley, that looks like health and wellness at Valley-Wide Health for several years, then youth prevention work and tutoring and educational work through Center School District for several years.
In 2007, we launched the healthy eating campaign Live Well, and in 2009 that became the San Luis Valley Local Foods Coalition. People cared deeply about food security and having access to the food that we grow here. We worked to create an equitable food system that includes a 38-acre farm incubator that is in Alamosa County and serves the whole San Luis Valley — for folks who would like to learn how to farm, and would like to have farmers market skills, and grow [crops] with land access and water from the Independent Ditch.
We have the Valley Roots Food Hub that we launched in 2015, and we have gotten $1.5 million in annual sales. Sixty-five percent of that goes into the pockets of small family farms and ranches in the Valley and the region.
I’ve raised my kids here. I really loved putting roots down in Saguache County; all my children went to and graduated from Mountain Valley School in Saguache and that really inspired me to serve on the Mountain Valley School Board. I was elected for two terms; I served nine years with most as the president of the board.
I love to garden, I have horses, I raised my kids, I’m now a grandma. Family and community activism is what I love to do and what I spend my time doing.
WATERS: Why are you running for county commissioner?
MARRON: I’ve been doing this amazing community organizing valley-wide that is Alamosa-centric. With all the skills I have learned, I would like to give that to my home community. I live here in Saguache, and I would like to work here, too. I really love going out and campaigning and talking to people. It’s been really neat reconnecting with the people I have such a good relationship with, who my kids went to school with.
I feel I have a lot of skills to offer Saguache County. I feel I’ve learned good governance. I’d like to be a good steward of the resources here. I’d like to provide opportunity here that preserves our rural lifestyle that we all love. I love the Dark Skies Initiative, I love the wildlife corridor [Gunnison Public Lands initiative]. I’m a big supporter of the cow-calf operations that we have here, and new technology like virtual fencing that might require cell towers.
I helped found Saguache County Sustainable Environmental and Economic Development [ScSEED] [with which} I’ve worked for twenty years, and [for which] I’m the chair. It is that idea of supporting local businesses, providing opportunities for youth.
The real purview of a county commissioner is running the county departments — public health, road and bridge, etc. I want those departments to run at the highest capacity possible. I would like all of our employees to have a living wage.
I feel really proud of the Saguache County Housing Authority.
I’m a grant writer and a fundraiser and I’m good at those things. I feel I can bring that to our county.
I’d really like to get rid of the rhetoric that we stand on the laurels of being one of the poorest counties in Colorado, because we are so rich in natural resources, and we are so rich in social capital. I would like to change the paradigm and the conversation to the beauty and the unique special attributes and resources of our community.
I feel I can bring a lot of positivity to the county. I come from a very collaborative environment in the non-profit world. We [Alamosa County] just received a Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Culture of Health Prize for our strong partnerships and I would like to bring that collaborative spirit and increase the trust of Saguache County Government. I’ve been out and about speaking with people and there are questions about trust in government in general, even at our local level in Saguache County. I’d like to work on that and improve that.
Another reason I’m running is that when I see the dysfunction at the federal level, I feel that we have democracy at work at the grassroots level and local government level. I feel we can activate the change we want to see at the local level.
I’m passionate about public policy that adds value and regenerative practices to our agriculture. I’m friends with County Commissioner Kris Holstrom in San Miguel County. They have a practice they have paying farmers and ranchers to provide ecosystem services as they can conserve water, build soil and pollinator habitat, and practice regenerative grazing. I’d like to have a similar initiative here in Saguache County.
I’m passionate about food security, and that is what I’ve been doing for the last 15 years. It’s not just about food pantries — that is a piece of it. I’d really like to examine root causes of why they are needed, and collaborate with Neighbors Helping Neighbors, the KV Estates home owners association board, integrate farm to school programs, community gardens and greenhouses, add Ag curriculum to our schools.
Creating meaningful job opportunities with living wages is really paramount; we want to step out of this poverty place that we have stayed in too long. I want to make sure our children, families, and elders have the quality of life and the respect that they need.
I think we can follow state statutes and allow for 150-square-foot minimum home building. I think tiny homes are one answer to out housing crisis. Affordable housing is probably the most important issue people face. I would like to see mindful solutions in place so we can manage the development that comes our way instead of reacting to it.