P.T. Wood says he said no to running for Chaffee County commissioner several times before he made the decision to do it.
Wood won the District 3 seat in the November election and recently took the oath of office to begin his 4-year term on the Board of County Commissioners with veterans Greg Felt and Keith Baker.
Wood spent two terms as mayor of Salida, and through that experience he said he was exposed to a lot of the responsibilities of county government.
That was especially true as the county negotiated COVID-19.
Wood said he worked very closely with the county commissioners through daily roundtable discussions related to the pandemic.
He said he is looking forward to working with Baker and Felt and a staff he called “thoughtful and intelligent.”
Wood has come a long way from his days as a guide on the Arkansas River.
Raised in Boulder, he attended Fairview High School and then studied at Fort Lewis College in Durango.
He had an aunt who lived in Salida and visited the area as a child.
In 1988 he became a river guide during the summers and spent the winters in Durango.
He moved to Salida full time in 1991.
He said he stayed because “it’s awesome.”
With river running he became more involved in the community and with organizations like FIBArk, Arkansas Headwaters Recreation Area and the River Trust.
In addition to his river running past, he is a businessman who owns and operates Wood’s High Mountain Distillery.
Because of his business background, Wood has worked with the Chaffee County Economic Development Corp. for a number of years.
His experience as Salida’s mayor from 2017-2021 familiarized him with the Upper Arkansas Area Council of Governments (UAACOG).
Two of his overall goals are to help diversify the local economy and make Chaffee County a reasonable place to live.
He said he would like it to be a place where his own kids can live and work.
Wood has been educating himself on the duties of the county commissioners.
He said once he decided to run he started attending commissioners meetings pretty regularly via Zoom.
Since his election in November he has tried to attend in person as much as possible.
He said he’s had a lot of outside homework “understanding the nuts and bolts” and getting up to speed on the land use code, which is in the process of being updated, and the economic development corporation and UAACOG, which comprise two of the committee positions he’ll take over with his other duties.
Wood said although his experience as mayor prepared him for some of the job, the county government is a more diverse organization than the city.
“It’s more complex,” he said.
His role is also different in that as mayor he directed discussion related to issues. As a member of a three-person board, he will be doing more direct decision making.
Wood said he is excited to be involved in the land use code update. He said he has experience with the code and finds it interesting and important.
“It defines what the valley will look like moving forward,” he said. “It will define who we are as Chaffee County residents.”
One of the challenges Wood predicts encountering is dealing with land issues and residents.
He said those discussions can result in deeply personal interactions between folks and the government and far-reaching impacts on people’s lives.
Wood said it’s important to balance the public good with private property rights.
Just as important is the county budget and exercising the best stewardship of funds.
Wood said he is also looking forward to diving into the railroad right-of-way with surrounding counties to find a way to move forward on making the corridor something other than an abandoned place.
Wood said he is also excited about being involved in the process to find a new administrator to take over for Bob Christiansen, who is soon to retire.
In 2 years, Wood will be the senior member of the Board of Commissioners as Baker and Felt are both term limited.
Wood said the hardest part of that transition will be the loss of the experience of his current fellow commissioners.
He cited Felt’s depth and breadth of water knowledge and Baker’s involvement with transportation and Colorado Counties Inc.
Losing that history and knowledge will be challenging, he said.
Wood acknowledged the loss of history of the county with the stepping down of Rusty Granzella, which allowed his opportunity to serve.
“He brought experience that can only be gained by being from a place,” Wood said.
Wood said what is important to him in taking on the role of county commissioner is the significance of what the county does and “how important this place is to me still.”
He said, “I want to continue to have an impact on a place I plan to spend the rest of my life and truly love.”