Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Schoen stresses his political experience

Express Staff Writer

Larry Schoen, collecting soil samples from his farm near Silver Creek, currently chairs the county Planning and Zoning Commission. Photo by David N. Seelig

When it comes to political experience, District 1 Blaine County Commission candidate Larry Schoen doesn't think he can be beaten.

As the current chairman of the Blaine County Planning and Zoning Commission, Schoen has led the review of one of the most complex and contentious proposals to ever go before the commission: the 2025 zoning plan.

"That really taught me how much pressure has been brought to bear on the county commissioners' office," Schoen said, referring to last month's crammed, intense review of the first four 2025 zoning ordinances.

"I think I have shown myself through this most recent process to be up to the task."

Schoen's been involved with county affairs in one form or another since 1991, when he bought a farm along Silver Creek, where he grows malt barely and dairy alfalfa. In 2003, he was named environmental farmer of the year by Coors Brewery.

From 1994 to 2002, he served as commissioner and chairman of the Carey Rural Fire Protection District—an elected position.

"We built three fire stations under my leadership in Carey, Picabo and Gannett," he said. "The budget went from $3,000 a year to $56,000 a year during that period of time, with newer equipment, a bigger volunteer roster, better preparedness and better training."

He's served on multiple citizen advisory committees and has been on the board of directors for the Wood River Land Trust, the Environmental Resource Center and the Ranchers Association. He's a supervisor on the Blaine County Soil Conservation District and was a member of the steering committee for the USGS ground-and-surface water study. He founded Farm Day in Blaine County nine years ago, and has been involved with the Democratic Party on a local, regional and national level.

Schoen said the other Democratic candidates have some political experience, "but they don't have it at the level and in the timeframe that I think prepares them for what is going on in the county right now. I truly do feel that I am the most experienced and prepared for this job."

As county commissioner, Schoen said he'd like to "keep it beautiful, keep it real and keep it together."

Keeping it beautiful refers to maintaining the high quality of life in the county by protecting natural resources, offering a diverse job base and managing growth with responsible, environmentally sound practices, Schoen said.

"There needs to be an understanding that we have to balance that with the ability for our children and grandchildren to live here," he added. "(Blaine County) needs to be affordable and accessible to people of all walks of life and different incomes—that's keeping it real."

Keeping it together is "more about keeping us together, working with the public and other community leaders," Schoen said. "If we're going to solve these issues, we need to work together, regionally."

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