By Steve Johnson
In three months, I will retire after 24 years of service to the people of Larimer County in elected office — 12 in the Legislature and 12 as a Larimer County Commissioner. This opportunity has been one of the highlights of my life, and I am grateful for support through eight election campaigns.
Serving in both local and state government, I am more convinced than ever in the ability of local government to do great things. Local government has more impact on our lives and community than any other level of government.
I leave the office with great admiration of the people who work for Larimer County. County Manager Linda Hoffman, Assistant County Manager Lorenda Volker, and their entire leadership team are the best in the state at running an efficient and effective organization. Every county employee I have known is dedicated to the very best in customer service.
Looking back on 12 years of work, I take great satisfaction in what we have been able to achieve. I am most proud of the passage of the Behavioral Health Initiative in 2018. This measure made Larimer County the leader in the state in providing excellent mental health and substance abuse treatment for all of our residents. In 2019, $1 Million, and in 2020 $2.5 Million was distributed to provide services in every community in the county. Late this year, the ground will be broken on the premier Behavior Health campus in the state, right here in Larimer County under the leadership of Laurie Stolen and her team.
Since I’ve been Commissioner, and hopefully not because of it, Larimer County has seen the four largest disasters in county history: the 2012 High Park Fire, the 2013 floods, and now concurrent disasters of the Cameron Peak Fire and the COVID pandemic. Through the leadership of Tom Gonzales and our Public Health Department and Lori Hodges, the top Emergency Manager in the state, our recovery team, and many community organizations working together, we will come out of these challenges even stronger, just as we have before.
During my entire time of service, congestion on Interstate 25 has been a challenge for the region. With Commissioner Tom Donnelly’s leadership, the county and cities pooled their resources to draw down funds to build the improvements we’re seeing today, rather than waiting years or decades for this project to see needed funds.
The commissioners and our staff have made conservative fiscal management a top priority, balancing a budget and getting value for every tax dollar every year. We have provided property tax relief three times, ended two county sales taxes early, achieved a AAA bond rating which only 2% of counties in the country earn, and constructed over $150 Million in facility improvements, including a new Loveland Office Building and the Jail Modernization Project with no new taxes and no debt.
In January, we will have two new Larimer County Commissioners. I’m excited for them to have this opportunity to serve and for their fresh ideas and energy. I will do everything I can to see them be successful. I leave with a heart full of gratitude to the people of the best county in the nation. Thank you all.
Steve Johnson is a Larimer County Commissioner representing all of Larimer County.