August 2004

Rule touts business experience

By David Grant Long

Larrie Rule and Don Denison are running against each other in the county’s only primary race Aug. 10. Both are seeking to be the Republican nominee who will face Democrat Cheryl Baker in the November election to be county commissioner from District 2, the Cortez District. Below is a transcript, edited for length, of Larrie Rule’s interview with reporter David Grant Long.

Rule and his wife, Pat, are longtime area businesspeople. They own Rule Trucking and Diesel Technologies in Cortez. They recently sold Mancos Redi-Mix to Sky Ute Sand and Gravel.

DGL: Describe yourself. What kind of person are you?

LR: Well, I’m a self-made man, you know. I’ve done everything from the ground forward. I’ve never had help from anybody. I’ve been in different types of businesses over my life. I’ve never failed at anything. And I have a lot of experience in the business area.

DGL: What experience have you had that prepared you to govern the county?

LR: Oh, like I said I’ve owned my own businesses all my life. I’ve very seldom worked for anybody else and I’ve always been prosperous in anything I’ve done. You know, as far as doing a business and management of money, I’ve managed numerous millions of dollars and been able to keep account of things and not plunder the money.

DGL: That’s certainly one of the big responsibilities of the commission.

LR: I just sold my Redi-Mix company, we had it for eight years here, which is three or four million a year, nothing compared to what the county’s doing but it’s quite a few pennies to play with. I’ve been in the trucking business for almost 40 years and I’ve done numerous things too to go along with that, but I’ve run trucks probably 35 years of that 40 years and it’s quite an undertaking. I’ve just been able to manage things and not plunder your money and that’s what I see that goes on a lot of times in the county.

DGL: What’s the main issue you’d like to work on if you’re successful and do get elected to the commission?

LR: One of our big things in this area, of course, is agriculture and tourism is another big thing, and of course one thing we don’t have is industry here. Industry is a part of what we need in this county. We don’t have to go real big into industry but we need something to go along with what we have here today. I don’t know if you have children or not, but how many people with children get to stay here and stay at home? Most of them go by the wayside.

DGL: What do you think the county could do toward that end?

LR: Well, I’m not sure what the county owns here in property, David. Years ago when you’d see a lot of the cities any more or a lot of the counties, they can work with people coming into a community and make things easier for a company to come in here by working with them on land, on taxes, or whatever to try to get them into the community to provide jobs for the community.

DGL: Yeah, the city’s done that with Safeway. They exempted them from sales tax I think for five years.

LR: It’s not a lot, but it’s a help sometimes because most businesses, to get them off the ground, it takes two to three years to get a business prosperous. Just different things like that as far as looking at it in a community.

DGL: Well, what do you think of LIZ (Landowner-Initiated Zoning)? Would you like to keep it the way it is or change it in some way or get rid of it?

LR: There’s some good in LIZ and there’s some bad in LIZ. It’s just one of those programs that I think should be reworked. I don’t know if you were at the economic development meeting we had here not too long ago, the guy came out of Colorado Springs –

DGL: No, I couldn’t make it, I was working.

LR: He was telling the county where they had messed up in some of their zoning laws and stuff like that over the years, you know, and why they had some of their problems today and he had some good points on subdivisions and roads and different areas like that. That’s why I think the county needs to look at some of those areas with some of those people that have developed a lot of the areas.

DGL: Was there anything specific in the LIZ that you think needs to be gotten rid of?

LR: One of the big things I guess that I have to say about LIZ is if you make a law you have to enforce it and I've seen some of the things that they came up with and they’re not being enforced.

DGL: Just too many variances granted? Too many exceptions being made?

LR: Right. And it just don’t seem like it’s fair to a lot of people because one person gets it and one person doesn’t. That’s one of the areas, I guess. It’s hard to sit here and think of different things until you talk about it a little bit. But if you’re going to make rules and regs, you’ve got to enforce them. If you don’t, you better leave them alone. That’s why a lot of people are upset about the LIZ right now, from people I’ve talked to, because you don’t enforce it for one person but you do the next person.

DGL: The commission recently made a decision about the expansion of Farm Goods for Kids and GoingApe.com, that company over in Mancos that makes kids’ toys. They wanted to expand and the neighbors objected. What did you think of that decision? They put some mitigation on the company and some caps on how many employees they could employ there and I guess they ended up, no one was particularly happy, but I guess that would be a good example of how LIZ is working.

LR: That is a ball of fire over there on that deal, for one thing. Because the commissioners were sort of backed in a corner on that deal. But that’s what’s the problem with LIZ. One of the problems with LIZ also, you’ve got people that’s moved in there after the business was started, and the business was granted to come in here and start a business. That’s why the guy bought the land. And all of a sudden they put these stipulations on him and that’s a great example of what I was talking about awhile ago about your LIZ program because they put all kinds of stipulations on him, but there was another company just started up here in town and they didn’t make them do anything.

DGL: What company was that?

LR: Well, I don’t know if I want you to quote me on this one.

DGL: Most of the county commissioners in the recent past have had other jobs or business interests. Do you think the position should be a full-time job?

LR: I think for the money that the position is being paid for, yes, I think it should be at least a three- to four-day-a-week job, I think it’s going to take that much time. And in the position I am now, since I just sold out my business, I’d just as soon work it as a full-time job even though it doesn’t pay quite enough, but that’s something that could be looked at down the road. Because the county’s getting big enough that it needs to be a full-time job. Right now the pay on it is probably a three- to three-and-a-half-day-a-week job.

DGL: What does it pay, thirty-something?

LR: Thirty-five thousand, I think, something like that. Of course I didn’t go into it looking for the money and I was talked into running because I didn’t jump on it on my own. There was a lot of people that came to me wanting me to run because I have a lot of experience in business. I first told them no because I didn’t think I’d have time to do it. The business that we were in was quite consuming but we wanted to slow the business down anyway so that’s why we decided to go ahead and run — or I decided. I asked my wife, that’s why I keep saying we, because she’s involved too. Then we decided to slow the business down a bit, but now since we sold the business. See, I have the diesel tech, but I have a manager that runs it. We don’t really have much to do with it, just watch the money on it. And the two trucks we run, my wife runs those. She runs them over the Internet, it’s no big deal, so it’s going to leave me as a full-time and I will work it if I get in there as a full-time person.

DGL: Do you believe the county commissioners have done a good job in the past few year? Is there anything that they’ve done that you were pretty much against?

LR: There might have been a couple or three things I’ve known over the years that might have been done a little different. but I can’t really say there have been bad commissioners. Dewayne Findley, I went to school with him, he’s been successful in business over the years but he’s only been in two years so you can’t really talk too much about him. But the other thing you’ve got to look at, you might have one thought, but you have two other people too that you have to deal with to get something passed. You can’t ever really say that certain people were bad. I guess I’ve got to say that they’ve pretty well run the county for the money that they have to deal with. The more money you’ve got, of course you can do things better. When you’re limited with money, it’s harder to do things.

DGL: I’ve heard some criticism of the commission saying they leave too much up to the county administrator as far as the decision-making. Do you have any thoughts on that?

LR: Well, yes and no again. Because you’ve got to remember, you’ve got a county administrator and that’s his job, if it really comes down to it. His job is to throw the stuff at the county commissioners, then leave the commissioners to say yes or no on what he does sometimes. See, he’s the one that knows everything to begin with and he’s the one that better know or he’s not doing his job. Tom (Weaver) does a good job in there, I think, except you’re right in some ways. I don’t really think they give him too much power. It’s just maybe what you brought up awhile ago as far as the commissioners not being full-time, maybe they don’t know exactly what does happen all the time. And that’s why it might be better to be a full-time position.

DGL: There’s only been one woman elected commissioner in Montezuma County over the 100-and-some years it’s been a county. Why do you think that is?

LR: I guess probably because this country has always been more of a tough country as far as the way things were put together over the years, you know, for men as being into the business as far as construction, logging, mining, and it’s probably just a phase that’s coming around.

DGL: Does it matter if there are more women elected to the commission in the future?

LR: I don’t think it would bother me. I always looked at the person, at what they are, if they know what they’re talking about. If you’ve got somebody that knows what they’re talking about, I don’t think it matters in our society of today whether it’s a woman or a man. As long as they do a good job and they know what they’re doing. One thing I find over the years is you get so many people that are great talkers, but can they do the job?

DGL: Do you think the county residents are being overtaxed right at the moment? I guess there’s going to be another half-cent sales tax on the fall ballot for a road fund.

LR: You know as well as I do, this county’s probably as low a taxes as there is in the state of Colorado. And one of the reasons that the taxes are so low is because we have no industry here. If the industry was way up and people made more money, I think you’d see more taxes to do more with in the county. So if you look at the taxes across the board, across probably the whole United States, the taxes in Colorado and this area is not that bad. Land taxes, home taxes, and stuff like that are not really bad in this county. Now, you can look at some of the other things which are governed by the state, your license plates and stuff like that which the county doesn’t have too much to say abut, they’re high.

DGL: Well, this would be a sales tax. The county’s got the sales tax they used to build the jail and then this would add another half-cent onto the sales tax.

LR: Again, if you look at the tax level across the county it’s not that high here.

DGL: So you will support raising the county sales tax for the road fund then?

LR: I’m not real positive if I would say I would totally support it, because they’ve got to prove to me how they can make sure the money gets appropriated to the road tax and that’s one of the things that goes on a lot in a lot of counties, they go in and raise it a half-percent or whatever, then how do they prove that’s where it goes all the time? So I’d like to see some proof on how this money could be used over a period of time.

DGL: So you’re saying if the road fund really doesn’t go up to account for all the revenue by the half-cent increase —

LR: I know what you’re after out of me but it’s hard to give a quote when nobody’s been able to prove anything what they’re doing with it. There are ways that I would like to see things happen in the county, and one is to be able to tax things so that you know that this money gets used for certain things.

DGL: Well, since it’s going to be a ballot question, you’re uncertain as how you’re going to vote on it as of now?

LR: I guess I’d have to say, yes, I’m uncertain right at the moment.

DGL: You sometimes hear the term “good old boys” used to refer to the power structure in the county, sort of implying a network of cronies or something. Do you think there’s any validity to that perception?

LR: You hear that quite often. Yeah, I think there’s some of that that goes on in the county. That’s what I was getting at a while ago when Jay Stringer (owner of Farm Goods for Kids) gets strung out for miles and you see somebody else that just goes in and does what they want to do. And I think you see that on some people because they’ve been here for a long time and they say, “I can just do whatever I want because I’ve done this over the years, I’ve spent this money in the county, I’m going to get away with it, one way or another.” And that’s a very true fact because of what they know they’ve done in the past.

DGL: Well, do you think that that’s sort of a valid point to say, for somebody that’s lived here a long time, that they might be a little more flexible, or do you think that zoning should be applied the same across the board?

LR: I think it ought to be across the board. I don’t care who you are. If there’s a law it ought to be followed. The problem is, though, because you build a law and you don’t have anybody to enforce it. Who enforces the LIZ program?

DGL; I guess ultimately the commission does. The planning commission gives them recommendations on the high-impact permits and stuff and they decide.

LR: But that’s the problem. Here comes old Joe Blow along and he goes out and does what he wants. If nobody says anything, he doesn’t have to do anything. See, in the county you should have somebody like your county sheriff who ought to be watching this stuff. If something comes up they ought to say, hey, does somebody know what’s going on? And then somebody ought to do something. That’s an issue that ought to be looked at because it is unfair and I don’t care who it is, whether it’s a newcomer or a guy that’s been here for a hundred years, if there’s a law made, you ought to have to follow it. There’s none of us that agree to everything that’s pushed in front of us. But it’s there, so when you got people, you got regulations. If you didn’t have regulations, what have you got? Pretty soon you’ve got one person that’s going to run the whole community. Sometimes I have a hard time explaining myself, but I just know how it’s fair for everybody. I feel like what’s good for one is good for all.

DGL: I appreciate you talking to me, Mr. Rule.