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Chairman to run for the board

by Sheila Gardner

Douglas County Commission Chairman Jacques Etchegoyhen said Friday he plans to seek election to a second term.

“A lot of things seem to be coming together for Douglas County,” he said. “There are some things in place that I would definitely like to see followed through and implemented.”

Etchegoyhen, 39, cited the county’s master plan and fiscal future as two issues in which he has particular interest.

“The master plan took 10 years of community input and millions of dollars, and I want to make sure it’s implemented. We’ve had really good progress on financial issues. Our sales tax revenue has increased 12.5 percent annually for the past three years and that’s money which is being spent locally,” he said. “Prior to that, we had a 3 percent increase in revenue.”

Etchegoyhen, who has lived in Carson Valley since he was six months old, is manager of the Mack Land and Cattle Co. ranch. He was elected to the county commission in 1994 and served four years on the county planning commission.

“In the past four years, I think we have been able to balance the budget and we’re getting the county in good financial shape. We have very little outstanding debt for a county of this size. We’ve always been fiscally solvent and that fits with the folks who live in Douglas County.

“Our property tax rate is 13 percent lower than Carson City. In fact, our taxes are lower in every category than Carson City. We have lower property taxes than any county in Nevada except those with a population of only 3,000 or 4,000 people,” he said.

With the Douglas County population climbing past 39,000 residents, Etchegoyhen said growth is a perennial issue.

“You can’t get away from the issue of growth and who pays for it in any high-growth county in the West,” he said. “What I like doing is trying to affect long-term change on the growth issue. If we do nothing, it will be a relatively short time before we look like Reno. In 30 or 40 years, it could easily happen. The Truckee Meadows would be a lot better if it still had some meadows. I think we can learn from the mistakes made in Reno.”

Etchegoyhen was elected chairman of the Douglas County commission last year. He also was appointed by Gov. Bob Miller to the state Land Use Planning Council.

“A lot of politicians talk about ‘what I’m going to do for you.’ On our board, it’s a ‘we’ thing. I think one of my attributes is being able to work with people. The ‘I’ thing doesn’t get you very far, especially because you need two more votes to get anywhere,” Etchegoyhen said.

He credits staff and elected officials for creating a professional tone in the county.

Etchegoyhen is a champion of the rural land initiative which he believes is a way to keep agricultural land in production to the benefit of the rancher or farmer.

“I still think the worst-run ranch is far better for the environment than the best subdivision. If ranchers can be compensated and the number of open space easements in Douglas County goes up, that’s good for the economy and the people who live in Douglas County,” he said.

Etchegoyhen earned early notoriety on the commission for introducing the county’s unsuccessful attempt to buy the 9,900-acre Slash Bar H ranch for $24 million. The commission voted to buy the property, but changed its mind after months of debate, adverse public reaction and financial analysis determined that the county couldn’t afford the property without emptying out reserve funds and giving up some ong-term improvements.

“I have thought a lot about that lately,” Etchegoyhen said Friday. “It was my idea, but when I looked at the financial aspects, I was the vote who said, ‘no.’ It also had a lot to do with who bought it (Bruce Park and Don Bently). I have a phenomenal amount of respect for the two people who ended up owning a huge amount of Douglas County.”

Etchegoyhen is a Douglas High School graduate and earned a degree in planning and administration from University of California, Davis. He and his wife Cris have a son, Dominique, who graduates this year from University of Colorado at Boulder.

“I genuinely care about this community,” Etchegoyhen said. “I hope that shows. I think we’re making forward progress. I think we can do really great things for Douglas County with economic benefit and at the same time retain significant open space.”

The Record-Courier E-mail: rc@tahoe.com

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