Larry Don Suckla, a well-known auctioneer turned politician, was honored as Commissioner of the Year by Colorado Counties Inc. during its winter conference Nov. 30 in Colorado Springs.
“I’m used to talking a lot, but I’m at a loss of words right now,” Suckla said when called to accept the award. “Thank you. I really care a lot about the people I represent, and together with my fellow commissioners and staff, we are making a difference.”
Colorado Counties cited Suckla’s leadership with land management and fiscal issues for receiving the award.
“He took the lead on creating good benefits for the public and collaborates with other counties and the state legislature on issues that impact rural areas,” said Paul Thompson, outreach and education manager for Colorado Counties.
Suckla, a conservative Independent serving a second term, is known for his outspoken style, impatience with the slow pace of government and hands-on involvement in the inner workings of county business.
“I don’t agree that micro-managing is a bad thing – if a problem can be solved by somebody, it should be,” he said recently.
He told The Journal he is most proud of “putting people in place at the county that get things done. It has been a group effort by myself and my fellow commissioners.”
Besides local governance, he lobbies for Montezuma County at state and federal levels, including pressuring lawmakers to continue funding from Secure Rural Schools and Payment in Lieu of Taxes, programs relied on by small counties.
“Counties suffer hardships if that funding falls through,” he said.
In 2017, the county was mandated by the state to build a new combined courthouse. Suckla said through intensive value engineering and successful grant requests, the county kept the total costs down to $9.5 million.
“The average courthouse costs $14 million to $20 million. We stood our ground on how much we were willing to spend and got the price down,” he said.
He cited new leadership at the county landfill that “saved the county $1 million,” and encouraged the landfill be revamped to focus on a robust recycling program that continues.
As economic incentive, Suckla said he cut road impact fees for developers and streamlined the permitting process. He added that he and fellow commissioners were successful in negotiating a new lease on a county radio tower that pays the county $700 per month, up from $350 per month. He twice voted against raises for elected officials.
As commissioner, Suckla has been a champion for outdoor recreation, including supporting the proposed Paths to Mesa Verde, a 20-mile trail being planned between Cortez and Mancos. An avid mountain biker, he has also supported expanding trails at Phil’s World, and designated the area as a special recreation zone of state interest.
Other highlights of his term as commission include legalizing use of ATVs on county roads, advocating for public access to BLM lands and standing with farmers against a plan by Kinder Morgan to install additional powerlines, which was dropped.
He also stood with Pleasant View residents who adamantly opposed a controversial plan by Colorado Department of Transportation to alter County Road BB and U.S. Highway 160. CDOT dropped the plan.
Going forward, Suckla said he wants “to finish what I’ve started. Being a county commissioner means we do what we said we are going to do and to stand up for the people.”