Columbine area resident John Flerlage, a former Marine, is determined to bring his leadership qualities to Jefferson County government.
Flerlage, a Democrat, is running against Jeffco Commissioner Don Rosier in District 3, which covers South Jeffco. The incumbent Republican is seeking his second four-year term on the GOP-controlled commission.
Flerlage, who ran unsuccessfully for Congress in 2010, is hoping to bring his fiscal, environmental and local approach to Jeffco leadership.
A Marine for most of his life
Flerlage, who joined the Marine Corps at age 19 while in college, served 22 years and retired in 2000 as a lieutenant colonel. In the Marine Corps, Flerlage piloted F-18 Super Hornets and A-4 Skyhawks, along with teaching international politics.
“I hope the Marines are known for their leadership ability. I’ve never claimed to be a great leader, but I’ve been around a lot of great leaders, and I hope a little bit rubbed off on me,” Flerlage said. “There’s some principles of leadership that we learn. Always listen to the other side, get good people and assign them task, don’t try to be an expert at everything, and listen to what they're telling you.”
Former Jeffco school board member Paula Noonan said Flerlage’s leadership qualities, developed in the military, would serve him well if elected.
“John has a great background for this job. He’s a common-sense guy, he’s practical and he’s about as non-ideological as anybody that I know, in the sense that he’ll always put what’s right for the county before politics,” Noonan said. “I realize it's a political office, and an R runs and a D runs. But that's not John's primary way of looking at the world. His way of looking at the world is to make the kinds of decisions one makes to create a better environment to live in.”
How he entered politics
Flerlage said the Columbine shootings in 1999, near his home and at the school his children would later attend, brought his focus from an international level to a local level.
“I’ve always been interested in good political outcomes, solutions to problems. When I retired in 2000 (from the Marines), I started throwing myself into the political world on a local level. I think we have immense problems that need to be solved,” Flerlage said. “Though there are solutions that could come from Washington, the solutions aren't going to come from from Washington. I’m convinced we need to address our problems locally.”
Flerlage, currently an international pilot for Delta, said that if elected he would focus on local issues, including public safety, protecting the environment and creating sustainable economic development.
“If solutions regarding energy and economic development aren’t going to come from the state or federal government, they have to come from the local government,” Flerlage said.
Flerlage drew a sharp contrast between himself and Rosier, especially on what county government should be focusing on.
“There seems to be a disconnect between what people want and what the current commissioner I’d run against is doing … ,” Flerlage said. “That starts with the idea of community safety. He voted against the budget in November, and that budget gave a 3 percent pay raise to all county employees. The problem is there’s a huge turnover in county government, especially in the sheriff’s department.”
Flerlage said cuts in next year’s budget, which Rosier said might occur given the county's current financial condition, will cost taxpayers more in the long run. Cuts to social programs, like intervention programs operated by the district attorney's office, just create more costs down the road, he said.
“The commissioners, especially the one I'm running against, are talking about reducing their budget. You can't just shut down these programs and restart them. (The programs) save money in the long run,” Flerlage said. “The budget is what the commissioners deal with. It has to reflect the moral values, the values of the community.”
While the economy isn't fully recovered, Flerlage said, Rosier refused to acknowledge the county is coming out of a recession, and that has led to the wrong mind-set when it comes to planning Jeffco’s budget.
“I know things can be better. But your assumptions have to be correct to do the correct thing,” Flerlage said.
The Second Amendment
Flerlage called the resolution approved last year by Rosier that positioned the county against any new firearms regulations a waste of county time and said it was related more to Rosier’s political ambitions than public safety.
“I was in the Marine Corps all that time, so I recognize the validity of the Second Amendment — not only the rights of the people to own arms, but the rights and privileges that have been established in our history,” Flerlage said. “But, again, it’s a matter of focus. If you want to run for state legislature and affect those laws, then go run for it.
"If that’s your ambition, if you’re making resolutions to build a resume for further office, you’re wasting the people's time.”
A focus on protecting open space in Jeffco would help increase property values in the long run, Flerlage said. He said he would oppose the expansion of Chatfield Reservoir and thought Rosier should be out front fighting against it.
Flerlage also said he supports expanding the Board of County Commissioners to five seats, something Rosier has adamantly opposed.
“It’s a basic area of democracy,” Flerlage said. “It increases democracy, and beyond that, it allows for commissioners to talk with one another outside of a public meeting. Those conversations are what start to break down barriers.”
Flerlage, who has three children, is originally from Boston. An avid hockey player, he helped establish and coached Columbine High School’s hockey team.
Contact Ramsey Scott at email@example.com or 303-933-2233, ext. 22, and follow him on Twitter @RamseyColumbine.