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Perry Will, from wildlife to the statehouse

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Perry Will likes his new job. After four decades with Colorado Parks and Wildlife, Will — a Republican and resident of New Castle — was appointed last winter as representative of Colorado’s 57th District, serving Garfield, Rio Blanco, and Moffat counties.

“It’s been a good transition from my former life to go over to the legislature and see how the sausage is made over there,” he said in a recent KDNK interview.

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Will replaced Bob Rankin, who became senator of Colorado’s 8th District after Randy Baumgardner resigned in December amidst sexual harassment allegations. Will took office on March 5, two months after the start of the legislative session. “It felt like I had been dropped off on Mars,” he said. “But, I think I learned quickly.”

The biggest challenge was keeping up with all the bills and what they mean.

“When you punch that button yes or no, that’s getting real because you’re representing the people,” he said.

He was not in favor of SB-181, which would give local governments more control over oil and gas operations, and voted against HB-1261, which hopes to cut greenhouse gases in Colorado by 50 percent by 2030.

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“[HB-1261] will be a negative impact in my district,” he said. “It speeds up the shutting down of coal and power generation.”

Moffat County’s Tri State coal-fired power plant is one of the largest in Colorado. Coal comes from two local mines, Trapper and Colowyo. And, according to the Moffat County Comprehensive Economic Development Strategy for 2016 – 2021, they are the county’s largest employers.

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Will said that HB-1261 is too much, too fast.

“It’s not about an environmental conscience as much as it is about protecting people,” he explained. “We know where we’re headed [reducing greenhouse gases], we just can’t get there that quick.”

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He also voted against appropriating funds for census outreach, drivers’ licenses for undocumented immigrants, and the Red Flag Bill, which, come January, 2020, will allow Colorado judges to temporarily remove firearms from people believed to be at high risk of harming themselves or others.

“That bill has no due process,” said Will. “Do we want to reduce gun violence? Of course, but that was not the way to do it.”

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Will said that it’s not the guns; it’s the people behind them.

“Somebody that’s predisposed to do something like that, they’ll drive their car on the sidewalk and take out people,” he said. “Guns seem to be the tool in a lot of these, but it can be other things.”

He said he does not know what really influences school shootings but added that it’s a social issue, pointing to video games and shifting parenting styles as contributors to gun violence.

“A lot of it is tough, too – parents both working, trying to make a living, keep a roof over their heads, keep the family fed,” he explained. “It’s not like the old times when kids had chores and stuff to do.”

He doesn’t like detailed media reports of school shootings. “I think maybe some [shooters] are after the notoriety,” he said.

Will co-sponsored bills that would put more money into highways and increase the supply of affordable housing. According to the Colorado General Assembly website, he voted to increase transparency for health care costs, improve behavioral health care coverage, expand access to substance abuse treatment for pregnant women and for opioid dependency, and create programs for children of mothers in treatment.

As for the session’s contention, Will said he supported his party’s stalling strategy to keep certain “bad bills” from passing but he is not part of the Republican campaign to recall certain Democrats from office, including Governor Jared Polis.

“[The Governor] has done nothing different than what he said he was going to do,” Will said.

You can listen to the entire interview at kdnk.org.

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