A fourth candidate entered the fray Friday to replace term-limited El Paso County commissioner Sallie Clark.
Air Force retiree and entrepreneur, Stan VanderWerf said he wants the post representing the western side of the county so he can push his ideas to foster businesses and grow the Pikes Peak region economy. The Republican is a political newcomer who runs an aerospace consulting firm and owns CEM-Tek, a Colorado Springs business that offers 3-D printing.
VanderWerf, who served for 27 years as an Air Force acquisitions officer, said the region has the brainpower to attract big business.
"What I really feel strongly about is I feel we have a lot of untapped talent in Colorado Springs," he said.
VanderWerf is elbowing into an already-crowded 2016 GOP primary for the District 3 post, which has drawn Susan Payne, Alex Johnson and Tyler Stevens. Two other Republican candidates, Rodney Gehrett and Javier Mazzetti, have filed paperwork with the Secretary of State signaling their intent to run for the seat.
The retired colonel thinks, though, that his blend of business acumen and military credentials will put him ahead of the pack.
"I have the experience from running large organizations in the Air Force," he said.
In the service, VanderWerf oversaw the Air Force purchase of the V-22 Osprey tilt-rotor aircraft. He also worked on programs for the C-130 transport plane. Overseas, VanderWerf ran a program to help rebuild the Iraqi air force.
He said he has watched his military comrades struggle on the homefront after they take off the uniform.
"They move to Colorado springs because they love Colorado Springs then they find it difficult to find a job that is commensurate with their talent," he said.
Fixing that problem means growing local business and courting new employers to move to town. VanderWerf hasn't fully defined his jobs program, but said he's got the fire to figure it out.
"I am passionate about growing the Colorado springs economy," he said.
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