Editorial: Kaup and Godes top excellent Glenwood Springs council field
March 19, 2017
Glenwood Springs is extremely fortunate this spring to have outstanding choices for City Council in two contested races.
As is standard Post Independent practice, we interviewed each candidate for the contested council races to hear them out on issues facing the town and their reasons for running.
The fact that three former council members have jumped back into the arena underscores what several candidates said: Glenwood is at a key point in its history. Even as the town faces ongoing housing issues and transportation challenges that have become more critical with increasing traffic and deteriorating roadways, opportunity is pounding at Glenwood's door.
The next City Council, with three new members, must answer the knocking even as it addresses rising concern that neighborhoods haven't been getting due attention.
The new Grand Avenue bridge allows the city to make the area immediately north of the Colorado River an inviting spot for pedestrians and commerce, just as the new pedestrian bridge offers improved ambiance on both sides of the river.
These are locked-in infrastructure investments that will add modern polish to our traditional downtown. Added to them are the likelihood that the new Eighth Street connection to Midland Avenue will become permanent, removing or sharply reducing traffic on the Seventh Street riverfront and creating an inviting gateway to the confluence area.
Development of the confluence will be a spirited debate that seems sure to end with some folks disappointed — but ultimately adding terrific new assets that help stretch humanity and business west from the traditional downtown.
All of this holds the prospect of enhancing Glenwood's mountain-town vibe and boosting prosperity.
The council must seize the moment while setting up a process that minimizes hard feelings. But hand-wringing resulting in inaction or uncoordinated development of the confluence and riverfront would be an inexcusable failure.
We are confident that the incumbent council along with the new members to be elected April 4 will provide real, inclusive and deliberative leadership that helps Glenwood take a big leap forward. Besides the two contested races, Rick Voorhees is unopposed for the Ward 2 seat.
So that's the context for this election.
In many ways, voters can't go wrong.
For the open at-large seat, former Councilwoman Shelley Kaup, Downtown Development Authority leader Charlie Willman, Riviera owner Jonathan Gorst and former Councilman Rick Davis are running. Our recommendation for the seat falls in that order.
Davis has passion and wants the city at all levels to emphasize customer service. Gorst, a relative newcomer to town with top-level entertainment credentials as a former traveling Broadway production musical director, impressed us with his intelligence and grasp of the breadth of local issues. His creativity is on display with his reinvigoration of the landmark Riviera and his idea to renovate the old opera house within the Eagles club. He would be a thoughtful council member offering a fresh eye.
Willman has been active in the DDA's successes and is an established and well-regarded local leader, as a lawyer and as longtime coach of Glenwood Springs High School's wildly successful mock trial team. Several articulate letters to the editor from students he has coached speak to his caring nature and leadership in a way that a professional resume cannot. We have no doubt he would be a terrific councilor.
We slightly favor Kaup because she proactively outlined a broad vision for the community, recognizing the opportunities outlined above and suggesting a national design competition for the confluence while also seeing that neighborhoods need attention.
We love the idea for a national design competition for this jewel where two mountain rivers come together. It's the right amount of audacious, recognizing Glenwood as a small town with character but with big potential.
Our endorsement of Kaup is underpinned by the balance she strikes in thinking about development potential while equally believing "we could focus more on the residents and keeping our town authentic, and not just creating a community for tourism."
As a civil engineer, she can get granular with tough issues "like transportation and city services, such as the waste collection, and can bring some knowledge on the utility side of it."
In the Ward 5 race, three more strong candidates — Early Childhood Network director Jonathan Godes, dental office manager Amber Wissing and former Councilman Don "Hooner" Gillespie also offer voters can't-lose choices.
Their south Glenwood ward is among the areas that need attention, with crumbling Midland Avenue bearing an increasing traffic load and exemplifying the transportation challenges the city faces. The long-discussed South Bridge project and the future of the municipal airport roost in the area.
We favor Godes or Wissing over Gillespie, believing Glenwood needs new perspective and seeing an opportunity to boost a new generation of leadership from younger parents who already are active in the community. Either would be the youngest council member, and we think that's needed.
Between the two of them, we slightly favor Godes, finding him to have both a depth of understanding of the issues and a bent toward critical thinking that could help with matters such as confluence planning or breaking through a city-county stalemate over paying for South Bridge.
Godes has municipal government and business leadership experience; Wissing is a well-regarded manager and active volunteer whose Project PACK helped fill a need for children in crisis.
Both, we are confident, will help make Glenwood Springs a better place for years to come, and either would be a welcome voice on City Council.