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Schilling, Schalit reelected to Carbondale Fire District Board

Incumbents Gene Schilling and Sydney Schalit came out on top in the three-way race for two seats on the Carbondale and Rural Fire Protection District Board of Directors, in voting that concluded Tuesday.

According to the unofficial results of the election released Tuesday night, a total of 2,115 ballots were returned. 

Schilling, a longtime member of the fire district board and the soon-to-retire Carbondale police chief, was the top vote-getter with 1,589, according to tallies that still need to be certified by election officials.

Schalit had 1,098 votes in the election, and challenger Joe Enzer had 863 votes. Terms on the fire district board are for three years.

Gas industry regulatory activist Leslie Robinson to challenge for Garfield County commissioner seat

Leslie Robinson, a 40-year Rifle resident and longtime citizen activist involved in oil and gas regulatory issues, is challenging Republican Garfield County Commissioner Mike Samson for the District 3 seat in the upcoming fall election.

Robinson, a Democrat, has lived in Garfield County since the 1970s and is currently the chair of the Grand Valley Citizens Alliance, a nonprofit organization involved with oil and gas issues.

“I’m stepping into the race because Garfield County citizens need a new choice and a new voice in governing the county,” Robinson said in a news release announcing her candidacy.

She noted that the three Republican commissioners — Samson, Tom Jankovsky and John Martin — have served a combined 50 years in office.

“People crave diversity, new governance and a fresh approach to the challenges we all face.” Robinson said.

Robinson previously ran for county commissioner in 1996 against Republican Larry McCown, the eventual winner who was elected to his first of three four-year terms.

That was the same year Martin was also first elected. His District 2 seat is also up this year. He’s being challenged by Democrat Katrina Byars.

Samson was not immediately available for comment Thursday on Robinson’s decision to run. Samson will be seeking his fourth term in office after first being elected in 2008.

“I am especially concerned that the commissioners have spent millions of dollars fighting against new air quality rules and proposed state health and safety guidelines, and have supported weakening environmental regulations on public lands,” Robinson said in her statement. “I believe this is contrary to what most GarCo residents want. There’s better use for these funds.”

She noted that the local oil and gas industry has been impacted by world markets and the abundance of natural gas in other locales.

“Oil and Gas drilling has always been a boom or bust industry,” she said. “Spending millions to support one industry that has periodic ups and downs is not a good business model for Garfield County. It’s time to diversify our county economy and endorse protections for our environment.

“It’s time for better balance and perspectives as we face the challenges of a post-COVID society.”

Robinson was previously involved with several newspaper start-ups in Rifle and Glenwood Springs, served as the United Way of Garfield County executive director, and worked in retail management.


Carbondale votes for tobacco tax

Carbondale voters overwhelmingly approved a cigarette and tobacco tax within town limits in Tuesday’s municipal election.

Also on the ballot Tuesday were three town board of trustee seats, but the three incumbents ran unopposed.

Lani Kitching (851 votes), Ben Bohmfalk (890 votes), and Marty Silverstein (1,046 votes) were each reelected for another term.

The tobacco tax, similar to other measures other taxes municipalities have approved in the past few years, will dramatically increase the cost of cigarettes and nicotine products.

Most of the towns and municipalities in the region approved a $3.20 tax per pack of cigarettes that rises 10 cents a year until it reaches $4.

But Carbondale asked voters to approve the full $4 tax per pack, along with a 40% tax on all other products containing nicotine, including cigars and e-cigarettes.

Smoking and nicotine cessation products like gums and patches are not affected.

The tax question won with 924 votes in favor, and 381 opposed. The tax takes effect July 1.

Under the state’s TABOR Amendment, taxing authorities must tell voters how much they expect to raise from the tax, and Carbondale put the upper limit at $700,000 annually. Town Manager Jay Harrington said that number is much higher than the town actually expects to make from the tax.

Glenwood Springs’ city attorney, Karl Hanlon, announces run for District 8 state Senate seat

Glenwood Springs attorney Karl Hanlon has thrown his hat into the ring. 

Hanlon, a Democrat, will seek the party’s nomination to challenge Republican state Sen. Bob Rankin of Carbondale for the District 8 seat, which represents Garfield, Grand, Jackson, Moffat, Rio Blanco, Routt and Summit counties in the Colorado Legislature.

On Wednesday, former Eagle County commissioner and Carbondale resident Arn Menconi announced that he, too, would be seeking the Democratic nomination to run for the District 8 senate seat.

Hanlon, who grew up on a cattle ranch in Jackson County, graduated from the University of Wyoming and later received his Juris Doctorate from the Northwestern School of Law of Lewis and Clark College in Portland, Oregon.

In addition to representing the city, Hanlon also represents the town of Silverthorne, the Aspen Fire Protection District and serves as general counsel to the Grand Junction Regional Airport. 

Hanlon and his family currently reside outside Carbondale. 

“I really focus on communities, building their vision of what they want to become,” Hanlon said. “Working on everything from water and infrastructure issues to economic development.”

In 2018, Hanlon ran to represent Colorado’s 3rd Congressional District, but ultimately finished second in the Democratic primary to eventual nominee Diane Mitsch Bush. Hanlon said he hoped to build on the successful aspects of that congressional run, in his bid for state senate. 

“Every constituent has a story and that story is important. I think that’s the biggest lesson,” Hanlon said. “Every community is facing challenges.”

When asked if his decision to run was influenced by Rocky Mountain Industrials, Inc.’s controversial plans to drastically expand its mining operation at the Transfer Trail limestone quarry just north of Glenwood Springs, Hanlon replied “absolutely, yes.”

“Communities are going to face those moments and they need representation in the state legislature that understands that moment that they are facing; and is willing to standup for them no matter what,” Hanlon said.

According to Hanlon, issues surrounding water, housing, education, health care and economic transitions would be at the forefront of his campaign. 

Sen. Rankin, who was appointed to the seat last year, replaced retiring Sen. Randy Baumgardner. Prior to that appointment, Rankin served as House District 57’s representative, which covers Garfield, Moffat and Rio Blanco counties. 

“If you look at Senator Rankin’s votes, there are a lot of them that are simply out of step with what this district both needs and wants and how it should be represented,” Hanlon said. 

Hanlon said he looked forward to speaking with voters on the campaign trail in the weeks and months to come ahead of the election. 

“The top priority for my campaign right now is to go out, talk to people and find out what their top priorities are,” Hanlon said. “We as a state need to focus on rural Colorado more.”

On the Republican side, Breckenridge-area resident Debra Irvine is challenging Rankin for their party’s nomination for Senate District 8.


Bloomberg campaign stops in Glenwood Springs

Republican or Democrat, Michael Bloomberg is still Michael Bloomberg.

That’s what the former New York mayor’s campaign surrogate and partner Diana Taylor told an audience Monday in Glenwood Springs.

“He believes in healthcare for everybody at an affordable rate, he believes in combating climate change, he believes in education, he believes in all the things that I think everybody wants for themselves and their families,” Taylor said at a campaign stop in Glenwood Springs.

“The Republican Party has gone way to the right, and (Bloomberg’s) values are now more affiliated with the Democrats than they are with the Republicans. But he has not changed his values one iota,” she said.

The Garfield County Democratic Party has asked every presidential campaign to come to the county, but only Bloomberg’s campaign responded according to county chair John Krousouloudis.

Taylor, a banking industry executive and former New York superintendent of banking, who is also Bloomberg’s romantic partner of 20 years, recently stepped into the role of campaign surrogate. Monday’s informal stop at Morgridge Commons was one of several events on the Western Slope.

Many of the 50 people in the audience had already made up their minds for Bloomberg.

“As soon as I saw that he was in the race, I thought, ‘this guy’s built a business empire, he’s run New York City, I think he’s going to be really effective,’” said Eagle County resident Claire Noble, who as already mailed in her primary ballot.

“Running New York City for 12 years really, really, really impressed me,” said Chris Coyle of Carbondale.

Open questions

A frequent criticism of Bloomberg’s political record is his support of stop and frisk, and his comments defending them.

“The way you get the guns out of the kids’ hands is to throw them up against the walls and frisk them,” Bloomberg said at a 2015 Aspen event, according to recently resurfaced audio from former Aspen Times journalist Karl Herchenroeder.

Bloomberg has apologized for the policy multiple times since announcing his campaign in November.

“Because I didn’t fully understand the unintentional pain it caused young black and brown kids and their families, I should have acted sooner and I should have stopped it, and I didn’t, and I apologize for that,” Bloomberg said at a Saturday campaign stop in Virginia, ABC News reported.

Taylor, responding to a question about the wisdom of apologizing for stop and frisk, defended the reasoning behind heavy policing of minority areas.

“New York City, and a lot of other cities, had a huge problem, and that was, the kids were dying in the street,” Taylor said.

“If you look at black and brown boys and young men, (guns are) the highest cause of death,” Taylor said.

Bloomberg looked at the fastest way to solve the problem, and decided that if you get guns off the street, they can’t shoot each other, according to Taylor.

“The fastest way to do that was through stop and frisk,” she said, adding that Bloomberg also addressed education and community issues, founding what eventually became President Barack Obama’s My Brother’s Keeper program.

Getting to the White House

Bloomberg has been running a campaign against Trump while the other Democrats are focused on the early primary states, according to Taylor.

“Michael is everything (President Donald) Trump wants to be,” Taylor said.

But to get the nomination, Bloomberg will have to win big in the March 3 primary extravaganza known as Super Tuesday.

Bloomberg’s self-funded campaign has 10 times the number of people on the ground in Colorado as other campaigns, according to one staffer.

Colorado is one of 15 Super Tuesday states where candidates seek a big win March 3.

One attendee said he appreciated the event, but that he would still support Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar in the primary.

“It didn’t change my mind. I think Mike Bloomberg is a fair enough candidate, but I worry about two rich guys from New York City fighting in the battle for the presidency,” said Nick Kelly.


New Castle, Silt elections headed for cancellation; Carbondale’s still on

New Castle and Silt will likely cancel their municipal elections this April due to a lack of candidates running for council and trustee seats.

And, had it not been for a tobacco tax question already on its ballot, the town of Carbondale would have canceled its election altogether, too.

The smaller towns in Garfield County hold their elections in April of every other even year, while Glenwood Springs and Rifle city elections are every other odd year — Glenwood in April and Rifle in September.

Carbondale proceeds

According to Carbondale Town Clerk Cathy Derby, three incumbent trustees filed to run for three open seats on the town’s Board of Trustees. Those candidates include current trustees Ben Bohmfalk, Lani Kitching and Marty Silverstein.

“I think we accomplished a lot in the first four years, but there is still more we can do,” Silverstein said.

Silverstein commended the board for its handling of controversial issues such as adopting stricter tobacco regulations.

Carbondale’s April ballot will ask residents whether they support the implementation of a $4 tax per pack of cigarettes sold, along with a 40% tax on all other tobacco products, including e-cigarettes.

The filing deadline for turning in nominating petitions with the necessary 25 signatures was Jan. 27.

According to Derby, no official write-in candidates had come forward by Monday’s 5 p.m. deadline, either.

Trustees serve four-year terms and earn $900 a month, according to Carbondale’s Municipal Code.

New Castle

Grady Hazelton and fellow New Castle Councilors Crystal Mariscal and Graham Riddile are the only candidates running for three town council seats up for election, according to Town Clerk Melody Harrison.

With no other questions on the town’s ballot, Harrison will ask the council at its regularly scheduled meeting Tuesday to cancel the election.

Candidates had until Jan. 27 to turn in nominating petitions with the necessary 15 verified signatures; only Hazelton, Mariscal and Riddile did so.

Additionally, no write-in candidates filed affidavits of intent by the Jan. 31 deadline.

“I think we have a really good team and have a lot of things going on in New Castle that we’re excited about,” Hazelton, who currently serves as mayor pro tem, said. “I think Graham and Crystal, both, are great young minds that add to the team, for sure.”

Residents do not elect the town’s mayor pro tem. Instead, the council selects one of its already elected members to serve in that capacity.

The mayor pro tem conducts council meetings and signs documents in the event of the mayor’s absence.

New Castle town councilors serve four-year terms and earn $370 per month.


The town of Silt will also cancel its April election after only four candidates filed to run for five trustee seats up for election.

According to Town Clerk Sheila McIntyre, current board members Justin Brintnall, Kyle Knott and Sam Walls turned in their nominating petitions by the Jan. 27 filing deadline.

Additionally, Trustee Andreia Poston filed an affidavit as an official write-in candidate.

Subsequently, all four candidates will be appointed to the board at either the Feb. 24 or March 9 board meetings, McIntyre said.

According to McIntyre, the town will advertise to fill the remaining vacant seat at a later date.

Silt trustees earn $400 a month and serve four-year terms.


Democrat announces challenge to Martin’s Garfield County Commission seat

Former Carbondale trustee Katrina Byars announced Saturday that she will run for the Garfield County Board of Commissioners, challenging current Chairman John Martin for his District 2 seat.

Byars, 40, said she is running to focus on environmental sustainability, protecting natural resources and “healing the political divisions that have kept people from working together.”

 “I want to run for Garfield County commissioner to bring the county together, so that we can put aside our differences and collaborate on solutions for the future,” Byars said.

As a native to Garfield County and now a resident of Glenwood Springs, Byars has a close connection to many communities and the surrounding environment.

Byars went to school in Garfield County, and received her degree in sustainability studies from Colorado Mountain College. She recently completed her master’s degree in legal studies at the Sturm College of Law at Denver University.

She also founded Sustainable Planning and Development, a nonprofit that is about to launch a sustainability journal.

Byars served most of one term on the Carbondale Board of Trustees, resigning in 2017 to move to Glenwood Springs after struggling to find housing in Carbondale. She also ran for Carbondale mayor in 2016.

Byars has worked on several projects with the county, including the Garfield County clean energy plan, but said she thinks it’s time for new voices leading the county.

“While I personally respect the service of our sitting Garfield County commissioners, I don’t feel that they always represent the range of diverse opinions and people in this county. I think I could do that better,” she said.

Announcing her candidacy at the Garfield County Democrats’ Martin Luther King Day dinner, Byars said she was unaffiliated until a few months ago.

Byars believes the slowness to change is due in part to the longevity of Martin’s tenure.

“When a leadership role is held by a single person for decades, it can be difficult for things to change. My opponent, who I have a great deal of respect for, has been serving for almost a quarter of a century and it’s time for a changing of the guards,” Byars said.

More than half of Garfield County’s current budget comes from property taxes from the oil and gas industry, a reality that Byars recognizes.

“The appropriate level of oil and gas extraction in Garfield County or anywhere is one that protects human health and water quality, while providing the resource. I don’t think that is what has happened up to this point,”

One area Byars would like to focus on is protecting waterways, and restoring any streams that have been contaminated.

“I have friends and family in Rifle that don’t drink out of their tap because they don’t trust their tap water,” she said.

Starting with the county party assembly process this spring, Garfield County Democrats and Republicans will each formally nominate candidates to run for both the District 2 commissioner seat and the District 3 seat currently held by incumbent Republican Mike Samson of Rifle.


Glenwood Springs Democrat Colin Wilhelm to run for Colorado Assembly

Glenwood Springs attorney Colin Wilhelm will run for Colorado House District 57 as a Democrat in 2020.

If he makes it through the primary, Wilhelm would likely face incumbent Rep. Perry Will, R-New Castle. House District 57 is made up of Garfield, Moffat and Rio Blanco counties.

Wilhelm announced his campaign at the Rifle library Monday.

“I saw that there were some deficiencies in our representation, and I felt that the people needed to be represented more,” Wilhelm said in an interview. “I feel I have the opportunity to go out and work for the people, and represent the people directly.”

Economy and health care

Wilhelm mentioned jobs and health care as two major issues facing his northwest Colorado district.

“We’re on the brink of economic transition out here, and we need to embrace that transition,” Wilhelm said.

The economic risks aren’t just related to oil and gas, but to single-industry towns, Wilhelm said.

“We need to work with current stakeholders, local and state governments to keep the jobs we have while transitioning to new jobs in multiple fields to allow for economic growth,” Wilhelm said.

The current representation doesn’t appear to be looking in that direction, he added.

As an example, Wilhelm mentioned that rural towns reliant on single industries like coal extraction have the opportunity to become leading producers of outdoor recreational equipment.

“Also, we need to increase access to healthcare. And particularly, mental health care access is lacking in Colorado, so I plan on taking that head-on,” Wilhelm said.

A new incumbent

In 2018, Wilhelm challenged then-Rep. Bob Rankin for the same seat, but lost by a 9% margin, or about 2,000 votes.

“I learned a lot from the last campaign, what to do and some of what not to do. I’m going to take that information and move forward. I feel confident about our chances,” Wilhelm said.

Both Rankin and Wilhelm ran primarily based on issues, and avoided more rancorous campaign rhetoric. Rankin commented after his victory that the race against Wilhelm “was almost too civil.”

“We sort of agreed on everything,” Rankin said on election night.

After the 2018 election, Rankin, a Carbondale Republican, was appointed to replace former Sen. Randy Baumgardner in the Colorado Senate. A Republican panel selected Will to fill Rankin’s seat in the house.

Wilhelm directed supporters to follow his campaign Facebook page for more information.

“We’re looking forward to getting out, and there will be many events over the next year,” Wilhelm said.


Ramirez holds lead in contested Roaring Fork school board race over incumbent Larson

UPDATE — A Thursday morning update in the latest multi-county vote tallies now has Jasmin Ramirez up 80 votes over Roaring Fork school board incumbent Shane Larson for the lone contested seat in Tuesday’s election.

After an extra half day of ballot counting Wednesday, Jasmin Ramirez took a 60-vote lead in the election for the District D seat on the Roaring Fork School District Board of Education.

If the margin holds, it would mean Ramirez would take the seat now held by incumbent school board member Shane Larson.

However, a couple hundred rejected and held ballots could still come into play, leaving the school board seat undecided until after Nov. 14, according to Garfield County Clerk and Recorder Jean Alberico.

Ballot counting was suspended Tuesday night until the following morning when more than 2,000 outstanding ballots still needed to be counted in Garfield County. Ballots were also still being counted in the Eagle and Pitkin county portions of the school district Wednesday morning.

By afternoon Wednesday, unofficial final results in the three-way school board race gave Ramirez 2,467 votes districtwide, or 39% of the total, to Larson’s 2,407, or 38%.

A third candidate for that seat, Amy Connerton, garnered 1,474 votes, or 23% of the vote, according to the unofficial final tally.

Alberico said she had 107 ballots that were rejected for reasons such as missing IDs, no signature on the ballot or a signature discrepancy.

“These voters have all been sent a letter with instructions on how to cure the deficiency,” Alberico explained. “Voters have until 5 p.m. on Nov. 13 to return the affidavit so their ballot can be counted.

Any cured ballots received by the deadline will be processed and scanned on Nov. 14, after which the results will be audited and Canvass Board can certify the election results.

Ramirez ran on the message of bringing greater diversity to the school board and representation in a district where more than 50% of the students are Latino.

Regardless of the final outcome, Ramirez thanked voters for participating and listening to what she had to say.

“I’m really grateful that a lot of our district community saw a need for diversity and representation for students and families with different life experiences,” Ramirez said late Wednesday.

“I do have the ability to connect with the families of the valley, and to listen and share those experiences, because I’m bilingual,” she said.

With the final outcome still uncertain Tuesday night, Larson said he heard a strong message from school district voters that, while the district is moving in the right direction, there’s still work to be done.

He said the contested race, “made me stop and think about why I want to be on the board, and why I’m running. But at the end of the day I think I have some things to contribute.

Two other Roaring Fork school board seats were decided Tuesday.

Joining current board members Jen Rupert and Jennifer Scherer will be Natalie Torres for the District B seat, and Maureen Stepp for the District C seat.

Torres and Stepp were the only candidates listed on the ballot in this fall’s mail ballot election, though a pair of official write-in candidates did garner some votes for those seats.

According to school district officials, the current school board will preside over the next scheduled board meeting on Nov. 13. Once the election results are certified, the new members would be sworn in come December.


Unofficial results for Western Garfield County are in

Early results are in for Western Garfield County including Re-2 and District No. 16 School Board Directors.

As of 9:07 p.m. Tuesday night incumbent Director — District A Tom Slappey held a 59.90% to 40.10% vote lead over Seth McMillen.

The race for the open Director — District B was tight with Kirk Wilson edging out Chris Miller by a little over 200 votes. (Wilson: 53.76%; Miller: 46.24%)

Katie Mackley and Meriya Stickler both ran unopposed for Director — District C and D respectively.

“As a District, we are grateful for so many Garfield Re-2 citizens willing to throw their hats into the ring, to support kids, and become leaders in their school district. It takes a lot of courage to put yourself out there and have your name appear on a ballot,” Re-2 Director of Communication Theresa Hamilton said.

“We congratulate the apparent winners and are excited to begin working with this new team.” 

In the Parachute/Battlement Mesa elections early counts for Garfield County School District No. 16 School Board’s two open seats are in with incumbent Lynn J. Shore garnering 37.51% of the votes, with Brittany Van Teylingen not far behind at 31.67%. Duana L. Lawrence had tallied 30.82% of the votes counted.

Voters were strongly in favor of Garfield County School District No. 16 Ballot Question 4A – nearly 63% for and only 37% against. The measure, which wouldn’t increase taxes, allows District 16 to provide advanced services including telecommunications and cable television services for the district.