Final thoughts for at-large Glenwood Springs council seats

Glenwood Springs at-large candidates for City Council Erin Zalinski and Tony Hershey.
John Stroud/Post Independent

Narrowing viewpoints of candidates for the at-large seat on Glenwood Springs City Council, there are a few distinguishing differences between incumbent Tony Hershey and opponent Erin Zalinski ahead of Tuesday’s election.

They both believe residents feel greatly unheard by the city and City Council.

Zalinski owned a successful business, TreadZ, making her well acquainted with local business owners and labor struggles. She also worked as a substitute teacher, adding connections in local education.

“We used our success to support local organizations and nonprofits as well as our space to promote our neighboring businesses through hosting fashion shows, cross marketing and promotion and collaboration,” Zalinski said, talking about her business.

Hershey is a deputy district attorney for Garfield County and understands the local legal system and the people who are processed through it. He’s also served one term on Council, giving him knowledge of Council processes.  

“I think experience is really important here,” Hershey said when asked about perspective and experience. “It took me six to 12 months to get totally up to speed on all the issues, to know all the players, to understand the system, and I don’t know that we can afford that kind of lag time with someone without that experience.“

There are currently no brick and mortar business owners on Council and Zalinski hopes to bring a little more focus to that revenue source, while Hershey thinks the city already focuses too much on the downtown core.

“It’s always been about downtown without including the rest of the community and they’re just ignored.” Hershey said. “Their streets are ignored, their infrastructure is ignored, their wants and needs are ignored. Downtown is great and it’s a major source of revenue and it’s a major part of this community, but it’s not the only part of this community.”

Erin Zalinski speaks during the Monday, March 20, 2023 Glenwood Springs Issues and Answers City Council Candidates Forum.
John Stroud/Post Independent

Although they both agree on a lot of the sentiments of what they think Glenwood Springs needs, they have different solutions. 

Zalinski brings her “listen and learn” approach to find a healthy collaboration and the best possible answer in the circumstances where she might oppose other councilors, while Hershey brings more of a “devil’s advocate” approach and stands strong in saying no to those he opposes.

“I feel like it’s all a moot point if we can’t work together in some kind of unity,” Zalinski said. “My approach to Council would be working within different populations, being a little more humble and spending a lot of time learning and listening instead of speaking.”

In opposition, Hershey said that seeking advice for every answer will slow the process.

“I don’t think it’s bad to have one voice that says no, and a voice that is experienced,” Hershey said. “I think I’m relatively effective and I can get things done.” 

Hershey said that there used to be time for thinking things through more thoroughly. But between housing problems, a homeless issue, business issues and a Council that wants to drive the community into pro-development, there is no time, he said.   

“Sometimes leaders feel like they have to come up with all of the ideas, and I don’t think they have to, they can look to the community and ask them,” Zalinski said. “This community has a wealth of knowledge.”  

Other aspects the candidates felt passionate about, but never got a chance to touch on

Zalinski focused on the disconnect between residents and city decisions, and possibly trying “less traditional” approaches in the future. 

“I look to this opportunity as a chance to bring a different perspective,” Zalinski said. 

She also wanted to clarify her stance on some of the future plans for rapid transit through the Roaring Fork Transportation Authority, and said that she doesn’t know the best answers and she didn’t intend to put herself in a box with her prior responses.

“What I do have is the resources, capacity and time to inform and educate myself so that when it comes time to vote and make a choice, I will be prepared and use the best of my judgment to do so,” she said 

Hershey said he is concerned about homelessness in Glenwood and that he doesn’t think the city needs to be putting resources into those aspects during a housing crisis. He said that, outside of mental health, many of the people chose their homelessness.

Tony Hershey speaks during the Monday, March 20, 2023 Glenwood Springs Issues and Answers City Council Candidates Forum.
John Stroud/Post Independent

“I know from firsthand experience, in my other job, that a lot of these people are criminals and commit criminal acts or vandalism and are a threat, and if you don’t want to be part of the community, then I guess, no, I don’t see how we’re going to house you,” he said. “We can’t house the people who work here.”

One question every contested race candidate evaded was street repair funding. The question is theoretical since any decisions on streets would require the majority of Council to approve it. 

Street maintenance and repair comes from the Acquisitions and Improvements tax fund. The Post Independent asked the candidates to name where they could find additional funding for streets, and Hershey mentioned making sure the streets tax is renewed. 

If taxes can’t be passed for street repairs, he said he would be happy to make those tough decisions and take funding from places less necessary, like Parks and Recreation. 

Zalinski said with the extensive work required to put the streets in good repair she would avoid more taxation and push hard for grants and outside funding. Though grants are not always reliable funding sources, she said she would need more time with the budget for any other decisions.

This article previously misstate Mary and Mark Gould’s contributions together, and lacked complete information of returned funds for an overcontribution

Financial reports (as of the March 14 filing)

Erin Zalinski

Total monetary contributions – $6,051.24

Total expenditures – $3,783.27

Funds on hand at end – $2,267.97

Biggest donors:

Mark Gould– $400

Mary Gould– $400

Marianne Ackerman– $400

Mike Picore– $500 ($100 returned by Zalinski)

Erin Zalinski (self-funded loan)– $3,141.24

Versatility in donors, 12 minor donors with only one donor from out of town, $25 from C.E. Zalinski in Chicago

Tony Hershey

Total monetary contributions – $2,380

Total expenditures – $1,573

Funds on hand at end – $807

Biggest donors:

Tony Hershey (self-funded loan)– $1,500

Richard Koziol – $400

There were six other minor contributions. from Glenwood Springs

Support Local Journalism

Support Local Journalism

Readers around Glenwood Springs and Garfield County make the Post Independent’s work possible. Your financial contribution supports our efforts to deliver quality, locally relevant journalism.

Now more than ever, your support is critical to help us keep our community informed about the evolving coronavirus pandemic and the impact it is having locally. Every contribution, however large or small, will make a difference.

Each donation will be used exclusively for the development and creation of increased news coverage.