Carbondale candidates share bios, respond to questions | PostIndependent.com

Carbondale candidates share bios, respond to questions

April Spaulding

Carbondale voters are in the process of deciding between five candidates to fill four seats on the town’s Board of Trustees, as mailed ballots are out for the April 3 election.

Incumbent Trustees Erica Sparhawk, Heather Henry and Luis Yllanes, all of whom were appointed within the last two years to their respective seats, are running for formal election.

Joining them in the campaign to fill those and one other seat being vacated by longtime Trustee Frosty Merriott are candidates Lani Kitching and April Spaulding. Candidates receiving the top three number of votes will serve four-year terms on the board, and the fourth-highest vote-getter will serve a two-year term.

Mayor Dan Richardson is running unopposed for re-election. Merriott is term-limited, and is not eligible to run again. Among the trustee candidates, the top four vote-getters will be elected to the town board.

A Carbondale candidates’ forum took place earlier this month. The Post Independent asked the candidates to tell us a little more about themselves and to answer a few questions. Here’s how they responded.

luis yllanes

Occupation: Senior director of exhibitions, registration and installation at the Aspen Art Museum

Number of years in Carbondale: 3

Past and current civic involvement: KDNK volunteer and CAB (Community Advisory Board) chair; English in Action tutor volunteer; Carbondale and Basalt Youth Coach; 5 Point Dream project juror; CPAC (Carbondale Public Arts Commission) alternate; GarCO EAB (Energy Advisory Board) town representative; and various other volunteer roles (Mountain Fair, Fashion Show, etc).

Why are you running for election to the town board?

I’m running for election due to the good experience I’ve had so far on the current town council — it’s been a short but rewarding experience — and to help the community in Carbondale. My family and I love living here, and I want to do all that I can to be sure it remains a great place to live, work and thrive for all the residents and businesses of our town.

What do you see as the major issues facing Carbondale, and how will you address them?

I see the major issues facing our town as continuing economic development and how we bring more business to our town. With economic development we need to make it easier for entrepreneurs to start or grow a business in our town whether that be in tech, retail or agriculture. If we can do more to keep our economy diversified it will help Carbondale in the long run. I think we can also look at our zoning and see how we can unleash the creative potential of small-scale manufacturing as long as it is environmentally friendly.

How can the town better support new and existing businesses?

I think the town can do this by continuing to support the Carbondale Chamber of Commerce and organizations like Carbondale Arts that help to promote our town and bring more business and visitors here. We can also look to partner with other organizations such as the Regional Housing Authority in order to address the need for affordable housing which businesses (new or existing) already need in order to hire and keep workers.

What are your thoughts on the town’s Climate and Energy Action Plan?

I think what we’re doing as a town with this plan is at the forefront of what small towns should be doing to minimize their carbon footprint and encourage investment in environmentally friendly technologies. I’m very supportive of and excited to see how we can be the first town in the valley to create a Net Zero Energy District as it would be an example of progressive action that can address the existential threat that climate poses to mountain communities such as ours.

April spaulding

Occupation: I work for the American Legion Post 100 Carbondale, and I also own my own photography business, Colorfulcrow Photography.

Number of years in Carbondale: 9

Past and current civic involvement: I have been volunteering for over 35 years, most recently I am on the executive board at KDNK Community Radio and have a weekly show called The Wild Rumpus on Friday mornings from 8-10 a.m. I volunteer at the Carbondale Mountain Fair, Aspen Food and Wine, the Ladies Auxiliary Board American Legion and more. I was a Girl Scout leader and Girl Scout camp counselor in Southern California for over 15 years, and was a volunteer trainer for the Girl Scout Council of Orange County for five years. I spent many years in California volunteering for various school and civic organizations.

Why are you running for election to the town board?

I feel that I can bring a fair and open voice to the Trustee Board along with a blue-collar perspective representative of our diverse culture here in Carbondale. I don’t plan to bring “an agenda,” rather I’m interested in spending time listening to the needs of our town and representing our community.

What do you see as the major issues facing Carbondale, and how will you address them?

I know from speaking with community members that there are many concerns, from recycling to affordable housing and, for our seniors, access to the public transportation in town all top the list. I believe that the Carbondale P&Z Commission is working hard and achieving a path for growth and alternative housing, and I look forward to working with them.

How can the town better support new and existing businesses?

Our small business is a great concern to me, and I’ve been spending a lot of my focus speaking with and listening to our small business owners in Carbondale. Many of the business owners that I have had a chance to spend time with feel that there is a “closed for business” attitude from some of our town leaders, and I truly feel that a dialogue needs to be started to create a welcoming attitude toward our tourism industry that can truly give support to many of our wonderful and unique businesses in town.

What are your thoughts on the town’s Climate and Energy Action Plan?

I love that our trustees have so much awareness and concern for our environment and feel that there truly needs to be a logical balance as to our growth and conservation. Carbondale is lucky to have such a diverse community that cares about the local and global impact of their actions, and many of our businesses take the responsibility on themselves to be sustainable. The Climate and Energy Action Plan shows a global awareness and gives direction for our town going into the future, and opens the possibility to team up with other energy conscious partners.

Erica sparhawk

Occupation: Currently program director at Clean Energy Economy for the Region (CLEER). Past owner of an energy modeling consulting firm, framer on construction crew, community organizer on family agriculture and natural resource extraction issues.

Number of years in Carbondale: 26

Past and current civic involvement: Currently on the board for the Dandelion Market during recent attempts to revive the store. Soccer coach for U10 girls with Roaring Fork Valley Soccer Club. Serving a one-year appointment to the Board of Trustees. Past: various boards in Montana (including a food co-op and neighborhood task force for the city of Billings)

Why are you running for election to the town board?

I’ve had the pleasure of serving on the town board for one year, after being appointed last year. I have enjoyed the job and feel like I bring a perspective that is balanced with both our history and an open mind to what we will need in our future. I truly enjoy engaging with my fellow trustees and the residents who come forward with topics or questions that need to be addressed. We can all work together to keep this the charming and funky town we love.

What do you see as the major issues facing Carbondale, and how will you address them?

As with other communities in the region, we need to make sure we have housing for all income levels. As part of the current board, we’ve partnered with the Creative District and other local governments to find solutions. I look forward to seeing what potential solutions come about from these collaborations. Thanks to past boards’ work, we also require that new developments include 20 percent of their units to be deed restricted. In the last year, we’ve seen numerous housing development proposals before us, so this requirement doesn’t appear to be a hurdle, and there is definitely more housing on the horizon.

How can the town better support new and existing businesses?

The town benefits from having incredible existing resources right here; the Creative District, the Carbondale Chamber, GlenX and the Third Street Center. The town has a revolving loan fund for small businesses. CLEER, GCE and CORE provide trainings for builders and architects and financing options for their customers. The town has adopted a Unified Development Code, making it easier for businesses to know what to expect when they build from the ground up. Now, we need to make sure the business community knows about these existing services and where they can go to get the best support they need.

What are your thoughts on the town’s Climate and Energy Action Plan?

Our community is heavily dependent on our natural resources to thrive and survive, for recreation, tourism and our own water supply. The town adopted is first Climate and Energy Action Plan in 2006, and since that time we’ve seen carbon reduction along with the economic benefits of implementing that plan. As part of the current board, we adopted an updated plan in 2017 along with aggressive targets because we all need to be leaders on this — whether we are a big community or a small community. We need to take action now, for our kids sake.

lani kitching

Occupation: I have diverse experience across several customer service-based sectors. I began working in high school doing laundry and babysitting for one of the first HMOs in the country. I went on to pursue a career in health care that spanned clinical practice, facilities administration and medical product research and development. After three years of working in Home Health and Hospice here in the Valley, I’ve recently completed an 18-month assignment running all aspects of a local 540-unit HOA. In 2015, I assumed ownership of a Carbondale-based legacy fly fishing outfit that I continue to operate today.

Number of years in Carbondale: 18

Past and current civic involvement: I joined the 2011 citizens group chartered to explore the benefits of an economic development program for Carbondale. Subsequently, I helped facilitate an Aging Well Community Initiative and participated in a tri-county public health driven collaborative designed to improve access to health care services throughout the valley. Since 2014, I have served on the Garfield County Economic Development Partnership, and my most recent civic experience includes participating on CDOT’s Public Information Team to promote commuter and river user awareness during the Grand Avenue Bridge closure.

Why are you running for election to the town board?

Given my broad background in various industries, combined with my exposure to the concerns of the Carbondale community and principals of our local government, my experience can help inform and enhance many discussions held at the Carbondale Board of Trustees table with the goal of helping us to arrive at balanced outcomes. I’ve loved living in Carbondale and being able to enjoy all the wonderful culture and outdoor adventures the town and the Roaring Fork Valley have to offer. I’d like to see Carbondale’s unique charm continue which I can influence as a trustee.

What do you see as the major issues facing Carbondale, and how will you address them?

A number of Carbondale’s challenges can be overcome with the acceptance of new sales tax opportunities. Robust tax revenue can fund the immediate repair and future preventative maintenance of the town’s infrastructure. As hardscapes deteriorate and the cost of utilities escalates, the town currently has little financial stability to address basic needs. Considering our modest revenue stream, I would advocate careful allocation of resources with clear expectations for attainable results. If we are to invest in capital improvements, traffic impact or lighting studies, leadership, with public input, should remain focused on agreeing to and achieving an acceptable goal.

How can the town better support new and existing businesses?

Any existing or prospective revenue-generating business should be thoughtfully vetted to ensure that it has sufficient operating capital, that it can remain profitable in a seasonal environment, and that it has a viable five-year sustainability plan. As was my experience working with the Executive Services Corps and Roaring Fork Business Resource Center, the town can better support our business partners by being a proactive partner to help them assess their progress as metered by the milestones of knowledgeable local guidance. I’m very interested in how the recently formed GlenX incubation and business acceleration programs can facilitate this approach.

What are your thoughts on the town’s Climate and Energy Action Plan?

Due to population growth since the study was completed in 2004, the dynamics of achieving the plan’s goals have changed. One goal is to improve economic vitality by preserving discretionary spending through reduced energy costs. Incoming homeowners could be motivated by a local incentive to invest in clean energy. Similar programs have been offered in the past, so I’d like to revisit some of these programs and investigate how we might seamlessly weave them into Carbondale’s current building codes. Additionally, with the evolution of technology, energy providers are developing renewable solutions, and Carbondale can take advantage of these opportunities.

heather henry

Occupation: Landscape architect

Number of years in Carbondale: 12

Past and current civic involvement: I’ve been engaged in community service since I moved to the valley in 2000, including the 4 ½ years on the Carbondale Parks & Rec, 4 ½ years on the Carbondale Planning & Zoning, ACF Springboard, Roaring Fork Leadership (graduate and on the board for several years), Aspen Historical Society Board, etc. My community involvement has always been my way of giving back to the community I love. I have been serving as an appointed Trustee in Carbondale for 1 ½ years.

Why are you running for election to the town board?

I love Carbondale for its diversity, creativity, wonderful outdoor treasures (red hill, spring gulch, nature park, bike/ skate park, all the parks, prince creek, rail to trails – OMG!, fishing, boat launches… I could go on!), incredible sense of community, schools, family orientation, and caring and engaged leaders in all areas. I enjoy engaging with everyone on creative ways to keep Carbondale amazing. Being a Trustee is a great way to give back to this community and try to leave it as a beautiful place that I’m proud to pass on to my daughter.

What do you see as the major issues facing Carbondale, and how will you address them?

We face similar issues as all our mountain towns. How to facilitate vibrancy and smart growth without losing our sense of community. This tends to mean everything from jobs, housing, transportation, to economic development and long-term financial stability are important issues to be considering. Foremost on my mind in the coming years is diverse affordable housing for newcomers and those looking to age in place, economic development to bolster a vibrant business sector, town financial stability that explores more balance to our reliance on sales tax, and alternative transportation options.

How can the town better support new and existing businesses?

We have made incredible strides in recent years to support our business sector and to encourage appropriate growth. 8 years of work on our Comprehensive Plan and Unified Development Code have culminated in a streamlined development review process that directs the type of development that we want to occur. Our Chamber is incredibly active and supports existing businesses and cultivates new business opportunities. The town is engaged and supportive of our Creative District which is helping to make Carbondale a go-to destination to attract visitors as well as provide incredible amenities for residents. We need to keep doing more of what we are doing to provide the economic base for new and existing businesses to be successful in Carbondale.

What are your thoughts on the town’s Climate and Energy Action Plan?

Regardless of one’s belief on climate change it cannot be questioned that with a valley economy that remains reliant on snow, climate change poses a risk to that economic engine. Additionally, taking positive strides on energy efficiency, reduction, and resiliency makes good economic sense. So, as elected officials our job is to reduce the cost of operations whenever and wherever we can and provide a secure, stable, and sustainable future for the town. Being proactive is a must. The town has made it a point to ‘walk the talk’. We won’t ask residents, business owners or developers to execute changes we haven’t already undertaken. In doing so the town has greatly reduced the cost to operate town buildings which saves all taxpayers money. The goal of a carbon zero town is a lofty one, but worth striving for.


Start a dialogue, stay on topic and be civil.
If you don't follow the rules, your comment may be deleted.