Parachute voters reject recalls; elect incumbents to town board
In an election that some viewed as a barometer of Parachute residents’ opinions on the town’s burgeoning marijuana industry, voters elected to keep six of the officials currently on the seven-member board responsible for opening the door to marijuana businesses.
Voters decisively rejected recall questions for Mayor Roy McClung and Trustees Tim Olk and Tom Rugaard. The also elected Mayor Pro-Tem Juanita Williams and Trustees John Loschke and Travis Sproles to new four-years terms, and tapped newcomer Fred Andersen, who received the second most votes behind Sproles.
Pam Jarrett, who has been a staunch critic of the current board since it repealed the town’s ban on the marijuana industry last June, finished in a distant fifth place with 64 votes, according to unofficial results. Williams and Loschke both received 127 votes.
In total, 213 people voted Tuesday, an increase compared to the election last November when 109 people voted in support of a marijuana excise tax and 57 people voted against it.
“Obviously I’m pleased I get to stay in office,” McClung told the Post Independent Tuesday. “I think it’s a good indication of how the whole community feels.”
While there was a desire by some to frame the election solely in the context of the marijuana issue, McClung said that voters ultimately recognized the efforts the board is making on a number of fronts, including with special events and some public works projects.
With the exception of Sproles, who was appointed to a vacant seat last September, the other five current board members have stood by the decision that paved the way for allowing marijuana businesses in the town.
In doing so, they cited falling sales tax revenue and an overall bleak economic forecast brought on by turbulence in the oil and gas industry — which the town has historically relied on. Marijuana, they said, is a stepping stone to get through the current financial headwinds.
Andersen, a Parachute resident for the past five years who described himself as an interested resident rather than a politician, also previously stated his support for that decision. He could not be reached Tuesday night.
Jarrett, who successfully led a citizen-initiated petition effort to put a potential marijuana ban before voters this coming November, told the PI on Tuesday that she was comfortable with the results. The point all along, she added, has been to let people vote.
“I am just comfortable with the people voting and voicing the will of the people,” she said, while clarifying that Tuesday’s results will not discourage her future involvement with the town.
“Just because I was defeated does not mean I’m not going to try to do good things for the town,” Jarrett stated.
Since the board repealed its ban on the industry last June with a 4-2 vote, the monthly trustee meetings have been contentious at times, with some in attendance using the time for public comment to question and at times criticize the board.
The outlier in recent meetings came in October, when residents and business owners defended the board and criticized the opposition for failing to recognize the economic woes being experienced in town.
While there has admittedly been some increased tension in the room at times, McClung said that overall he was pleased to see people interested in the town’s business.
“Aside from some of the attacks that seem to be personal at times, I was actually pleased to see some interest from the community,” McClung said. “ … I go away from all of this feeling really good about the process in general.”
As for any conclusions to be drawn from Tuesday’s results, McClung said he did not want to read too deeply into the outcome, but he did point to the support of the excise tax last fall and the election Tuesday as a possible indication of residents’ attitudes toward the board’s decision regarding marijuana.
Regardless of outcome, Jarrett said she still believes people want to vote on the marijuana issue, which they will have the opportunity to do in November.
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