Mayoral Showdown Brewing In Woodland Park


Four vying for Woodland mayor’s seat

Rick Langenberg



Four well-qualified candidates have entered the showdown for the Woodland Park mayor’s seat, with the winner of this appointment getting a chance to become the city’s head elected leader and local ambassador for the next year and a half.

The final mayoral candidates include current councilman Gary Brovetto, former councilman and mayor pro tem Phil Mella, local restaurant owner and civic leader Neil Levy and U.S. Navy veteran  Gretchen Bundy-Ladowicz

The deadline for submitting letters of interest was Aug. 1 at noon.  The council is slated to make the mayoral  appointment during a special meeting on Aug. 12.  The final pick will be done through a paper ballot process, with voting conducted by all council members present during that session. The vote will occur following presentations by the mayoral candidates, who will be asked a number of questions by the council.

The council will have to make a tough choice.   And based on the extent of the competition, it may take a couple of votes to select a winner.  Once again, the appointment competition generated a much greater level of interest among potential candidates than during any recent regular election for mayor. Brovetto is a current council member since 2012 who has taken a lead role in the town’s bid to become a Main Street community and to form a Creative Arts district.  He is known for his passion regarding the need for a more vibrant downtown. Mella, meanwhile, is a current member of the planning commission and previously served on the city council and acted as the mayor pro tem.  During his stint on the council, he was known for authoring many prolific letter to the editor and op ed articles in the local and regional media and taking a staunch stand regarding the need for more fiscal discipline. Levy, meanwhile, is the head chef and owner of the Swiss Chalet restaurant and has been involved in many civic endeavors. He previously tried to lead an unsuccessful community effort to develop a full-scale recreation center, next to city hall. The final candidate to submit a letter of interest, Gretchen Bundy-Ladowicz, has only lived in Woodland Park for two years.  But according to city officials, she has an impressive resume, boasting a distinguished career with the U.S. Navy and working the last two years for NORAD as a cryptologist and as an attorney.  

Several of the candidates are considered high profile figures during their respective stints in office and through various roles in the community. Some of the top issues that could command much discussion on Aug. 12 include downtown improvements and overall economic growth, ballot plans for a new aquatic center and a facelift for Memorial Park , the push for more affordable housing, fiscal and infrastructure concerns and planning matters. The forthcoming interviews could give the council quite an insight regarding the future mayoral direction of the city. This is one of the more important appointments the council will have to make.

Although the new mayor will only fill this position until April 2016, the mayoral appointee would gain a definite competitive advantage if he/she seeks this position again in the 2016 election. The appointed mayor will fill the seat of former Mayor David Turley, who submitted his resignation on July 14.  Turley was facing charges of sexual assault on a child by a person in a position of trust. The former mayor, who has a preliminary hearing in August, has maintained his innocence.

However, he faced a potential recall from a group of citizens, if he chose to stay in office.  Plus, Turley conceded that his legal situation was becoming a distraction for the city. The mayoral appointment is a rather routine process that the council conducts during the vacancy of a seat, a process usually done at least once a year.  The most recent appointment occurred last summer, when the council picked Ken Matthews to fill the seat occupied by Terry Harrison, who was forced to step down due to term limits.

During this appointment selection, the candidates make formal presentations and then are asked a series of questions.  The candidates are sequestered, meaning they are not permitted to hear each other’s presentation or the questions posed by the council.

The meeting is open to the public.  The final vote is done through a secret paper ballot.  However, the final pick of each council member is made public. Based on this process, Brovetto has one added advantage: he can vote for himself, since he serves on the city council. If Brovetto wins the appointment, then the council would have to pick another person to fulfill his term