Green Mountain Falls Mayoral Rematch to Cap Wild Election Season- Rick Langenberg

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Green Mountain Falls Mayoral Rematch to Cap Wild Election Season
Rick Langenberg
Move over Donald Trump, Ted Cruz, Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders, as the small town of Green Mountain Falls may snag the local election stage this spring.

In fact, forget the prospects of a quiet and tame election season in the lower Ute Pass and a return to the good old days, when hardly any seats were contested.

A record nine candidates are bolting from the gates in a high stakes political drama for three trustee seats and a mayoral spot in Green Mountain Falls during the April 5 municipal elections. Capping the races will be a much anticipated rematch of the mayoral showdown between incumbent Lorrie Worthey and challenger Jane Newberry that occurred in 2014.

Few introductions are needed as both mayoral candidates are well-known civic leaders. Worthey is making a bid for her third term as mayor. She maintains that major improvements have occurred during her administration, known for attempting to make major changes in the way business is handled at city hall and in introducing many new ordinances. Worthey has been a big proponent of public safety and emergency management and flood mitigation. She also has sought to open the door to more citizen involvement.

But the mayor faces a hefty challenge from Newberry, who unsuccessfully ran against the incumbent in a bitter race two years ago, highlighted by a slew of verbal gunfire. That race was extremely close and featured a barrage of letter to the editor assaults in local media outlets, creating quite a buzz in social media circles.

Newberry, a long-time resident, previously served as mayor pro tem and was a veteran trustee for 12 years. The mayoral challenger has been a frequent attender of trustee meetings, who records and posts her own minutes and on-line accounts of board activity. Newberry has been a big advocate of planning for more infrastructure improvements and establishing more collaboration. Newberry, a budget administrator for Colorado College athletics, has spoken highly of her record as a previous trustee and in manning the effort to construct a new town hall in GMF. She also has a special interest in seeking to have more input over the budget process and how the town currently spends its funds.

This race could pit Worthey and the current board of leaders against a staunch group of critics, who favor the previous administration. Worthey’s critics contend that things ran much smoother in earlier years and that the current town leaders have gone overboard with new laws and executive sessions. Current leaders, though, contend that many positive changes have occurred in the last several years, and that more accountability and citizen involvement has developed.

Regardless of differing views, apathy isn’t an issue in Green Mountain Falls. In past years, town officials had to beg local citizens to run for office.

That isn’t the case any longer. Seven trustee candidates have entered the fray for three trustee seats, representing a wide range of backgrounds and personalities. The lineup includes two incumbents, Tyler Stevens, the current mayor pro tem and a former mayor; and Barbara Gardiner, who was appointed as trustee in 2014. In addition, two current members of the planning commission, Dick Bratton and David Pearlman, have entered the competition. Bratton is a well-known local figure, with more than 30 years of involvement in GMF, including stints as a mayor and in leading the trails committee. Pearlman is a local lodging owner, who has been a frequent speaker at town meetings in recent months.

In addition, former mayor and trustee Richard Lackmond has filed a trustee petition. Several years ago, he was the leader of a citizens group that sought major changes and even considered a recall effort against certain former leaders. The candidate list also includes, Cameron Thorne, a critic of the current board’s fiscal affairs and a former member of the planning commission. Also, the candidate field features Erin Kowal, a newcomer to the town’s political arena.

Some of the main issues dominating the races could include the ongoing controversy over the delicate matter of park regulations, and whether the town should legalize the familiar tradition of allowing residents and tourists to feed ducks and geese at the Gazebo and lake area. Plus, GMF’s financial situation and management of the town government could dominate much debate. Town leaders fired their clerk and treasurer at the tail end of 2015, with concerns mounting over its fiscal health. Plus, the subjects of road maintenance and the need for park improvements will undoubtedly resurface again. And the future of law enforcement pursuits in GMF could gain traction, with some residents contending that the town doesn’t need a marshal’s office.

The last two years under Worthey’s reign haven’t been uneventful. Just hours after winning re-election in a tight race with Newberry, her new administration faced a virtual employee mutiny, with the entire road and bridge and parks staff quitting, including the former town manager. Then, Chris Frandina, a long-time clerk and treasurer, regarded as the main town administrator for decades, called it quits. As a result, town leaders hired practically an entire new staff.

The GMF election is being run by El Paso County. It will kick off an active election season with key municipal votes in several cities. And politically, the season will kick into full gear with the Republican and Democratic caucuses and assemblies in March for Teller and El Paso counties.