Three Vying for Mayor’s Seat in Woodland Park – Rick Langenberg

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Woodland Park finally has a real competitive mayor’s race again, putting talk of political apathy to rest.

In addition, the town will feature four candidates, with several new contenders, competing for three council seats. But two well-known current council members, regarded as vocal critics of the WP administration, are calling it quits.

The official starting gates are now set for the mayor and council races in Woodland Park for the April 5 election. February 12 was the deadline for submitting candidate petitions to the city clerk’s office. According to Woodland Park City Clerk, Suzanne Leclercq, seven applications were submitted and all of the filings obtained sufficient signatures from registered voters.

An extremely competition race will occur for mayor with incumbent Neil Levy facing competition from fellow council member Noel Sawyer and challenger Mike Maddux. The stakes are highly for this race, with the city facing a bevy of big issues, ranging from concerns over its downtown, to affordable housing, to the new proposed aquatic center.

Levy, the owner and head operator of the Swiss Chalet restaurant, has served as mayor since August 2014, when he received this appointment following the resignation of former head elected leader Dave Turley. He also is a well-known community figure, serving as a baseball coach for the WP High School and being strongly involved with the chamber of commerce and other local organizations.

But Sawyer is also well-known, winning a spot on the council several years ago and gaining a reputation for an elected leader that likes to ask questions. He also took a strong stand in opposing any efforts to consider legalizing recreational marijuana retail outlets within the city limits.

And like Levy, he serves as a coach at the RE-2 District. Mike Maddux, is another mayoral challenger, who previously launched a bid for the job during the 2014 appointment process. Maddux, a software engineer and big proponent of the arts, also is a performing musician and author.
It is rare to have three candidates competing for the mayor’s spot in Woodland Park.

For council, the candidate list includes incumbent Carrol Harvey, the current mayor pro tem and chair- person of a committee that reviewed the city charter. She will face bids from Val Carr, who served on the board of adjustment and several local organizations. He also ran for council previously. The other candidates are Paul Saunier and Bill Loftin. They are both fairly new to the Woodland Park political arena.

Prolific Incumbents Call It Quits

The big surprising political curve for the council races involved the decisions by incumbents Phil Mella and Bob Carlsen to throw in the towel. Both Mella and Carlsen have gained quite a reputation for challenging the fiscal policies of City Manager David Buttery.

They are both well-known and would have probably gained a front-runner status, if they sought to seek these positions. Mella was a former mayor pro tem, who actually lost to Levy in the mayoral appointment through a chance drawing. They were both the two finalists for the job, but the council was deadlocked over a final decision and opted to pull names out of a bowl.

Mella also was a big critic of the process for selecting the site for a new aquatic center next to the high school. Carlsen, meanwhile, was a big proponent of the push or an aquatic center and recently got involved in a verbal battle with Teller County Commissioner Dave Paul over the fiscal arrangement between the two governments. He also wasn’t shy about questioning many financial numbers that Buttery presented at local meetings.

Besides the race for mayor and three council seats, the Woodland Park elections will feature nine ballot propositions, consisting of amendments to the city charter. These deal with many in-house measures aimed at cutting costs and improving efficiency. But some of these deal with such actions as loosening the restrictions imposed by the city’s current ban against offering development incentives, eliminating the need to publish extensive notices and ordinances in a designated newspaper, changing the way appointments are handled for council and for mayor, in case a deadlock vote occurs and simplifying the term limit procedures. The council is scheduled to vote on a resolution backing these measures at this week’s regular meeting.

Woodland Park voters also will decide the fate of a slight sales tax increase to assist the RE-2 School District. The district has been clobbered by $15 million in cuts by the state over the last six years and struggles with low teacher salaries and the need for many facility improvements.
The council is scheduled to adopt a resolution backing this matter in early March. But at this week’s meeting, the council will address a slight wording change for this ballot issue.