Woodland Council Candidates Voice Opinions at Public Forum By Beth Dodd

A large crowd gathered at the Woodland Park Council Chambers last week to listen to all seven candidates for mayor and city council discuss local issues.

The candidates’ forum generated a wide range of subjects, but no verbal knock-out punches were delivered.

Neil Levy, Michel Maddux and Noel Sawyer are competing for mayor, while Carrol Harvey, Val Carr, Paul Saunier and William Loftin are hoping to be elected to one of the three open city council seats.

The candidates made brief opening statements before the start of the question and answer period. Then they took prepared questions and questions submitted by the audience. The candidates discussed ten questions over the course of two hours. The evening concluded with closing statements by each candidate. The moderator for the forum was John Thomasson, and the timekeeper was Debbie Miller.

The questions covered a broad range of topics from how to manage the city’s growth, to how to cope with drug problems in our local schools. The subjects of financial support of fire and ambulance services, business incentives, recreational marijuana, and traffic problems were also explored.

“Our citizens are our local businesses owners. We are all part of the same community. There is no us versus them,” said Carrol Harvey when asked how important is it to support local businesses versus meeting the needs of local citizens as the community grows. Harvey referred to the city’s comprehensive plan as a good guideline for the future of the community.

Harvey is the current mayor pro tem and has served on the city council for four years. She is a retired military officer and teacher, and would like to continue to serve on city council to be an active member of the community and to be part of the solution when addressing local issues.

“Fire and ambulance are crucial services. The city helps the fire and ambulance services through the DDA (Downtown Development Authority). The DDA is already looking at this. TIF (tax increment funding) income will add money as the city grows,” said Val Carr when asked if the city should provide financial support for the fire and ambulance districts as it grows or if they should find ways to support themselves.

Carr is a retired software systems engineer, and served on Woodland Park’s charter review committee. He says he is a quick learner with a clean history, and wants to serve the community.

“You don’t choose the winners and the losers. You look at codes and zoning and things that affect business practices. We don’t need to give away our tax dollars to attract new businesses. Woodland Park already has a lot to offer,” said Paul Saunier when asked if he would support abatements to attract and sustain new businesses at the expense of existing businesses.

Saunier has served on Teller County’s Board of Adjustment and is a retired construction supervisor. He wants to serve on the city council to give back to the community. He thinks that government, the people, and the media must work together to build a strong community.

“It is important that our community supports the people who work here. It’s estimated that 25 to 40 percent of our worker demographic are people who can’t afford to live here. More condos and townhomes are needed,” said Neil Levy when asked how he would resolve the shortage of affordable housing in Woodland Park. Levy is the present mayor and the owner of the Swiss Chalet restaurant. Levy says that leading the community has been one of the greatest opportunities and experiences of his life. He prefers to lead through consensus building, and is excited about all of the good things that are happening in the city.

“It doesn’t make a difference where people buy marijuana. If they can’t get it here they can get it elsewhere,” said William Loftin when asked if he would ever support recreational marijuana businesses in Woodland Park. In response to a related question about drug problems in our local schools he added, “Drug users have to control themselves. The only thing to be done is to teach good values and responsibility. Teaching drug avoidance is up to the parents.”

Loftin is a retired software engineer. He would like to help maintain the quiet and secure character of Woodland Park, and would like to see new businesses succeed here.

“Traffic has a negative impact. The solution is to slow down the people who want to be downtown in order to make it pedestrian friendly. Then you can provide a faster route for the people who are only passing through,” said Mike Maddux when asked how he would solve the traffic problems on Hwy. 24 through downtown Woodland Park. Maddux is running for mayor to be of service to the community by providing oversight and practicing good stewardship. He is a software engineer and professional musician.

“We have to address the drug problem in our community, not just in our school. The superintendent and the school board are doing an amazing job offering positive opportunities for our kids. The city also provides kids with positive things to do like the skate park, the bike park, and the activities at Meadow Wood Park,” said Noel Sawyer when asked what he would do to promote our local schools, and how he would deal with the perceived drug problem in our schools.

Sawyer is a present city councilman, serves on the DDA board, and owns a local computer business. He’d like to become mayor to help build a united community. He feels that the right way to act in the best interest of the community is to seek input from the citizens.

Woodland Park’s election is by mail-in ballot. Ballots, which were sent out early last week, must be turned in by 7 p.m. on April 5 at city hall.