~ by Rick Langenberg ~
For a change, the local controversies raging across our great lands will take a back seat to an event unfortunately expected for some time. Nope, at least for the short time, the fights over a popular Veterans Rally, COVID-19 impacts, money, trail wars, and the forthcoming election won’t command center stage. Thank God.
Neil Levy, the former mayor of Woodland Park, coach, restaurant owner, and more importantly, the mini-ambassador for the region, passed away last weekend, following a tough bout with renal cell carcinoma. This wasn’t a surprising event, but still it stings for many local business owners and residents. We wish his family the best.
TMJ joins the chorus of many civic leaders, government officials and residents in lauding Neil’s legacy. Whether you agreed with Neil or not on key issues, you had to enjoy his style as a collaborator and a cheerleader for the area. He displayed great grace, especially in his last several years on the council.
Somehow this is a style that gets lost with the growing partisanship that has seized our national, state and even local political landscape.
Levy was a hard guy not to like, and the way he fought his growing health woes was pretty admirable. He was a class act. Even the way he dealt with Andrew Wommack and Charis Bible College, was pretty amazing considering their opposing views on political subjects. And for that matter, the way he dealt with those who disagreed with him served as a prime model to follow.
If you greeted Neil maybe six months ago, you wouldn’t have expected this day would occur. When I saw him on Thanksgiving Day at the Swiss Chalet, I certainly wouldn’t have thought his untimely death would come in early August 2020 at the young age of 66.
During the appointment process for the post as Woodland Park mayor about six years ago, Neil surprised some when he firmly admitted, in a humble statement, “I am not the smartest guy in the room.” But as a collaborator, and dealing with frustrated citizens at times, he was second to none. And this definitely played a role in Neil getting appointed as mayor in 2014 and winning handily for the next couple of terms, despite some tough competition.
His role as mayor came at the perfect time.
Neil was mayor during a period when meetings often extended for hours, forcing the mini-city ambassador to perfect his referee skills. Our local abode was frequently bombarded with concerns over the DDA (Downtown Development Authority), growth, traffic, the city manager situation and constant fiscal challenges. Levy always kept an open-door policy towards public comment, while trying to establish a smooth, non-confrontational meeting atmosphere. Needless to say, those are often opposing dynamics in our quaint town that sometimes isn’t too quaint during council sessions.
Like most area leaders, I enjoyed too the way he greeted you at the Swiss Chalet, like you
were part of his family. That is a lasting memory for many who have dealt with Neil Levy on a personal basis.
Often forgotten too is Neil’s reputation as a coach and sports fanatic. If we wanted to compile a Super Bowl pick, we would tap Neil for the right choice. He was right on the money on most occasions.
In recent years, he played a big factor in revamping the WP high school baseball team from the gutter to a pretty respectful diamond squad.
We often had friendly discussions about the problems facing the Colorado Rockies. But unfortunately, the two of us could never come up with a real solution for the Rocks’ inability to capture the National League West. Let’s just blame in on the altitude, we used to say, not to mention, the evil empire itself, the Los Angeles Dodgers.
Neil was pretty compassionate about certain things, and tried to lobby for a recreation center, long before the Aquatic Center talks began. He also played a helping hand for people in need at tough times, such as his support for the late Coach D (Richard Dispenza), when Coach D hit a rough period in his life.
Neil Levy could become the model for many community leaders. Hopefully, his memories and many accomplishments will be rekindled during a well-deserved community celebration.