City Council Race Part of Presidential Election Ballot
~ by Trevor Phipps ~
The Woodland Park City election usually takes place in April, but 2020 has become a different year politically both nationally and on the local stage.
The city did have their normal regular spring election, but then was forced to hold another special election this November, as the elected leaders couldn’t reach a consensus on an appointed person to fulfill the seat of Noel Sawyer. Sawyer stepped down following the April vote.
As a result, the Woodland Park city council hopefuls will be listed on the same ballot as the presidential election, which generally attracts the most voters. This ballot will feature a spree of key national and state races and ballot questions. On the upside, this means that the council race will most likely have a record turnout of voters.
It is also expected that the election this year will again break records as far as how many people locally vote. The council race features three candidates: Stephanie Alfieri Catherine Nakai and Don Dezellem.
In this week’s TMJ issue, we offer brief profiles of the three council contenders. Stay tuned for continual election information in our printed edition and online at www.mountainjackpot.com and on our Facebook page.
Stephanie Alfieri, Senior Relationship Banker, Vectra Bank
Alfieri grew up in the Woodland Park area and has said she plans to stay here forever. The banker has had a vast amount of experience in dealing with local businesses on a day to day basis for the last 15 years.
She has also been involved in a large number of non-profit organizations in the area including Lions Club, Mainstreet, Holiday Home Tour, Oktoberfest, and Cruise Above the Clouds. Alfieri was awarded the Lions Club Humanitarian Award in 2011 and in 2012 she received the North Teller Build A Generation “Community Pride” Award.
Alfieri said that she decided to run for city council after seeing the way things have been changing with the city after having been involved in local government for quite some time. “One of the big things I continue to see over the years is that our budget within the city continues to grow and grow and grow,” she stated. “To some extent, that is to be expected as the city grows. But at the same time, it seems like that budget is growing in wants versus needs. There is a lot more money being spent on unnecessary items and no more money being spent on maintaining the basic infrastructure of the city.”
The local banker feels that she can help the city fine tune its budget without cutting back any services. “It takes a conservative approach and fiscal responsibility to look at it and say, ‘Is this really a necessary expense?’” Alfieri explained. “And sometimes people are concerned about that because they look at it and think that cutting expenses means cutting services. That’s not the case at all. When you end up addressing unnecessary expenses, you can then put more towards maintaining a high level of service.”
She said that through her experience with both banking and her volunteer positions that she not only has what it takes to help with the budget, but that she is also connected to the community. Alfieri said that “promoting the citizens’ interest in public health and safety” is her top priority and that she promises to place citizens’ needs over the “wants” of local government.
Catherine Nakai, Integrated Circuit Layout Designer/Electrical Engineer
Nakai calls herself a Colorado native because she has lived in the state since she was 13 months old. She has lived in Woodland Park for nearly 20 years and she has most recently been involved in city affairs by sitting on the city’s board of adjustment.
She has experience in the customer service and accounting industries and has worked in her current electrical engineering field for the past two decades. She has been involved with the city government off and on since she has lived here and she has sat on the adjustment board for over a year. The council candidate also learned a lot about city government affairs when she attended the Woodland Park Citizens’ Academy this year.
She said that in the past few years she has learned a lot about the city and where the future of it is headed. “We are running out of developable land for both residential and commercial,” Nakai said. “I would just like to see it done right and done well to benefit all of us. To be honest that is pretty much my passion is the smart development of Woodland Park where we don’t over build too fast. Because once we build everything and we have built the whole city up it is going to be really expensive to live here. So, I want to do it slowly.”
Nakai also said that she wants to change the tense atmosphere of the current council meetings. “I would like to bring some common sense, maybe some respect, and some sensibility back to the council,” she said. “Because it doesn’t seem to be like that right now. It is pretty divided. I don’t know that I can do it but my goal is to try to get things done. Because not a lot has been getting done because they can’t decide. That is the reason that we are having to spend money on this election as a city because they couldn’t decide on an appointed position for this term.”
Don Dezellem, Assistant Manager, Electronics Department, Walmart
Dezellem has been connected to the Woodland Park area off and on for nearly thirty years when he came out from California to manage the town’s McDonalds. He currently spends his days overseeing the electronics department in Walmart but he has also been connected with the local city government including a previous run for council. The candidate ran in the main election last April but, he failed to gain a seat by a close margin.
He has paid close attention to city affairs for the last couple of years and he is currently on the city’s Parks and Recreation Advisory Board. Dezellem used to be a member of the Pikes Peak Rotary Club where he was once chosen as the Rotarian of the Year.
According to Dezellem, there is one major aspect that makes him a better choice than the other candidates. “I think what makes me probably the more viable candidate in this election is a couple of things,” the candidate said. “Remember in April I lost a seat on council by 54 votes. And when Noel Sawyer resigned and the council had to appoint somebody, naturally I applied for that seat. And you would of kind of thought that maybe they would have used the election results to help guide them in making a decision. But the council is divided in fractions right now. And each of them has their own candidate for that fraction. So, they couldn’t make a decision. So, instead of maybe looking at what the people may have wanted by looking at the elections results, they decided that their self-interests were more important.”
Dezellem also said that he believes he can bring an unbiased vote to the currently separated city council. “I think what puts me in a unique position is the fact that I’m not tied to anybody,” he stated. “I’m going to be an independent, free thinker up there. I’m going to listen to the facts and listen to what people in the community say. I’ll listen to what my fellow council members are saying and then I’ll make a decision. And I’m going to vote in the way that it needs to be voted not in the way the block is voting.”