Death of Woodland Park Mayor Sparks Wave of Condolences and Grief

Flags remain at half-staff in Woodland Park in remembrance of late Mayor Val Carr. Photo By Cindy Valade.

Plans for Val Carr Memorial Pavilion at Memorial Park Mulled

Bob Volpe

The death of Mayor Val Carr early last week due to complications from COVID-19 has sparked an outpouring of condolences and grieving comments from community leaders and residents throughout the region.

As expected, his passing emerged as a key discussion highlight of last week’s regular Woodland Park Council meeting. Carr’s unfortunate death was also grieved by members of the Cripple Creek City Council and staff members during Wednesday’s meeting.

Cripple Creek Mayor Milford Ashworth, himself a Coronavirus survivor, expressed much regret and  offered support to the Carr family and the Woodland Park community.  This has been the talk of Woodland Park for the last week.

Carr was a fixture in the Woodland Park community for more than 20 years.  He was elected mayor in April 2020 in what many insiders viewed as big upset. He served on the city council for four years, prior to winning the election.

He had an impressive resume, including a successful small business owner. His business was so successful he was able to retire at the age of 45.

Carr held a degree from Stanford University in systems programming and one from the University of Colorado, Boulder, in aerospace engineering.

Carr was involved in community affairs since his retirement. He served the community as a Teller County Planning Commission; Main Street Board; Municipal election judge; youth basketball coach; youth baseball coach; Mountain Arts Council Board/Treasurer; Woodland Park BOA; Woodland Park Community Relations Committee, TCRAS support; Pet Pantry support; Opera Theater of the Rockies support; Equine/Gymkhana/Rodeo supporter as well as a member of the last city charter review board, and city council for four years.

Carr ran for mayor of Woodland Park, twice. He failed his first time, but ran again in 2020 and defeated Darwin Naccarato, and Noel Sawyer for the seat. During his second run for mayor, Carr stated, “Four years ago I decided to come out of full retirement to start on a path to bring skills and experience I’ve had the good fortune to acquire in my business life to troubling situations we’ve seen for too many years in our beloved Woodland Park. Businesses were failing left and right. Council members seemed to get on the council and as soon as their personal project was approved, they would leave. Local government was expanding rapidly.”

Carr was a staunch fiscal conservative. He battled time and time again during budget talks to rein in spending and create a strong budget surplus to see the city through hard times.

Rekindling the memory of the former mayor

At last Thursday’s council session, the meeting began with a moment of silence in honor of Carr. After council’s business was concluded, Mayor Pro Tem, Hilary LaBarre stated, the city is working on ways to honor Carr.

A memorial will be held in his honor sometime later in the year and the pavilion at Memorial Park may be named the Val Carr Memorial Pavilion.

Each member of council then gave a short speech in memory of the former mayor. LaBarre started off saying, “We adored Mayor Carr. All of us at one time or another may have fought with him, outside everyone adored him. He was really funny. He loved you guys and he loved (his wife) Sherry.”

Councilwoman Stephanie Alfieri said, “It’s a little too soon and a little too raw for me, so maybe I’ll come back to it later.”

Councilwoman Kellie Case extended her condolences to Carr’s son James, his wife Sherry, and the rest of the family. She said, “Everyone grieve in a different way and I wish them the most love, blessings that I can possibly send their way as they move through this loss.”

Councilman Rusty Neal recalled his short time knowing mayor Carr and expressed condolences to James Carr. He said, “I can only imagine what you’re going through. The only words I can offer to you are, the pain will slowly subside but he memory of your father will be with the city forever.”

Councilman Jim Pfaff noted that his friendship with Carr was very dear to him and offered some advice for James. He said, “I’ve been able to accomplish some amazing things had I not had the father that I had.” On his friendship with Carr, Pfaff said, “He’s one of the closest friends I’ve ever had, even in the short time we got to know each other.”

Councilman Robert Zuluaga gave a long prayer for Carr.

Appointing a new mayor

The question of how to replace Carr was addressed by LaBarre.

She said, “Our charter allows us some time to figure out how we would like to move forward. We have several options. One of them is council can appoint me to the position.”

The other options are; applications can be submitted, council can just appoint someone, council can decide to do nothing and move on as is, or a special election could be called for.

In regard to the options, LaBarre said, “We have not discussed that yet. We will be discussing it. We wanted to give some time to be able to peacefully move on from this, peacefully discuss this among ourselves and to make the best decision for the betterment of the community. It is entirely unexpected by all of us. It is not a position I ever expected to fill and it will be up to council how they decide to move forward.”