D-Day Arrives For Woodland Park City Election

Trevor Phipps

After several months of meet and greet gatherings and a heavily-attended and watched candidates’ forum, the final day of reckoning has arrived for the  much touted Woodland Park municipal election.

April 5 is the big day, and the deadline for submitting mail-in ballots. Nine candidates are vying for four council spots and a mayoral position.

Many residents and business leaders have said that this election may be the most important in city history. This theme was emphasized at a recent After Hours event, hosted by the Woodland Park Chamber of Commerce.

Due to the large number of candidates and the addition of an extra seat, the direction the city’s future direction for the next two to four years could be decided by the outcome of this election.

This year’s election is quite different than most city political showdowns due to an extra council seat under contention. In most elections, there are just three open, four-year term council seats and the mayor position.

But due to former councilmember Jim Pfaff resigning last year, there will also be a two -year term up at stake this time around. Catherine Nakai was appointed to fill his seat until the election, but she will have to win to remain seated on the council.

With the four council seats and mayor spot open, there are a total of nine candidates running to fill the positions. Current Mayor Hilary LaBarre and Councilmember Robert Zuluaga are both running for mayor.

Incumbent Councilmembers Nakai and Kellie Case are both running for another term. Don Dezellem, Frank Connors, David Ott, Matthew Hayes, and Deann Bettermann are all running for the four council seats.

Due to Pfaff’s resignation, though, three of the council seats are for four-year terms and one seat is only a two year term. The top three candidates that get the most votes will fill the three four-year terms and the one with the next most votes will get the two year term seat.

Current Councilmembers Zuluaga and Rusty Neal will remain seated until their terms end in two years. If Zuluaga loses his bid for mayor, he will remain seated on council for another two years.

If Zuluaga wins the mayor spot, another council seat will then become open. After the new council gets sworn in, they would then be tasked with appointing someone to fill the empty seat or call for a special election.

Ballot Fervor

This election also has three ballot questions that could change the city charter. One ballot question will decide if elected and appointed officials can be removed from council for misconduct.

Another proposed ordinance will repeal and replace the current general conflict of interest provisions with a more detailed and comprehensive conflict of interest provision. The last question asks voters if the charter should be amended to clarify the options for city council in filling a vacancy on the elected panel.

The ballots have already been mailed and for those who have not yet turned them in, they have exactly another week to do so. Ballots can be turned in to the Woodland Park City Hall as late as 7 p.m. on April 5.

After the city closes the voting at seven, they will then make their final count of the ballots. The results will be out as soon as all of the ballots get counted, which usually takes about an hour or two.

Stay tuned to www.mountainjackpot.com.  for the latest election results and news.