Council Alters Historic Meeting Start Time
During a recent Woodland Park council meeting, elected leaders were tasked with deciding who to pick to fill a vacated position. An opening was made available with the exit of former council member David Ott, who resigned earlier this year.
At the end of the interviews, the majority members opted for experience and chose veteran leader Carrol Harvey to fill the seat until the next election in April 2024. The council had to choose between Harvey and previous city council candidate Don Dezellem.
In earlier council meetings, it was decided to open up the position for applications from members of the community. The council chose this route over appointing Dezellem, who had the next most votes during the last election.
Applicants had a month to submit their bids for council with the deadline ending earlier in May. Initially, there were a lot more applicants, but some contenders pulled out of the selection process before the deadline. As a result, this left the council with two applicants to choose from.
The process took place an hour before the regularly scheduled meeting and each council member got the chance to ask both applicants at least one question. Harvey fielded several questions, the most significant was probably posed by Councilman Robert Zuluaga. He wanted to know why Harvey suddenly resigned from council in 2019.
“When we choose to run for office, we choose to run for the term of the office,” Zuluaga said. “So, I struggle with how it is we could justify appointing somebody who quit with somebody else who quit. And just how is that in the best interest of the citizens of Woodland Park?”
Harvey told the story of why she quit about six months before her term was up. She said that at the time she was tasked with drafting a deer management plan that she worked on with around 100 people.
After she came up with the plan, she said she began receiving death threats and one person went as far as e-mailing her personal address and threatening to shoot her pets with a bow and arrow. Harvey said that the mayor at the time, Neil Levy, then decided to table discussion on the deer management plan to protect the safety of Harvey and her family.
Harvey did not want the plan she had spent much time working on tabled, so she made the “probably rash decision” to resign. “Going forward, I don’t think that that would be my mindset again,” Harvey told the council.
The council voted 4-2 to appoint Harvey with council members Zuluaga and Frank Connors voting for Dezellem.
Harvey Comes to the Dais with Years of City Government Experience
Before being appointed to city council, Harvey was serving on the planning commission for the second time. Harvey was also elected to council in 2012 and completed her full term.
She was elected again in 2016 and then resigned from her position in October 2019 six months before her term would have ended in April of 2020. She will now serve on council until April 2024, when she will then be eligible to run for a full term.
But, she said that when she first ran in 2012, there were three people running for three seats. And then in 2016, Harvey was elected to a spot on council when there were five people running for three council positions.
Harvey said that after Ott resigned, she started getting e-mails and calls from people in the community asking her to apply for the open seat. She said she spoke with her family, the mayor and some of the council members before she made the decision to put in an application for the council spot.
As for key issues, Harvey cited the budget as priority she plans to work on in the next 11 months. She also said that the controversial issue of short-term rental regulations will be another subject that the council will be tasked to figure out in the next year. A new proposed citizen initiative could ban these units from occurring in residential neighborhoods.
Council Officially Changes Meeting Times
Also, the council agreed to change their rules and procedures for decades and to start all city council meetings at 6:30 p.m. instead of 7 p.m. This 7 p.m. time has been the trend for decades. According to Mayor Hilary LaBarre, the council had originally agreed on having the meetings start at 6 p.m. like the majority of the state’s city council sessions.
But she said that the majority of council then changed their minds during the meeting and chose 6:30 p.m. for the new start time. She said that some of the council members thought that an earlier start time would dissuade people from running for a position.
LaBarre was the only member on the dais to vote “no” for the 6:30 p.m. start time. She said that starting the meetings at 6 p.m. would mean they would get done earlier and the city wouldn’t have to pay the staff as much overtime to attend the sessions. Some concerns have developed over the length of current WP council meetings, which rank among the longest for any governmental entity in the region. Council meeting participants sometimes don’t get done with city business until early morning hours of the following day.
The council sometimes has work sessions that start at 6 p.m. But traditionally, the city has stuck with this 7 p.m. start time.