Cripple Creek Faces Three-Way Showdown for Top Leadership Post

Big Local Races and Ballot Questions Slated For November Election

Rick Langenberg

It’s now official.

The city of Cripple Creek will sport one of its most competitive races this fall for the town’s top leadership post, currently held by Mayor Milford Ashworth.

Ashworth is not seeking re-election, a scenario that has led to wide-open competition, with rumors speculating on a daily basis for months.

But with the final Aug. 28 deadline for submitting candidate applications for the Nov. election, the town now has three official contenders bolting from the gates, all of whom are fairly well-known locally.  All three candidates also have collected the necessary signatures from registered voters, according to officials from the city clerk’s office.

The mayoral showdown in Cripple Creek is capped by a competition among Ward Four Councilwoman Melissa Trenary, RE-1 Cripple Creek/Victor District CTE Coordinator Annie Durham and resident Les Batson.

All three are high profile personalities in the district that need few introductions.  Based on signatures garnered, Durham won the initial contest, closely followed by Trenary and then Batson.

Durham is the CTE Coordinator for the RE-1 CC/V school district who is involved in a spree of organizations, and actually served as the music director the recent performances of “The Girl of the Golden West,” and “We Will Rock You,” at the Butte Theater.

She actually announced her preliminary intention to run several months ago.  Durham regularly appears before the city council to outline key school programs and community-wide efforts. In addition, Durham has heavily supported such causes as addressing the hike in suicides and in helping veterans. She was one of the big supporters of the Salute to American Veterans Rally, when a fight emerged over ending funding for this event.

Trenary, meanwhile, has been a member of the city council for close to six years. She has been involved with such organizations as the Two Mile High Club,  Cripple Creek Elks and the District Museum and is employed in the gaming industry as a manager with the Double Eagle casino.

She opted to get into the race recently, touting her experience. Throughout her various campaigns, she has expressed concerns over historic preservation and maintaining the town’s roots, while advocating affordable housing and ushering in the town’s new direction as more of a destination area.

Batson, who has worked also as a casino employee, has ran a number of unsuccessful campaigns for council.  However, he isn’t shy about expressing his views, and was a big supporter of the push for retail marijuana. He has outlined the concerns of local residents during his various campaign stints.

Oddly enough, the other two council races are not that competitive, with Ward Five candidate Jared Bowman, seeking to gain the four-year seat. Bowman was elected last summer during the town’s recall election.  No  other opponent has come forth.

In addition, a write-in campaign is moving forward for the Ward 4 race, with more details getting released in upcoming weeks. This seat is currently held by Tom Litherland, who can’t run again due to term limits.

The other big issue is a proposed one-cent sales tax hike, with the funds aimed at helping to support the operations of the new RE-1 trade and construction/vocational center, which  opened last summer.

But there is not a shortage of issues lingering for the Cripple  Creek community, as the town braces for  its 32nd anniversary of limited stakes gaming.

Some of these include the push for affordable housing and more funding for special events, along with overseeing one of the biggest hotel additions in the Pike Peak region, with the completion of the 300-plus room Chamonix resort. At the same time, the town is trying to become more of a destination area for recreation-goers and history buffs and tourists.

And by the beginning of next year, the town will most likely welcome is first retail marijuana shop, with renovations occurring soon for a cannabis outlet at a commercial spot, just outside the business district at 324 Hwy. 67 South (currently occupied by Pearl’s Place Day Spa). Cripple Creek has become the first town in Teller County to legalize retail cannabis.

And with the pending new council makeup, questions are persisting  by some about a possible return of the Salute to American Veterans Rally to Cripple Creek.

Other Races

Cripple Creek is just one municipality facing major races.

The town of Victor will decide on a mayor and two council positions, along with the clerk/treasurer position. The RE-1 School District will decide on several board seats.

And of course, in Woodland Park, most of the drama will center on the staunch showdown for three RE-2 School Board seats, with strong competition between  the current board incumbents  —  Mick Bates, David Illingworth II and Cassie Kimbrell – and a group of three challengers – Seth Bryant, Keegan  Barkley and Mike Knott.  This race has already attracted much attention with a flurry of signs in Woodland Park and organized events by both groups.

Most of the issues deal with changes made at the RE-2 District since the elections of 2021, when a vastly new school board was elected, with a much more conservative philosophy than past boards.  Plus, the selection of a new RE-2 Superintendent, Ken Witt, has fueled major changes producing mixed views in the community.

And the Ute Pass Regional Ambulance District will join the election fray, with a Taxpayer Bill of Rights (TABOR) retention of funds question, along with a pending tax proposition.

On a state-wide basis, voters this November will decide two ballot issues, one dealing with a plan to use TABOR funds to offset the huge pending hike in property tax increases for residents, as part of a recent revaluation period.

All ballot questions and official candidate listings will get finalized this week for the Nov. 7 election, according to Teller County Clerk and Recorder Stephanie Kees.

The big state and national races are scheduled for the following year, including the presidential contest. A presidential primary for Colorado is tentatively scheduled for March 6.