Tensions Escalate in Battle For Three RE-2 School Board Seats.

Angry parents and community members protest after a Loudoun County School Board meeting was halted by the school board because the crowd refused to quiet down, in Ashburn, Va., on June 22, 2021.

Three Political Debates Featured for Six  Candidates; Two Forums Held the Same Night With Conflicting Times

Trevor Phipps


Now that the 2023 November elections are almost here, several local races are already starting to get quite heated, especially in the battle for contested seats for the Woodland Park RE-2 School Board of Education.

On social media, residents are already voicing strong opinions regarding these contests, making emotional posts supporting their cadre of candidates.


Driving around town, residents can also get a rare sense of election fever. Even an entire month or two before the election, many signs on both sides of the aisle can be seen posted all over Teller County.


And now that October is here, forums for those running for political offices have commenced. But, this year the forums may look a little different than they have in the past, with no real consensus on a setting for all the candidates to participate on the same stage.


The recent political divisions present in the county seemed to have already caused a controversy regarding the forums, with conflicts over where they should occur and specific hosts and other details.

In total, there will be three school board candidate forums that have invited all six RE-2 candidates.


But one small catch: Two of the forums are scheduled on the same night, making it impossible for the candidates to attend both gatherings. The Greater Woodland Park Chamber of Commerce in late June scheduled a forum for October 9. But then the Woodland Park School District issued a recent press release, saying that they would be having their own forum on the same date and nearly the same time at the Columbine Elementary School.


The first candidate forum took place on October 2 at the Woodland Park High School Auditorium. The forum was sponsored by the Victory Life Church and put on by the Victory Life Community Impact Team with State Senator Mark Baisley serving as the moderator.


The Woodland Park Chamber of Commerce’s forum is slated to take place on October 9 at the Ute Pass Cultural Center in Woodland Park from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. Woodland Park City Councilwoman Carrol Harvey will serve as the forum’s moderator.


According to Chamber of Commerce President Debbie Miller, the questions for the school board candidates were developed outside of Teller County, but the audience will also be asked to write down questions to be asked by Harvey. The forum will not be live streamed, but a professional media company will be recording the event and it will be available for viewing by the public on the chamber’s website at www.woodlandparkchamber.com on Oct. 10.


School board candidates Keegan Barkley, Seth Bryant, and Mike Knott have stated that they will be in attendance at the chamber forum.


The school district’s forum will take place on October 9 at the Columbine Elementary Gymnasium from 6 to 8 p.m. The current superintendent of District 49 in Falcon Peter Hilts will be the moderator with incumbent school board director candidates Kimbrell, Bates, and Illingworth in attendance. (See related press release).


The district has not commented as to why they decided to plan a forum on the same time and date as the chamber-sponsored event, which has been scheduled since the beginning of the summer. According to a letter written by  chamber president, Debbie Miller, the scheduling of two forums at the same time was an oversight by the district and not done intentionally.


Miller Addresses City Council


During a recent Woodland Park City Council meeting, Miller took the podium to address two big events coming up that are hosted by the chamber.


The first event coming up is the Eggs and Issues Breakfast featuring Colorado’s District Seven Congresswoman Brittany Pettersen, who will discuss issues developing in the nation’s capital. The event will take place on October 5 at the Ute Pass Cultural Center starting at 7:30 a.m.


The second event Miller brought up was the candidate forum. She said that due to a large amount of interest, the forum was moved to the Ute Pass Cultural Center instead of the city’s council chambers.


She said that the purpose of the event is to educate and inform the community about the candidates running for school board seats. “Over the course of my 19-year tenure as the president of the chamber, we have orchestrated a multitude of forums spanning federal, state, and local elections,” Miller explained. “Furthermore, we have been fortunate to collaborate with four different moderators who have consistently demonstrated the upmost integrity and respect for all participating candidates. Our moderators bear the responsibility of asking questions and ensuring the evening’s logistics flow seamlessly.”


Miller also thanked the council for participating in the chamber’s forums in the past. “Mayor, your leadership in embracing these voices is very praiseworthy,” Miller said. “And council, your attentive listening speaks volumes. Sometimes the simple act of giving a voice to those with differing opinions demonstrates an organization’s or government entity’s commitment to truly hearing its people.”