Annie Durham Profile: School District Leader and Well-known Volunteer Making Mayoral Bid

Rick Langenberg

For one of the main promoters for more career and technical education at the RE-1 Cripple Creek/Victor School District, along with providing additional services for the community, a Cripple Creek mayoral run has become more of a natural transition.

Annie Durham, a well-known resident, volunteer and civic leader, emerged as the first candidate bolting from the gates in  Cripple Creek’s highly competitive mayoral race.  Her bid for mayor was expected for some time, as she mulled this decision for months. When she filed her paperwork, most locals were not overly surprised with Durham’s mayoral aspirations.  “I really feel this is the best way to me to now serve the community,” said Durham. “I have been strongly involved with the community for a long time.”

She admits a definite love for the area due to the people here and the historic nature of Cripple Creek, a real drawing card for the mayoral candidate.  “It is really the people that have kept me here,” said Durham. She said she has always been attracted by the district’s rather diverse and colorful citizenry, along with a genuine desire for many “to take care of each other. That is something that I was not accustomed to living (previously) in the Front Range.”

Durham is a Colorado native who spent time on the West Slope, the Front Range, Leadville and now Cripple Creek.

Durham, a familiar face at city council meetings, has been a full-time resident in Cripple Creek since 2013.  During most of her time in the community, she has served with the school district, initially as a volunteer to play piano for the choir, then doing stints as a substitute teacher, and eventually as the district’s CTE (Career and Technical Education) coordinator. She frequently addressed the council in the last year or two regarding the RE-1 trades and construction facility, which opened last summer, along with other youth programs advocated by the district.

The candidate has worked with a variety of other groups, such as the Friends of the Butte Theater, and even was the musical director for several shows last summer.

Due to her community involvement, Durham believes she is well-versed in the challenges facing Cripple Creek.

As for key issues, Durham cites infrastructure, housing and historic preservation as her main areas of focus. And out of this lineup, she believes infrastructure development is probably the biggest need, with the projects facing the city.

She supports the current work of the administration in trying to secure millions in grants and realizes the city much grapple with big question marks regarding requirements for a new or expanded wastewater treatment plant. This project, based on information provided at a town hall meeting, could range between $4 million and $12 million. It is described as the “White Elephant,” in the city’s push for huge improvements.

“We have to do a lot repairing and replacing when it comes to infrastructure,” said Durham.

The infrastructure work, according to Durham, will help set the stage for housing. She believes Cripple Creek has a serious affordable housing crisis, especially with the low income of most workers. Durham cites census figures, making this need even greater. That said, she is confident that the staff is working on addressing the problem with current programs available at the state level. Cripple Creek is one of the communities that is partaking in Proposition 123, which could pave the way for more state grant funds, for towns advancing the push for affordable housing.

“We really need housing at all levels,” said Durham.

And when it comes to historic preservation, the mayoral candidate said she has a definite passion for maintaining the 1890s look and feel of the town. “The historic nature of Cripple Creek is what drew me to this area,” said Durham.

She admits that many residents have expressed problems with the size of the forthcoming nine-story Chamonix resort, expected to open in late December. “They are unhappy with the size of the Bronco Billy’s (expansion) project,” said the mayoral candidate, in summarizing these concerns. But she is confident that this issue has been fully reviewed by the city staff and says that some of the perceived problems were a byproduct of coronavirus epidemic, when the city could not have in-person meetings.  “We need to move forward,” said Durham, who believes the project could serve as a big bonus for the city in its drive to become a destination area.

Overall, she favors taking a closer look at historic preservation matters. “Once you take it down, you can’t get it back,” said the candidate regarding the dismantling of historic structures.

The candidate said she wants to work in conjunction with the casino community, with the hope that the best interests of the community will be served. She especially supports the gaming community in the fight against Internet Cafes.

Durham said she fully supports and endorses the Ice Castles attraction, which could result in an additional $50,000 in annual sales tax revenue for Cripple Creek and possibly $5 to $7 million in revenue for the region.  But at the same time, she wants to assure that the traffic concerns are addressed.

Additional Concerns

Durham admits she has a laundry list of additional improvement areas and community interests, she would like to pursue if elected. She supports special events and would like to see the city have more festivals during the summer.  “Special events are very important,” said the candidate.

And will a successful Durham mayoral bid mean a possible return of the Salute to the American Veterans Rally in Cripple Creek? Talk has recently circulated regarding this possibility with the funding in question in Woodland Park, where the rally has been held for the last several years.

“If they (promoters of the Salute Rally) decide to do this, they will be treated like any other applicant for special events,” said Durham.

Another area of interest deals with small business development.  She would like to work to help facilitate local interest in landing a bowling alley, a clothing store and a grocery store with a pharmacy and possibly other business needs.

Plus, she cites childcare as a big concern and supports efforts to develop a 24/7 childcare center by a task force organized by the Aspen Mine Center. Securing an additional cell phone tower is also on her wish list.

But even with this explosion of concerns, Durham is confident that Cripple Creek has a promising future. “I look forward to serving the community,” said the mayoral candidate.