Election D-Day Looming in Woodland Park and Green Mountain Falls

Rick Langenberg

It’s Round Two in a spring-time election frenzy, as Woodland Park and Green Mountain Falls voters reach the countdown for key municipal contests, with a total of eight combined elected seats up for grabs.

Both elections will play a big role in charting the future of these communities.

Next Tuesday (April 2) is the deadline for returning ballots. If you are a register voter in Woodland Park or Green Mountain Falls and have not returned your ballot, now is the time to act. Tuesday at 7 p.m. is the cut-off point as ballots must be returned to the clerk’s office in both communities. It is too late to mail your ballots back.

And in a contrast to the environment in past votes, both towns are dealing with fairly competitive elections slates, with no shortage of candidates. In fact, the contenders sport a variety of professional and government backgrounds in races that have to date focused more on the candidates than the issues.

The election is wide-open in both towns as a number of veteran office-holders are calling it quits.

Here is a brief conclusion of what is at stake for the Spring Election  2024:

Green Mountain Falls

In Green Mountain Falls, voters will pick a mayor and two trustees, and will decide the fate of a ballot issue, dealing with the timing of future elections.

For mayor, the choice is fairly simple. Incumbent Mayor Todd Dixon is running unopposed and will retain his seat for another term.

But for trustees, the same non-competitive situation is not in the cards. For the first time  in recent memory, the town is sporting four candidates for two spots. All of the contenders are fairly well-known in the community. The list includes Ann Speir-Esch, Donald Walker John Bell and Brandy Moralez.

All four have strong name recognition and have been involved with local volunteer committees or with town projects.  In the last few years, GMF’s assortment of advisory and volunteer committees have taken on a more active role than in the past.

The candidates have engaged in a fairly friendly competition, capped by an earlier candidates’ forum, with a few civic leaders already making endorsements.

The winner of these races will join Dixon and Trustees Sunde King and Sean Ives on the board. Stepping down from their leadership posts are Katharine Guthrie and Nick Donzello.

Besides picking two trustees and a mayor, town citizens will decide on a ballot issue, sponsored by the town government, calling for a change in the timing of  its municipal election.  Under the plan, the town’s regular elections will be moved from April to November, and will be operated by the clerk offices in El Paso and Teller counties. In many ways, this would follow the schedule of such statutory towns as Cripple Creek and Victor.

Currently, GMF runs its spring elections independently, meaning it must foot the bill for the elections. It has its spring elections on the same time schedule as such communities as Woodland Park and Colorado Springs, both of whom are home-rule cities.

The change is mostly a cost-trimming move, as the town could save thousands of dollars, according to GMF Town Clerk Bo Ayad, a strong supporter of the plan. In fact, no opposition has developed.

The only downside cited is that the town could lose the appeal of having its own local elections.  These votes would be lumped in with the coordinated elections conducted by the Teller and El Paso clerk offices. As an example, a future GMF election would become part of the November ballot for El Paso County.

Ayad, though, believes that besides costs advantages, the change could increase voter participation, since most people associate November with the time they normally cast their ballots

As for key issues, the town is trying to develop more of a year-round tourist-friendly-economy and environment, while keeping an extreme, watchful eye on spending.  It also is coordinating many of its efforts with the Green Box arts group, which has bold plans for future local projects and beautification efforts. One of the big focus points deals with the future of the swimming pool facility and the overall park.

The issue of road maintenance, with miles of rough gravel thoroughfares, is probably the most debated subject in town circles, a scenario that will only get more challenging resulting from the recent record snowstorms.

Woodland Park

In the City Above the Clouds, a record total of 10 candidates are vying for four council seats and a mayoral spot. One of the reason for the interest deals with the large number of seats available. Plus, only a few candidates are incumbents.

For mayor, Mayor Pro and veteran council member Tem Kellie Case faces a challenge from Jerry Penland, the leader of a group seeking to ban non-occupied short-term rental properties in residential neighborhoods.  STR regulations and the status of current relations between the city and the Woodland Park RE-2 School District and Charis Bible College top the list of hot issues. In addition, the city is operating with a fairly new head boss and faces some key infrastructure projects, such as developing a new reservoir and dealing with such issues as housing.

And for the first time, the Woodland Station development project downtown appears to be moving forward with actual plans on the table. But the state of the local economy still remains a touchy subject, with a slew of mixed views on this subject.  Growing infrastructure demands, housing developments and a future master plan are also big subjects of concern.

For council, the candidate list incudes Tim Northrup, Teri Baldwin, Eric Lockman, George Jones, Frank Connors, Steve “Smitty” Smith, Don Dezellem and Jeffrey Geer. Out of this  lineup, Connors is the only incumbent out of this lineup.

Similar to GMF, the city of Woodland Park had an earlier candidates’ forum. But no major punches were landed and the candidates actually agreed on most issues.

For the most updated election information, and for results of the April 2 spring elections of 2024, visit www.mountainjackpot.com.