Fifty citizens listened to 13 candidates for Dolores town board positions answer questions during a League of Women’s Voters forum at the Dolores Community Center March 16.
Eleven candidates are vying for four positions on the Dolores town board, and two are competing for the mayor’s position. The election is by mail ballots and must reach the clerk’s office by April 3. They can also be handed in at Dolores Town Hall. It can take up to 10 days for a mailed item to reach the clerk.
Candidates for town trustee as listed on the ballot are restaurant owner Duvall Truelsen, registered nurse Leigh Sand, manicurist Janice Heman, teacher Melissa Watters, school counselor Jennifer Stark, child care center owner Debra Jorgensen, museum curator Tracy Murphy, construction worker Brian Rantz, brew pub worker Tobie Baker, health care professional Janneli Miller and accountant Timothy Mueller.
Candidates for mayor as listed on the ballot are local firefighter Gerald “Jerry” Whited and Southwest Open School teacher Chad Wheelus.
Forum questions involved ideas and plans for a playground, candidates’ skill sets, and visions for the town.
Candidates echoed one another on many issues during the two-hour meeting. There was unanimous support for a new playground and outdoor recreation, and also for more productive and effective communication between residents and the town board and staff.
Below are paraphrased comments made by town board candidates. A separate story focuses on comments from the mayoral candidates.
Tobie Baker: If elected he would advocate for recreation and attracting companies that cater to the outdoors. He suggested improving parks with an outdoor racquetball court, amphitheater and skate park. To generate economic development, he suggested an outdoor retail manufacturing incubator project to bring more companies like Osprey Packs to the area. As a former news reporter, he has experience with budgets and town governance. Also he’d like to see more solar panels and windmills on town buildings to help reduce the town’s electric bill. He wants all town public records be made available for citizens to review online and in print. He said he will serve with integrity and use sensible decision-making to help lead the town. He proclaimed that Dolores is the best place to live in the U.S.
Janice Heman: As a salon business owner, she has organizational skills, budget experience, and works well with employers and the public. She believes maintaining town infrastructure and core services should be the town’s priority. She has a history with community service projects, including programs that assist cancer patients and help others in need. If elected, she would focus on decisions that are best for the whole community. She would like a new playground designed to accommodate a variety of age groups. Also, the board should work closely with the Chamber of Commerce and explore ways to attract people to come and vacation in Dolores.
Debra Jorgensen: She has education degrees and is an advocate for families, youth and the elderly. As a child care professional and business owner, she is organized and dedicated to helping families and children succeed. As part of that goal, she supports more outdoor activities in town. She would like to see the walking path be connected to both ends of town, and perhaps circle the town so more citizens have easier access to walk and bike. More activities are also needed for older kids, such as an area for BMX biking and a skateboard park.
Janneli Miller: She is a retired college professor with a Ph.D. in anthropology and works in the health field and as a writer. She would bring research and speaking skills to the board, and she said she would try to build consensus around a community vision and improve town support for new businesses. For the new playground, she would like to see equipment that caters to the growing elderly population in Dolores. Promoting health and fitness and the area’s natural qualities would be a focus. Her ideas include adding community gardens, preserving dark sky values, and for Dolores to have a more proactive presence on social media.
Brian Rantz: As a board member, he said he would work toward better promotion of McPhee Reservoir and advocate for more activities for younger people in the area. He said McPhee used to be filled with boats, but now there are a lot less, and it impacts the Dolores economy. For youths, he would like to see lights on the basketball courts so kids can play at night, and wants the school to open the weight room and gym in the summer for public use because it is paid for by taxes. He also supports more festivals to attract people to town, and feels town streets need more dust control.
Leigh Sand: She is a registered nurse, mother, wife and former social worker. Those experiences have taught her diplomacy and compromise, skills that would transfer well to the Town Board. Throughout her professional career, she has experience working with people, and will be very perceptive to the needs of people if elected. She said more outreach is needed to local businesses to find out their needs and concerns. She believes the outdoor attributes of Dolores are an economic driver. As a board member, she would work hard to learn the budget and look for ways to generate revenue for projects.
Jennifer Stark: She has experience working for town governments and has a master’s degree in public administration. She worked in the planning department for the Town of Rico, and understands the process of governance. She has been a strong advocate for improving town transparency in providing public documents and posting meeting agendas. As a board member, she would urge the Town Board to follow the recommendations of the playground committee that was tasked with coming up with a plan for a new facility with community input. Her goal would be to figure out what the community will support, then collectively move toward fulfilling that need.
Duvall “Val” Truelsen: He has been involved in Dolores town government since the 1960s, and has helped guide town projects that improved the sewer and water systems and town parks. He says the primary duty of the town board is to maintain the quality of existing infrastructure, and the second is to promote economic development. He said outdoor recreation is a big draw for Dolores and should be advertised more. Dolores sits on the shore of McPhee Reservoir, but it is an underused recreational source, and improved promotion would benefit town businesses. The nearby Boggy Draw trail system also needs more promotion as a premier mountain bike destination and tourism draw. He said the strength of Dolores has always been the can-do attitude of its citizens.
Melissa Watters: She points out that the citizens of Dolores are at the top of the town’s organizational chart, and the town board and staff serves them. As an environmental engineer and teacher, she offers a wealth of academic and technical expertise to the board. She is adept at researching complex issues and has good writing and communication skills. She is good at looking at a long-term vision, then creating plans to accomplish those goals step by step. Economic development is another goal of hers, and so is maintaining the unique character of Dolores. She says the town’s parks, river, lake and recreation assets are an economic engine for the town because they attract people to visit and spend money. She wants the town to partner with the Chamber of Commerce and Montezuma Community Economic Development Association to maximize business opportunities.
Tracy Murphy: Board candidates Tracy Murphy and Timothy Mueller did not attend the forum. A spokesman read a statement from Murphy.
Murphy was appointed to the Town Board to fill a vacancy, and is seeking a full term. She is the town representative for the newly formed Parks Committee. As a board member she successfully lobbied to have meeting agendas and town information be placed on the town website. She is skilled at building consensus and as a board member would advocate for reviewing the land use code and trails plan. She also supports more collaboration between the town board and the Chamber of Commerce.