Fifty citizens listened to 13 candidates for Dolores Town board and mayor positions respond to questions during a League of Women’s Voters forum on March 16 at the Dolores Community Center.
Eleven are running for four open seats on Town Board. Following are the comments made by Dolores mayoral candidates Chad Wheelus, a teacher at Southwest Open School, and Gerald “Jerry” Whited, a Towaoc firefighter.
Forum questions involved ideas and plans for a new playground, candidates’ skills, economic development, and visions for the town.
Wheelus and Whited echoed one another on many issues. They both support outdoor recreation and a new playground, and want productive and effective communication between residents and the town board and staff. Below are paraphrased highlights of their responses.
Wheelus has lived in Dolores 25 years and has been a teacher for 20. He is an advocate for outdoor recreation, helped establish trails at Boggy Draw, organized popular Goaltimate Frisbee tournaments at Joe Rowell Park, and helped start the 12 Hours of Mesa Verde race.
If elected mayor, he promised to work with the new town manager and move forward on playground plans recommended by the Dolores Parks committee. He said being an experienced teacher has given him many skills that translate well to town governance, such as communication, leadership, researching and critical thinking. He has a systems thinking mindset and is not easily swayed by misleading arguments or information. He emphasized that it is up to the community to decide on town direction and management, not a single board member. Maintaining town infrastructure would be a top priority for him if elected. Providing spaces for the public to play creates a healthier community, and advocating for access to public lands is important for visitors and residents. He also wants to help develop a clear vision for the town and accentuate its outdoor recreation strengths.
Whited is an eight-year resident of Dolores and fell in love with the town the first time he visited. He moved his family to Dolores because of the small-town values and strong sense of community. Neighbors helping neighbors without hesitation is a quality he embraces and would foster as mayor. His experience as a firefighter and EMS technician gives him a sense of public safety and health needs for the community. He feels a more concentrated effort by the town to better promote recreation opportunity at McPhee Reservoir will draw visitors and improve the town’s economy. Promoting activities that get kids outside is another goal.
He said that as a firefighter for a small organization, he understands the need to stay on budget and make wise financial decisions. His business experience includes helping to manage Tailwind, an energy drink company that began in Dolores, but moved away due to lack of space to expand. Working more closely with businesses to accommodate their needs is critical, he said. He also believes that offering businesses incentives to move here, such as reduced startup fees, is a good idea and will boost sales tax revenues in the long run.
He said he will advocate for transparency and collaboration between town government and residents. If elected, he will run town board meetings professionally and orderly.
Everyone will have a voice at the meetings, he said, and if there are disagreements, they should be expressed respectfully.