Dolores, Mancos: Dolores voters must look past one-issue, Mancos must select board to boost town

Monday, March 19, 2018 6:33 PM

In Dolores, 11 candidates each want one of just four seats on the town board, and two more are running for mayor. That’s a sign of unrest, including division over deteriorating playground equipment, and it points to the need for a professional town manager and a board that’s paying attention.

It’s also evidence of an engaged voting populace, and The Journal’s editorial board applauds all 13 individuals who are willing to serve their community in this way.

For mayor, look to Chad Wheelus. Wheelus is an educator and stalwart Dolores booster who will have a steady hand on the wheel as he guides the town forward.

For the four board seats, the decision is more complicated because when there’s division, there are constituencies. Votes should not be based entirely on the playground issue. Think about what needs to happen soon in Dolores to create a bright and prosperous future.

To begin with, empowering four leaders is important. There’s no reason to vote for only two; that just allows other voters to choose the remaining two, who will be seated anyway, regardless of how far they finish behind the front-runners.

For a forward-leaning, public-facing board, The Journal editorial board endorses Tracy Murphy, Leigh Sand, Jennifer Stark and Melissa Watters. All four have experience and values that will benefit Dolores. They had thoughtful answers to The Journal’s questions, and they have a vision for the future. That’s what Dolores needs, and this election is an opportunity for voters to provide it, if they don’t get bogged down in past problems.

HHHFour seats on the Mancos Town Board are up for grabs on this mail-in ballot, and only five candidates have shown interest. That’s too bad because Mancos has taken some hard hits lately.

The fire that destroyed Western Excelsior a year ago has not, as candidates noted, made much of a dent in the town’s already minimal sales-tax revenue, but the loss of jobs has made the town even more of a bedroom community than it already was. That’s not what Mancos aspires to be, and the board should strive to make it a place where people can live, work, shop and have fun.

The departure of Andrea Phillips as town administrator also has hurt. Phillips was working hard to tug the town into the 21st century. Not paying out that salary may seem like a good idea, but Mancos really needs not just an administrator, but a manager. A combination town clerk/administrator, no matter how talented and dedicated, cannot accomplish all that needs to be done.

None of the candidates have been in Mancos very long, so there’s no real option to vote for “old blood.” Brent McWhirter comes closest; he married into a Mancos family, although their business is in Cortez. McWhirter has something no other candidate offers: youth.

Mayor Pro Tem Fred Brooks has strong experience. Betsy Harrison, who has a weaker grasp on governance, nonetheless has worked hard for the community. Steve Kennedy may have a conflict with his current employment, but that’s for him to figure out. He’d be a good trustee.

For their positive vision of the future, The Journal editorial board endorses Brooks, Harrison, Kennedy and McWhirter.