In this year’s municipal election, five candidates are running for four open trustee positions on the Mancos town board. It is Mancos’s first contested election in several years, after five candidates were elected to five open seats in 2016. Two trustees whose terms are ending, Lorraine Becker and Michele Black, have chosen not to run again.
The candidates are: Steve Kennedy, 66, retired; Betsy Harrison, 76, retired; Brent McWhirter, 33, owner of the Moose and More ice cream shop in Cortez; Mayor Pro Tem Fred Brooks, 64, retired and running for his second term; and Trustee Cindy Simpson, 55, an occupational safety specialist for the Colorado Department of Transportation who is running for her second term.
The candidates answered the following questions in interviews and by email. Their answers have been edited for grammar, style and length where necessary.
How long have you lived in Mancos?
Fred Brooks (email): I purchased my home and moved to town after I retired in 2014.
Betsy Harrison (interview): I’m originally from California. I’ve lived here about 15 years.
Steve Kennedy (interview): I moved to Mancos in 2014, about 3½ years ago.
Brent McWhirter (interview): I’ve been in Mancos now for just over three years. We moved back here to open a business in November of 2014.
Cindy Simpson (email): I moved to Mancos from Durango in 2003, and lived in various towns/cities in Colorado since 1988, when I moved from Michigan.
What is your occupational background, and how do you think it has prepared you for a trustee position?
Brooks: I worked for a multi-physician radiology group for 17 years, the last 10 years as business and financial manager. I have a working knowledge of budgets and personnel matters within a private business. As a trustee, I had to begin to educate myself about the workings of the public sector. As a representative of Mancos I sit on various boards, both locally and regionally. I feel that this gives me a broader perspective from which to serve my community.
Harrison: I was on the lodgers tax committee for the county. I was president of the Chamber. I’ve been involved with Mancos Valley Resources, a charitable organization in town. I was instrumental a few years ago in reviving the Grange when the building became available, and I guess you could say my main job is the Common Press. We have a state historical grant to restore the building, and we’re going to open a graphic design school there. Right now, I’m the administrator and I’m administrating the state grant.
Kennedy: I lived about 30 years in Telluride, and in Telluride I was on the town council in the late 80s. I was also the staff coordinator for a joint venture between San Juan County and the town for economic development.
McWhirter: I was a photographer, and I worked in journalism. I worked for a newspaper in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, for about 4½ years. After that, I was a manager for a photography company in Oregon for about 2½ years, and when I came back here, I became a business owner. My background originally was in science. I started out doing totally different things than I’m doing now, but I find, out here especially, a lot of people have that kind of background. A lot of the different backgrounds that I’ve had have kind of started me into seeing things from different perspectives. Being a business owner especially, I know how the business owner thinks when it comes to working with the government, and all the hurdles that come with starting, especially, a new business. I think one of the things I could do as a trustee is kind of bridge that gap between the government and business owners, and make it easier for business owners to start businesses in town, and get rid of some of the red tape that’s there.
Simpson: I’ve had an eclectic career – I was a journalism major. In private industry, I worked in a pharmacy, a shoe store, public relations and marketing communications for an office/school/stadium/transportation furniture manufacturer. I did general labor in factories and managed a direct-mail company, managed an in-bound reservations call center, and was office manager for a real estate/property management/CPA firm and had my realtor license for a few years. In the public sector, I spent 15 years working for La Plata County in the Land Use Planning office, two years working for a consulting firm that created the LPC Trails Plan with a group of stakeholders, a summer as a civilian with the Durango Police Department performing code, parking and business license inspections and enforcement, a year working at CDOT as an administrative assistant and the past 5½ years as one of seven CDOT occupational safety specialists helping train and teach safety to our employees regionally and statewide. I also taught a class to our town staff and appointed/elected officials on surviving active shooter incidents. I’ve volunteered as planning and zoning committee member and was selected chair twice, about 10 years apart. These paid and volunteer experiences provided me a well-rounded perspective on the struggle to survive and thrive in a variety of economic situations.
Why did you decide to run for town trustee?
Brooks: Trustees provide a service to their town. I feel that I have more to offer, and much more to learn. Mancos is in a position to grow, but we need to be careful. Decisions made by the board today can remain in force for decades to come.
Harrison: I’ve been very active since I moved out here. I really love being involved in my community, and because I’m retired, I have the leisure time to do that, which a lot of people don’t.
Kennedy: I want to run to help get a planning process going and help the town prepare for the inevitable growth.
McWhirter: We want Mancos to be our home for the rest of our lives, and I want a part in building Mancos into what I think it can be. If you want things to go the way you want them to go, the best way is to get involved, and being in government is one of the most important things you can do. Otherwise you’re just sitting there complaining about things, and nothing gets done.
Simpson: The current board works together very well, and it’s even more enjoyable than when I was a trustee and Mayor Pro Tem about eight to 10 years ago. Our current staff is very dedicated and has really come together as a highly-functioning team over the past year. I think we are poised to start and complete some very important things for the town. I’m excited about our current direction of getting our water and sewer infrastructure modernized, and replacing our aging bridge on Main. I feel that my background, interest and drive will help us move forward through these projects.