In this year’s municipal election, eight people are running for five open Cortez City Council positions.
Incumbents Jill Carlson and Orly Lucero are both running for their second terms.
The other candidates are: Mike Lavey, 74, retired; Sue Betts, 65, retired police officer; Gary Noyes, 40, Shamrock Foods delivery driver; Geof Byerly, 53, a fatherhood program coordinator at The Piñon Project; Jonathan Walker, 47, maintenance worker at Crow Canyon Archaeological Center; and Lance McDaniel, 61, retired from a career in transportation and management.
In the first of two Q&A’s with The Journal, the candidates answered the following questions by email and during interviews. Their responses have been edited for grammar, style and length where necessary.
Why did you decide to run for City Council?
Sue Betts (Email): I am running for City Council because I feel I can make a difference. Cortez is my home and my community. I am proud to be a part of it, and would like to see it stay a place for future generations to proudly call home.
Geof Byerly (Email): I recognize the importance of community involvement. I have perspective and valuable skills that can support our community moving in the right direction. I have been involved with numerous initiatives that have been developed with leadership in mind, and it feels right to stretch into the application of these skills and serve the community. My run for the school board here in Cortez last November was a learning experience, and I feel honored to explore another avenue into leadership in the community.
Jill Carlson (Email): I enjoyed the experience and felt that with so many vacancies this year, easing the transition to a new council with some remaining members was the best option to carry out the long-range vision of the city.
Mike Lavey (Email): Cortez has been very good to me and my family. As a city councilperson, I would like to repay the blessings that Cortez has bestowed on us by becoming more involved in the day-to-day workings of the city. Being retired, I will have more time to spend on the many issues facing our city. I have a variety of experiences that would help me understand the decisions that the council faces daily.
Orly Lucero (Email): I would like to continue to be on the City Council to serve the people of this community and be the voice of the people.
Gary Noyes (Interview): We’ve got a daughter who’s 7 years old, born and raised in Cortez, so with her still being young, if we can have somewhat of a say-so in what happens in this town for her future, and for our retirement – we want to retire in a nice place. A lot of people just sit back and say, “Why is this? Why is that?” It’s one of those things where you can either complain about it, or you can go do something about it.
Lance McDaniel (Email): I decided to run for City Council to continue forward thinking in local government. We need to continue to bring clean business to our town. With our economy relying 30 percent on tourism, we must attempt to see that Cortez becomes more of a stop-and-stay destination.
Jonathan Walker (Email): One of the primary reasons I decided to run for City Council is that many of my local friends and neighbors had asked me if I would. I talk to people within our community and in doing so I know that I share a vision of what Cortez can be with many people in our town. I decided to run to represent my friends, my neighbors, and others in Cortez who share similar experiences, who share a love for this town, and want to see it reach its fullest potential. I want to serve on City Council to help us reach this goal.
What experiences in your background do you feel have prepared you for a seat on the council?
Betts: The many years I have spent serving this community have given me the experience and knowledge needed to be effective in this position. If elected to council I feel it would be an extension of my service. I was in a supervisory position for 21 years and have a pretty good idea how government works, its ordinances, regulations, budgets, public and personnel issues.
Byerly: I came to Cortez in 1996 to teach at the middle school. After teaching for 20 years in various educational settings and getting to know families, I feel I understand diverse perspectives represented in our community. Strong interpersonal skills and experience working with people will make me approachable to the public, which will inform decision making. I have the communication skills needed to support the important relationships of a council member. Finally, having two boys currently attending school in Cortez offers me added motivation to step into this leadership position.
Carlson: I have been a member of the council for two years, and I have a fair amount of relevant experience on boards and in business that has prepared me to be in this position.
Lavey: I currently serve on the City of Cortez Parks, Recreation and Forestry Advisory Board as well as the board of directors for the Good Samaritan Food Pantry, the board of trustees for the Mancos United Methodist Church and Citizens for Recreation. I’m a member of the Montezuma County Historical Society, the Cortez Cultural Center and the Montezuma Land Conservancy. I served in the U.S. Navy during the Cuban Missile Crisis, am a member of the local American Legion Post and am the Flag Captain for our residential subdivision. I was a special deputy with the Montezuma County Sheriff’s Office, a member of the Montezuma Sheriff’s Posse and coordinator for our Neighborhood Watch Program.
Lucero: I have served on the City Council for the past four years and also from 2002 to 2010. Six of those eight years I was mayor of the city of Cortez. I have and continue to serve on several different community boards such as Renew, Hospice of Montezuma and the Cortez Fire Protection District. I am well aware of this community’s needs as well as all the great things Cortez has to offer.
McDaniel: I’ve been an activist in doing what I believe is best for our area. I volunteer at Renew/Wings Safehouse and am an advocate for domestic abuse and sexual assault victims.
Noyes: I was born and raised here. My family’s lived here forever. I love to get out and do things and be in the community, whether it’s a charity event or just going up to see some live music. I think it’s just a matter of having roots here and caring about the place.
Walker: I have a background working in the public sector, and love the idea of public service. Before I moved to Cortez in 2001, I worked in the elections department of the El Paso County Clerk and Recorder’s office in Colorado Springs. I have worked for the National Park Service at Mesa Verde and Zion National Park, and I know how important these resources are to local economies. I have also worked as a contractor in oil and gas fields around the west, and understand how important this industry is to the local economy as well. My decision to attend graduate school at Colorado State University (studying construction management with an emphasis in sustainability) was largely due to my experiences living in Cortez and always thinking of what we can do to make our community better. I have been a homeowner in Cortez since 2004, and have a vested interest in the success of the community.
What is the best thing about Cortez?
Betts: The people and the location are what makes Cortez the best place to live. We are extremely blessed to have mountains, desert, farming and Native American culture within minutes of Cortez in any direction.
Byerly: Being surrounded by open space and public land contributes to a relaxed way of life that is increasingly hard to find and makes Cortez unique. That Cortez has such an abundance of open space in town, in the form of parks, makes it very appealing to me. Planners have done a wonderful job making sure space is set aside for recreation. Cortez is located in a region that has amazing history, a history that is well preserved and invites exploration on a daily basis. I believe that the fact that Cortez is a bit isolated is beneficial to the preservation of the calm, quiet way of life we know. The climate in this region is beautiful, and with little effort we have access to the high country and desert. The improving atmosphere on Main Street is another important attraction.
Carlson: It’s continually evolving. Some value consistency, but progress is necessary to keep our community thriving and growing.
Lavey: The best thing about Cortez is its people. We have a long history of homesteaders, farmers, ranchers, teachers, medical specialists and entrepreneurs. Our heritage includes Native Americans, early settlers and a rich Hispanic influence. Our business leaders have created jobs, talented teachers prepare our children for the future and doctors and nurses and therapists keep us going. Dedicated police, firefighters and EMTs put their lives on the line every day to keep us safe. Public servants and volunteers make Cortez a great place to live.
Lucero: Cortez is a great city, with plenty to do if you are an outdoors person: bike, hike, camp or fish or take advantage of the beautiful city of parks. If weather permits, there is skiing, snowmobiling, ice fishing or enjoying the city Recreation Center year round. Or just enjoy the peace and quiet of living in a friendly community. My family and I are proud to say we live in Cortez.
McDaniel: Cortez is an interesting small town with people of several different backgrounds. Our demographics are a great mix of longtime local residents and new arrivals from different areas of the world, something we need to capitalize on when moving forward.
Noyes: There’s not a lot of places you can live where, if you go 10 minutes, you’re in the mountains, and if you go 10 minutes, you’re in the desert. There’s a lot of opportunity in this area where we are. Plus, it’s smaller, not huge. I like small towns.
Walker: The thing that brought me to Cortez first and foremost is the location. We are blessed with having beautiful mountains, deserts, deep canyons and stunning sunsets. There are few places you can live that offer four seasons of recreational opportunities right out your front door. But the thing that made me decide to call Cortez home was our amazing community. From the first night I moved into town I have felt welcome, and it felt like home. We have wonderful parks, a great recreation center, an amazing farmers market and a thriving downtown.