The League of Women Voters Candidate Forum held Monday night March 24 at the Leeper Center in Wellington drew a capacity crowd of over 150 people. Two mayoral candidates, Arlene Schiffman and Jack Brinkhoff, had a minute and a half to introduce themselves followed by 30 minutes during which each of them responded to questions from moderator Karen Wagner. Then each had a minute for closing remarks.
Questions were generated from the audience (written out on cards) and from a list developed by the League of Women Voters. All candidates were asked to identify the area of town in which they lived.
The mayoral candidates responded to the perception that the town is divided by suggesting the need for increased communication. Schiffman suggested robo calls as an inexpensive way to keep residents informed. Brinkhoff believes the most important issues facing Wellington are new water sources and an expanded sewer system, establishment of a high school, downtown renewal and completion of the community park. Schiffman listed a decision regarding the most efficient law enforcement, developing more methods of communication and seeking a larger tax base by enticing a major business to town.
Brinkhoff favors development of the park, as do the trustee candidates, but Schiffman believes the project is too expensive for the town to undertake right now. She is in the minority as several candidates spoke with enthusiasm about the park as a unifier for the residents of Wellington.
Schiffman agrees with every candidate that as the town grows, efforts must be made to maintain the small town atmosphere—the reason most residents chose to live in Wellington. Brinkhoff welcomes growth that will enable the town to provide more amenities and keep people closer to home. Schiffman mentioned how nice it would be to have a small private college locate in the area.
The two candidates agreed that to date the town’s finances were an “open book” but Schiffman said the town could do better in the area of financial transparency and affirmed her conservative outlook on spending.
In closing Schiffman emphasized her knowledge, education, business experience and desire to serve the community. Brinkhoff said people know him for seeing tasks through to completion and juggling several projects at a time.
Nine of the ten candidates for board of trustee positions each had one and a half minutes to introduce themselves, one minute to answer questions and a minute for a conclusion. The program concluded promptly at 9 p.m.
Because of illness, trustee candidate Barry Friedrichs was unable to attend the forum. There are four trustee positions open. The top three vote getters will serve four-year terms and the fourth highest will serve a two-year term.
As the nine candidates present introduced themselves, their commitment to being involved in a hometown they care a great deal about was obvious. Most have experience with one or more organizations in town and regularly attend meetings and events to keep themselves informed. Only a couple of candidates are relative newcomers to town. Many have children in local schools.
They are in agreement on developing the park and eventually the trail system connecting it to other areas of town, keeping a small-town feel, remaining fiscally conservative, and continuing to contract with the Larimer County Sheriff’s Office for law enforcement.
When asked about welcoming marijuana retail business to town, most were opposed but a few were willing to remain open-minded on the question. The majority seemed to feel that income derived from this type of business would be difficult to count on as an on-going, stable source of funds. Comments like “Wellington is not the community for that,” and “We need to cultivate healthy business,” expressed the majority opinion.
On the question of encouraging businesses to locate in Wellington, Tim Singewald said it is not the town’s job to seek businesses but rather the town should focus on streamlining the process to make it easier for businesses to get up and running in town. Bob Williams would encourage a focus on niche businesses, Jim McIntosh mentioned light industrial, David Noe pointed out the need for more “rooftops” to bring business to town and Raymond Billington saw the park as a plus for business development. Matt Michel suggested the need for a recreation center, some entertainment and was in favor of tax breaks for new businesses.
On the question of annexation to the town there was disagreement. Ashley Macdonald, Jim McIntosh and Tim Singewald do not see the need for additional annexation now. Bob Williams, Matt Michel, Raymond Billington, and Mishie Daknis see annexing as a positive thing.
Candidates listed everything from a one-page weekly newspaper to social media, a better town website, a newsstand with information, an electric marquee at the entrance to town and word of mouth as ways to enhance communication.
On the question of control of oil and gas drilling in the area, most favored local control. Travis Harling, who works in the industry, said local control and the ability to choose buffer zones to protect the environment is best while Singewald said this issue is best left to state and federal government.
Candidates’ visions for the future of their town ranged all the way from a couple more stop lights to a high school, a “safe place with an All-American feel,” a new highway overpass emphasizing a gateway theme and a group of goal oriented people working together to manage growth.
One-minute conclusions reiterated the candidates’ hope for a Board of Trustees representative of the whole town, financial soundness, more involvement of townspeople, the closing of the communication gap and emphasis on the 25-35 age group with young families that is a growing segment of the population.