City critic may seek position on the council

Jacob Richards speaks at a meeting about the homeless at Whitman Park as Sean McNeal watches.

An outspoken watchdog of Grand Junction’s police operations is considering a run for City Council.

Jacob Richards has been an activist in local protests, and his allegations last year of police breaking up homeless camps resulted in the firing of three Grand Junction police officers.

Richards is one of four possible candidates running for City Council’s open at-large seat. Richards said he has not officially decided whether he will run, but he expects to make the decision by next week.

“I’m seriously looking at it,” he said.

Plenty of time remains for people to apply as a candidate for any of the three open City Council positions. Applications and the required 50 signatures are due back to the city Jan. 24.

Also running for the at-large position as of Thursday are John Ballagh, Helen deVergie and Joshua Wussick, according to city records. Bennett Boeschenstein and Aaron Norris are running for a seat in District C, and City Council member Sam Susuras will seek a full term in District B. Susuras was appointed last year to the District B seat by the City Council to complete the term of Linda Romer Todd.

District C, which includes the eastern edge of the city to Pear Park, has been represented by Gregg Palmer for two, four-terms, and the open, at-large seat has been Bruce Hill’s for eight years. Palmer and Hill are term-limited.

City Council members earn $500 a month. They may be appointed to serve on any number of volunteer boards and must attend City Council meetings and other city-related functions.

Boeschenstein, a retired, community planner, said he would like to see the city work more closely with some nonprofits. He is interested in seeing the city boost the local economy through economic development programs, and he wants to see the city more prominently feature its riverfront properties.

“I’m really interested in local government here. Now I’d like to be on the other side of the table,” he said.

Susuras said he is enjoying his time as a council member and would like to continue to serve. If elected, Susuras said, he will focus on budget issues and getting salaries of city employees to more accurately reflect similar positions in the private sector.

Ballagh, manager at the Grand Valley Drainage District, said he is retiring in June. He said he has an understanding of water issues after serving for more than two decades on the Clifton Water District board.

“I’ve been involved in private and public development,” he said.  “I’m willing to listen to the people who have a point of view to make.”

Wussick, an airport planner with Armstrong Consultants, previously lived in Southern California. He said he would like to help shape Grand Junction to grow in positive ways that work.

“Coming from a bigger city, I’ve seen a lot of things that don’t work,” he said. “I think I have a pretty good background as a public servant. I’d like to hear what the residents of Grand Junction have to say.”

Norris, an attorney at Chris Mahre & Associates, said he has considered running for the council for a while, and the medical marijuana dispensary issue prompted him to consider it more seriously.

“The dispensary issue was not handled well,” Norris said.

He also said he would like to see the city plan for the future better to avoid the effects of boom and bust cycles.

DeVergie did not return a call for comment.

Anyone interested in running for City Council should either visit the City Clerk’s Office at 250 N. Fifth St. or call the office at 244-1511.


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