Stark choice in Fruita
Firebrand veteran challenges incumbent Mayor Buck
Alan Story didn’t think he had a chance at winning Fruita’s mayoral race until he started hearing from supporters around town. Now, he thinks he’s got a 50/50 chance at winning the seat.
“I can’t believe the support I am getting,” he said, about people noticing him in public. “I thought hell would freeze over before I got elected.”
Story, 67, is easy to pick out in a crowd with his Vietnam Veteran baseball hat adorned with the name of his nonprofit welding business, a campaign button of Ron Paul and the photo of a woman, Tisha Casida, who heads the group Blue Republican Colorado, a “liberty-curious” group. His Toyota Prius currently is plastered with signs, a toy machine gun on top and a poster touting his candidacy on the back.
Story has been a Fruita resident since 1987. He made the news most recently for hosting press conferences in his living room during the candidacy of Jared Wright, Fruita’s current representative for House District 54.
If elected, Story said he will fire a host of department heads including the city manager, city planner, and the city engineer, and he will cut the police force in half. Story said he will cut 5,500 regulations from the city’s books and fire two staff members from the Fruita Community Center.
With a Story mayoral term, residents will not be charged to use the pool or gym and there will be no cost to rent the rooms. Furthermore, the exercise room will be closed as a cardio room and used for dances or chili suppers or breakfasts. Story said he would do this because he doesn’t believe the city should compete with the private sector in business ventures.
He formulated his points because he doesn’t want to be wishy-washy.
“It is harsh, but I wanted people to know exactly where I stood,” he said.
Story said he decided to run for mayor after attempting to start a welding business west of Fruita’s Family Dollar store a couple years ago, yet he disagreed with some of the stipulations required by the city including adding 27 parking spaces and dedicating 10 percent of acreage to landscaping.
“It would have been a $500,000 shop with 12 employees,” he said.
Story said he’s talked to 17 other businesses who he said have experienced some sort of setback when trying to conduct business in Fruita.
As of this fall, Story has a permanent restraining order placed on him by the Hot Tomato, the popular pizzeria at 124 N. Mulberry St. Story said he is innocent of the allegations and is appealing the restraining order.
According to the complaint, Story is accused of clipping his fingernails while waiting in line and throwing them at a worker who he previously had asked out to lunch. The female worker had refused his request. Another incident alleges that Story placed bright pink signs on his vehicle parked outside of the restaurant, saying the Hot Tomato discriminates against veterans and telling customers not to go inside because the Hot Tomato “sucks.” Story at first refused to leave, saying he was on the sidewalk, which is public property, and he was demonstrating his First Amendment rights.
Story also made the news a few years ago when he painted some “x” markings on the Redlands Parkway in an attempt to make it safer for drivers. Story said he was upset that the Colorado Department of Transportation failed to make the improvements in a dangerous area, so he spent about $600 of his own money to mark the road. Authorities later sandblasted the marks off, Story said.
In campaign literature, Story said he teaches a class at Colorado Mesa University on Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and schizophrenia, two conditions that he has.
Story clarified that he doesn’t teach classes at the school, but for 15 years, nursing students from the university would come to the Veterans Affairs Medical Center to listen to him describe his symptoms.
Story created his company as a nonprofit organization so he could continue to help a number of youths and write off the donations for tax purposes. Story said he meets waitresses and others in public places who need help, for example paying for an X-ray scan for a waitress at Starvin Arvin’s who thought she broke her ankle, and fronting the money for braces for a worker at Fruita’s branch of Enstrom Candies.
If elected, he’ll donate his monthly wage to charity.
“I won’t take the $435. I’ll give it to the food bank,” Story said.
FRUITA MAYOR SEEKS RE-ELECTION
Fruita native Lori Buck moved to the Front Range for more than a decade to go to school, but breathed a sigh of relief after returning to Fruita.
The fourth-generation Lower Valley resident enjoys seeing folks she knows and knowing people in her community.
“I love living here,” she said. “You’re just a faceless, nameless person over there.”
Buck, 42, has been Fruita’s mayor for the past two years and was a councilor for six years before that. Buck also served on a number of the city’s other boards including planning commission, parks and recreation, the city’s tourism board, and its arts and culture board.
Buck said she likes being involved in civic government because it means working for positive change for people she knows.
“I like knowing that what I’m doing is helping family and friends,” she said.
Buck said she believes that Fruita is friendly to business, contrary to statements made by Story. Sometimes council is blamed for requirements required by the building department, she said. During a candidate forum on Monday night, Buck said she would be for big-box stores locating in Fruita if they met the proper zoning codes and other regulations.
In general, she’s encouraged that downtown Fruita is filling up with businesses and more people seem to be frequenting and loitering in the core.
For future economic development possibilities, she would love to see south Fruita become a tourism hub including the John McConnell Math & Science Center of Western Colorado, Dinosaur Journey and Grand Valley Zoological Quest, who recently opened a nature center in the area. Officials with the Math & Science Center have announced plans to build a new facility nearby.
“That just screams potential,” she said. “It could be that unique campus in the whole part of the state. We’re taking steps to push that along.”
Buck said she appreciates the dialog among current councilors, although the viewpoints vary widely. On former councils, conversations sometimes turned contentious, she said, creating a difficult environment in which to work.
“We don’t feel animosity,” she said of her co-councilors. “We respectfully disagree. I like to think I’m helping with that.”
Buck works part-time for the family’s business, Bighorn Consulting.
She has been married for 20 years with two daughters, ages 16 and 9.
Buck said she’ll be happy when the mayoral race is over because she’s not fond of campaigning.
“I just like to work behind the scenes,” she said.