Palisade Candidate Forum

By DAN WEST/The Daily Sentinel

Candidates for the town of Palisade’s Board of Trustees answered questions and made their pitch to voters at a forum Saturday morning.

The 10 candidates vying for a seat on the Palisade Board of Trustees met Saturday morning at a forum where they discussed their visions for the future and the issues the town will need to address.

Many of the candidates touched on similar concerns over housing and business development, infrastructure improvements and the need for a new comprehensive plan.

There are currently three seats open for trustee positions and for mayor. Current Mayor Roger Granat is not running as he has reached his term limit. Mayor Pro Tem Gregory Mikolai and former Mayor Pro Tem David Edwards are both running for the position of mayor.

Mikolai said if he were elected mayor he would work to ensure the board was collaborative and all voices were heard. He said there were issues he thought the next board would need to deal with regarding infrastructure, but stressed he was open to all ideas.

“I like to think that I don’t have an agenda because I’ve found through experience that people with agendas don’t tend to have an open mind about people’s ideas and concerns,” Mikolai said. “We have to remember that the mayor is one vote sitting on a board with six other citizens of Palisade. The role of Mayor is not to dictate actions to the board, but to lead discussions and decisions that will benefit our community.”

Edwards said one of his main focuses was on creating a new comprehensive plan, which would give the town direction and provide clarity on how it addresses future development.

“It is absolutely important that we renew our plan, that we figure out together with the townspeople what it is that we want Palisade to be,” Edwards said. “Having a comprehensive plan will allow us to have predictable outcomes. It will allow us to repair what is needed in this town in a way that people agree with.”

Nicole Maxwell is running for a trustee seat and said she would use her voice on the board to advocate for smart growth. She said tourism in Palisade is important, but that future growth should be balanced with the needs of town residents.

“I have a vision of Palisade and what I would like it to be for them moving forward in the future,” Maxwell said. “The best way to invoke change is to be involved.”

Christopher Curry said he fell in love with Palisade after pursuing a job opportunity in the Grand Valley.

Curry said Palisade shared many of the same issues he found in his hometown of Dolores.

“The reason I’m jumping in and trying to get involved here is we’ve started careers here,” Curry said. “I’m actually 13 days into fatherhood. So I’m still shaking from that, but I’m looking to help out where I can.”

Thea Chase, who is currently on the Board of Trustees, said she has been involved in various boards during her years living in Palisade. Chase said she has worked on projects within Palisade going back to the 1990s and feels it is a duty to volunteer her time.

“I’ve been on the council now for the past six years,” Chase said. “I’ve been involved with the tourism advisory board, with the Chamber of Commerce, with all kinds of groups in the community. Really, it’s because I feel it is our responsibility as citizens to get involved and serve.”

Heather Aspy said she had the time and energy to devote to serving on the board. She said better communication with the community would be a priority for her if she were elected.

“We need to attract revenue to continue to grow and we need to find good ways to do that,” Aspy said. “Palisade needs to open communications and I know how to do that.”

The need for a new comprehensive plan was stressed by candidate Ellen Turner. She said a plan to deal with infrastructure and development that included community input is needed.

“The primary issue I am concerned with is the infrastructure here in town, which includes the streets, the sidewalks, the sewer,” Turner said. “All of that should be dealt with with community input.”

Water rights and infrastructure were among the issues Bill Carlson said were the most important for the town to address. He said the town’s water rights must be protected for the future.

“The biggest asset this town has is the water,” Carlson said. “We have to be very careful on our water rights and not let anyone get control of our water rights.”

Betsy McLaughlin has lived in Palisade for more than a decade, but she said she saw her former town of Breckenridge transform as its population grew dramatically. She warned that Palisade needed to prepare for future growth. She also cited better communication as a need in the community.

“With the population growth that is expected especially on the Western Slope, I think that Palisade is going to see an increase in population,” McLaughlin said. “We need to be very careful about the businesses and the housing that we are approving.”

Maintaining a welcoming atmosphere, while managing growth were two issues David Smith said he would focus on if he were elected as a trustee. Smith, who owns local tour business Pali-Tours, also said a comprehensive plan was needed to ensure future growth maintains the character of Palisade.

“My goal is to responsibly look at and aid in the development of a successful plan to manage growth,” Smith said. “This keeps the integrity and feel of our beloved community intact.”

Voters will make their choice for mayor and trustees during the municipal elections on Tuesday, April 7.