Published: March 26, 2014
Monument's mayoral race features a six-year town trustee and a former civic employee who hopes 20 years in the trenches will give her an advantage when voters cast their ballots Tuesday.
Mary Russelavage moved to Monument in 1990 and has worked for the town and also for Palmer Lake. She pointed to experience as a finance assistant, deputy treasurer and other positions when asked of her qualifications to challenge Rafael Dominguez, who has been a town trustee since 2008.
"I feel I have a good grasp of what needs to be done and what should be done," Russelavage said in a recent interview.
Dominguez also focused on experience when asked why he should be the successor to outgoing Mayor Travis Eaton.
Dominguez touted his 22-year career in the U.S. Marine Corps. He said his tenure taught him to become a leader.
"I think leadership is key in governance," Dominguez said. "Leadership is the foundation how we all were framed (in the Marine Corps)."
Monument's population grew by about 85 percent during the last 10 years. Both candidates spoke about the importance of dealing with continued growth, and said growth needs to be handled in a positive, intelligent manner. The growth has been evident during the last decade with continued sprawl to the east and an ever-increasing big-box retail presence along Jackson Creek Parkway.
Russelavage said handling growth with care is extremely important because many residents of the northern El Paso County town of more than 5,500 don't want the small-town atmosphere to disappear.
"It was such a small, quaint, friendly town when I moved here," Russelavage said. "And I think it still is. I'm not against bringing businesses and jobs in. I just want to make sure that it is done in a positive way."
Dominguez also sees recent growth and hopes it will continue.
"I think Monument has become more prominent in the Tri-Lakes region," Dominguez said, noting that the big-box businesses have brought a lot of sales tax money to the town and have put Monument in strong financial standing.
The town trustee said growth needs to be managed in such a way that prosperity continues and infrastructure needs don't fall behind the new construction.
Dominguez is also a proponent of bringing jobs to town. He points to the town's largest employer, Synthes, which makes medical devices, as a leader. Dominguez would like to see more companies in Monument like Synthes. He said bringing more medical industry businesses would mean even more high-paying jobs for the Tri-Lakes region.
Dominguez places job creation in Monument at the top of his list of the main challenges facing the next mayor.
Russelavage put water conservation at the top of her list, noting that educating the community about regional water limits will help as new industries and continued residential construction strain the already challenged supply.
"Our water structure cannot stand up to the predicted growth," she said.
Dominguez also put the water issue high on his list, emphasizing a need to encourage xeriscaping in the town.
Russelavage also said public safety is important. She advocates for maintaining strong police and fire presence and making sure the bar remains high.
Neither candidate supports allowing retail marijuana sales in town, but said there's not much that can be done if the people of Palmer Lake vote April 8 to legalize the industry within town limits.
"We're not going to step away from it if it does become a problem," Dominguez said.
"We'll be ready to offer any assistance they might need."
"It's still illegal according to the federal government," Russelavage said.
Six candidates for Board of Trustees
Three Monument Board of Trustees seats are open, and voters on Tuesday can choose from among six candidates.
Current trustees Jeff Kaiser and Stan Gingrich are among those running. They will be challenged by Kelly Elliott, Melinda Hall, Deana Demeter and Ron Farley.
The Gazette sent short questionnaires via email to all six candidates. Kaiser, Gingrich Elliott and Farley responded.
Kaiser, Gingrich and Elliott listed the water supply as the No. 1 issue Monument will face in 2014 and in the years to come. Elliott said minimizing the economic impact on the community while coming up with a long-term plan "is top priority." Kaiser and Gingrich noted that whatever solution arises, it has to be one that comes through partnerships with other districts and benefits the region.
Farley said he was prompted to run for a trustee seat to help preserve Monument as a small town, the reason he moved there four years ago. He said the development of Jackson Creek brought too much traffic.
"The reason people moved to a small town is to get away from the hustle and bustle," he said. "I love it here and would like it to remain the small town I love."
Kaiser, Gingrich and Elliott also share a focus on economic growth for the region that lies between Colorado Springs and Denver. They all said continued growth in housing and business starts is expected as more people move to the Tri-Lakes area.
According to Gingrich, economic growth cannot get in the way of maintaining a "family friendly" atmosphere and culture. Kaiser agreed. He also said taxpayers need fiscally responsible leadership to "prevent out-of-control governments from reaching even deeper into their pockets."