Editor's note: This story has been updated to correct several inaccuracies. Val Carr is a candidate for mayor of Woodland Park. He was mistakenly listed under the city council candidates list. Robert Zuluaga is a candidate for city council who was mistakenly listed as a mayoral candidate. There were also errors in the background of city council candidate Jim Pfaff. The text has been updated below. The Courier regrets the errors.
Nine candidates — four for mayor and five for city council — appeared before a large audience at the March 11 Woodland Park Candidates’ Forum.
The forum was hosted by the Greater Woodland Park Chamber of Commerce and was moderated by former Councilwoman Carrol Harvey.
The four mayoral candidates are Councilwoman Kellie Case, Councilmen Noel Sawyer and Darwin Naccarato, and Mayor Pro Tem Val Carr. Council candidates are Robert Zuluaga, Jim Pfaff, Michael Dalton, Paul Rusty Neal and Don Dezellem.
Each candidate presented with an opening statement and stated why they’re running and what they want to accomplish in office.
Carr has served four years on City Council, spent 30 years in leadership positions and has served on numerous commissions, committees and boards. As a retiree, he said he would be a full-time mayor.
“I have been the most prepared member of council,” he said. “I would run council by the charter and help us make principled decisions. I retain the view that we need low-density, high-quality housing.”
Case has served on City Council for two years and was the city finance director/treasurer for 17 years.
“I would represent the citizens but only as one of the team,” she said. “I want to lead, build consensus and do the will of the people as much as we can. We have a charter and laws that we must meet.”
Naccarato has spent 30 years in the corporate world and teaches business management in a couple of universities. He was recently appointed to the council seat vacated by Harvey.
“I would not be leading you,” he said. “You are leading us. I will represent you.”
Sawyer has served on City Council for six years. He said he will not make empty promises, adding that he will be pragmatic, transparent and fiscally responsible.
“I have the youth, demeanor and energy to lead the city into the future,” he said.
City Council candidates
Dalton is the owner of Woodland Park Underground. He said he has helped many in the community and is running because he wants to give more of his time to help the city.
“I’m a storyteller and Woodland Park needs a new story,” he said. “We’ve heard that Woodland Park is a poor place to do business but a great place to live — we need to change that story.”
Dezellem said he has lived in Woodland Park off and on since the early 1990s and has always kept his roots in the city.
“I want to take the city into the next 10 to 20 years,” he said. “I want to develop more citizen input. I want to have coffees with council, office hours and quarterly drop-in time.”
Neal is a retired Army officer in the Airborne Rangers and had a second career in information technology. He has lived in at least 15 countries.
“I hope the way I solve problems will leave a favorable impression,” he said.
Pfaff, who has been a business and political consultant, previously worked for Focus on the Family. He headed up the state's Marriage Amendment campaign from petition gathering to campaign management and messaging. He started a Colorado Chapter of Americans for Prosperity and founded Colorado Family Institute. Pfaff also served as chief of staff for two congressmen in Washington, D.C., was the Douglas County GOP chair and is the Colorado House GOP Chief of Staff. His main focus on council would be debt reduction and eliminating the Downtown Development Authority, which he said is a “scam.”
Zuluaga, who lived and worked in Phoenix, for 24 years, said he has a passion for democracy, which derives its power from the people.
“It is my responsibility to make the city, county and country better,” he said. “I want to eliminate debt and preserve the quality of life through limited government.”
Harvey asked questions of individual candidates and allowed the rest to chime in if they wanted to. These questions were vetted by chamber members. Additionally, two members of the press each asked two questions.
Topics included the budget, debt reduction, housing, traffic, the city charter, water, time management and the Downtown Development Authority.
On the subject of helping the Woodland Park RE-2 School District, several candidates mentioned a city/district health-insurance sharing partnership.
“The question isn’t ‘What can we do for the schools?’” Pfaff said. “The question should be ‘What can the schools do for us?’”
He also advocated consolidating some of the school buildings, which he said were underutilized.
Dalton and Naccarato both advocated increased vocational education opportunities.
“The city needs to do more to attract jobs, which would bring in families, which would also help the schools,” Naccarato said.
“We could increase Park and Recreation programs,” Sawyer said. “We need more afterschool programs — there isn’t enough for kids to do in this town.”
Bios for each candidate and video of the three-hour forum is available on the chamber website, woodlandparkchamber.com. To find the video, go to the Events header, then click on the “City of Woodland Park Candidates Forum.”