With claims of a divisive Montrose City Council, three candidates – all new to the political realm – are stepping out of their day-to-day community roles this April to run for public office, with claims that they can do better.
First-time political candidates Jim Brockman and Judy Ann Files are competing for the at-large seat.
That seat is currently held by Bill Patterson, former Montrose mayor and Montrose County commissioner. Patterson isn't running for his at-large seat; instead, he is challenging mayor and incumbent Kathy Ellis for the district IV seat.
And vying for incumbent Gail Marvel's District III seat is retired business owner Bob Nicholson.
Ballots will be mailed out to Montrose residents starting March 9; Election Day is April 3. The new councilmembers will be sworn in on April 17.
For more information on the election and the candidates, visit www.cityofmontrose.org and select Elections under the City Government tab.
At-Large Seat contenders: Jim Brockman and Judy Ann Files
Jim Brockman moved back to Montrose to retire in 2003 after 40 years in the insurance business, working in positions ranging from claim adjuster to company vice president, in Durango and in Arizona. He said his business experience, as well as his experience in with policy, budgets and managing staff, will be beneficial to the city council.
Brockman said there seems to be contention among councilmembers, related to both business and social issues.
“The city is a business and it should be operating as a business,” he said. “I think I can bring that council together to operate more efficiently and effectively for the residents of Montrose.”
Brockman said the push to get bigger companies to relocate to Montrose is not working, and that a new direction must be taken.
“You can build a business district with smaller companies,” he said. “We are a centralized location for this side of Colorado, and we need to develop and push that in every way we can ….”
Brockman said the creation of the Downtown Development Authority is a start for incubating business development, but that other areas should be explored, including attracting more retired residents.
“A lot of retirees have money and are looking for a place to live and they are looking for a place to spend,” he said. “Money flowing through town helps everyone.”
Another problem Brockman said is being overlooked is the faltering infrastructure in the older parts of Montrose. He would like to see the city plan ahead, so that issues can be better handled, when they arise.
Judy Ann Files has lived in Montrose for 43 years, and has worked as an educator for 38 years. Now eight years into her retirement, Files said, she finally has the time to commit to council – and the desire.
“My goal would be to have the Montrose City Council be a team that would work together for the betterment of the community,” she said.
That is not only her goal, she said; it also it seems to be council's biggest challenge.
Files has been an active community participant in several capacities over the years. She was an educator in the Montrose County School District for 35 years, working as a special education teacher for her last eight years on the job. That training has given her experience in consensus building, collaboration and team building – all traits that she could bring to council, she said.
Files also has served on the city's parks advisory board and represented the community as a volunteer with the former Montrose Chamber of Commerce; her work with the area's public lands visitor center brought her the Volunteer of the Year award from the Colorado Bureau of Land Management.
“I'm not going to say that I have the magic answer to anything,” Files said, but added that she is aware of the issues (she's attended council meeting for the past eight months, she said) and can bring creative thinking to the board.
District III contenders: incumbent Gail Marvel and Bob Nicholson
Gail Marvel was first elected to council in 2008, and she is running for the same reasons this she always has in this election, she said.
“I want to serve. I don't have an agenda and I don't make promises,” Marvel said, adding that she would rather address the issues with a “fresh eye” as they arise, thereby making the best decisions for the citizens.
Marvel, who has lived in Montrose since 1953, spent three years in the Navy and three years in the Colorado National Guard in Montrose.
“I'm interested in making [Montrose] a type of community where our kids don't have to leave town to get an education and a job and then try to get back home,” she said. “The reality is that we don't have a lot of jobs and educational opportunities.”
Marvel said one of the biggest challenges facing the city is its revenue stream, and that she is encouraged by new City Manager Bill Bell's focus on economic development. She want to continue to support Bell and said that to do so, councilmembers need to not stifle ideas and programs that come before them that can demonstrate a positive economic development component.
Bob Nicholson relocated to Montrose from the Front Range to raise his children in 1994, having become familiar with the area when his construction company built projects in Montrose and Delta in the 1980s and 1990s.
Now retired, Nicholson said he'd like to use his experience as a civil engineer – which has given him insight into everything from city infrastructure to planning and budgeting – and his experience as a businessman to better the community.
“I, like a lot of citizens, am frustrated with both a tone and lack of responsiveness that has been oftentimes described as both divisive and dysfunctional,” he said about the current council, when asked why he is running.
Nicholson believes one of the biggest challenges the city is facing is economic.
“Jobs are a huge issue here,” he said. “And from my perspective, we've got to create a climate that addresses that.”
And though higher education should not be just a city goal, it is in the city's best interest to support an increased presence of Colorado Mesa University in Montrose, he added.
“I'd like to see the scope of Mesa State University enhanced for the City of Montrose,” Nicholson said. “It's another element that is very important to the quality and maintenance of a good life in Montrose.”
District IV contenders: incumbent Mayor Kathy Ellis and Bill Patterson
Kathy Ellis moved to Montrose in 1999 after retiring as a compliance auditor, and was elected to city council in 2008.
“My husband and I worked really hard to retire early to come over to Montrose, but once we got here, we realized we hadn't finished working yet,” Ellis said. “We moved here for the quality of life, and we feel like we are working hard to maintain that quality.”
Ellis' husband is current Montrose County Commissioner Gary Ellis.
Ellis said she has done a good job on council for the past four years, and that she has chosen to run again so that she can continue to serve her community.
She gave credit to city employees, citing several council accomplishments that she had too a hand in, including the hiring of City Manager Bill Bell, the creation of the city's Youth Council and the continued city support of the Downtown Development Authority.
But she also recognizes the challenges ahead, Ellis emphasized, saying that recycling and sanitation is one of those issues (see related story on coverage of the Montrose City Council's most recent meeting.)
She said council's decision to listen to constituents and not raise fees to pay for the city's recycling program demonstrated openness and transparency. She agreed with council's move to explore other options.
“It's a hard problem to work through,” she said. “But hopefully, we'll be able to reinstate recycling and offer a service to our community.”
Bill Patterson was elected in 2010 to serve a two-year term in the council's at-large seat. Prior to his election, Patterson served as a Montrose County commissioner and city mayor.
He is running again because there are several things he believes must still be accomplished, including continued support for the new city manager, a focus on small improvements (such as the city's unpaved streets that can provide local contractors with work) and expanding the capital improvement budget.
As a businessman who relocated his manufacturing company to Montrose, Patterson said he understands the benefits and limitations that Montrose presents to potential business.
“We are at the end of the transportation network, so it's hard to bring those businesses,” he said. “We need to focus on businesses that are using our local products and distributing locally – and that is agriculture.
“We need to look at how we can utilize what we have,” he said.
One thing Montrose does have is water, so why not explore businesses in that arena?
“That is beyond city council,” he responded. “But what we can do is provide a business environment in the community that makes it easy for business to relocated and build here,” he said.
Patterson said he also believes that higher education is a missing link in the economic development equation, and that he supports the expansion of higher-education opportunities in Montrose.