Mayor Steckel recalls accomplishments

By Tamie Meck


Mayor Steckel recalls accomplishments | Crawford

Photo by Tamie Meck During her term as mayor of Crawford, Carolyn "Susie" Steckel helped oversee the community renovation of Town Hall, formerly the Crawford School. Steckel has announced she will not seek re-election. Trustees Wanda Gofforth and Gill Sau

Carolyn "Susie" Steckel is proud of Crawford's accomplishments during her four-year term as mayor.

At the top of Steckel's list going into office were the slowing of traffic on Highway 92 through the downtown core, and completion of the renovation and remodeling of Town Hall.

With hard work from dedicated community members and the Friends of Crawford Town Hall, grants from the Gates and Boettcher foundations and the state, private donations and a lot of fundraising efforts, work on the 103-year-old former Crawford School building is largely complete and a celebration was held last July.

"Now it gets used," said Steckel.

Slowing traffic, however, hasn't been that easy.

Steckel, the first female mayor of Crawford since it was established in 1911, announced in January that she will not seek re-election in the town of about 400. She credits town staff and council members for working together to get things done, including passing a balanced budget despite decreasing revenues. "We have accomplished so much," said Steckel.

One big accomplishment was joining the Federal Emergency Management Agency, allowing property owners to obtain insurance through the National Flood Insurance Program, and establishing building codes to mitigate flood risks.

The town also started a sidewalk improvement project and restored the stage adjacent to Town Hall, also part of the old Crawford School, after years of neglect. Last year Crawford became the first town in Delta County to switch to efficient street lighting through the Delta-Montrose Electric Association, cutting the town's lighting costs in half. "It saved us a lot of money," said Steckel.

After more than 50 years of volunteerism, community service and raising children and grandchildren, Steckel said she's now ready to do some of the things she never got to in her 70-plus years. She started her career in volunteerism in the 1960s, serving several terms as precinct chair for the Delta County Republican Party, and as treasurer for the Western Colorado Cowbells.

She became more involved with the community after touring western Colorado with the Delta County Tourism Cabinet, of which she is a founding member, and touting all Crawford and Delta County have to offer.

In 1979, she and a group of friends created a local celebration called Pioneer Days. All the other Delta County towns had their annual celebrations, she recalled. "Crawford needed a festival," one that would celebrate its heritage, its pioneer spirit and its cows.

One year during the festival she was almost arrested for closing the street for a dance after informing everyone from then Colorado Department of Highways down, but forgetting to tell the Sheriff's Department.

Steckel eventually stepped down from the Pioneer Days board, knowing the celebration, now in its 38th year, was in good hands.

For a time, she single-handedly ran the Crawford Chamber of Commerce office. "I was the Chamber," she laughed.

Susie and husband Dick were also busy raising a family. When their daughter died, they raised their grandkids, Shayla and Tristan.

Steckel was appointed to council when son Rick stepped down after 13 years of service when he moved out of town. Dick had always wanted her to run. "He had so much confidence in me," she said. When he became terminally ill in 2008, she told him she would run.

Steckel ran unopposed for the mayor's seat, previously held for 24 years by Jim Crook. During her term, council has faced a few challenges, including the issue of marijuana operations in town, a failed recall effort, a flash flood, and a stolen town truck (which was quickly recovered).

The highlight of her career with the town, said Steckel, was getting to know town staff and her fellow councilors. "The town of Crawford is so lucky to have the people we do."

She also appreciates the lessons in municipal law, and learning how to better communicate with people. She hopes to see some of the practices the board put into place, including saluting the flag before every council meeting and holding only one meeting in December. The hour before the December meeting, council hosts a community potluck. "Food always brings people together," she said.

Steckel hopes to stay involved, but on a limited basis. Trustees Wanda Gofforth and Gill Saunders have announced they will run for mayor. She sees several tough issues waiting for them and the next council to tackle, including the ushering in of high-speed broadband Internet service and completion of the sidewalk project. The town also needs to increase the mill levy, which has decreased over the years and is at 2.42 mills, currently the lowest of the county municipalities, which is expected to generate about $6,400 this year. She knows that will be an unpopular subject, but while the town has tightened its belt considerably in recent years, more money is needed for future capital projects.

As for slowing traffic on Highway 92, stopping people from driving above the 25-mph speed zone through the winding downtown core, and in particular in the area of the Hitching Post where sight distance is limited, remains a serious safety issue, said Steckel. "'People just don't slow down."

She would also like to see greater attendance at meetings, and more participation from the public. Steckel said she believes the current council conducted business in a way that brought people together. "I just hope that continues."