Six seek seats on Crawford council

By Randy Sunderland

Crawford voters will be selecting four town council members and deciding one tax question involving marijuana sales tax in this year's municipal election. Ballots went out this week, and must be returned by Tuesday, April 3.

Of the six candidates seeking office, three are currently serving on the town council. Interestingly, only Mike Tiedeman was actually elected to the position. Chris Johnson and Jeff Peed were appointed to fill vacancies during 2017. The other candidates are Ralph Clark, Jessica Hart and Julie Kinder.

Each candidate was asked to provide some information about themselves, and their thoughts on some of the issues of this year's election. They are presented in the same order as they are listed on the ballot.

Ralph Clark was born and raised in Crawford, and still calls it home. He is 64, and he and his wife Jolie have three sons. He has worked 41 years in Delta County Road and Bridge, since 1986 he has been road foreman.

"I have been on the Crawford Fire Department ever since I can remember," said Clark. He explained that his father was fire chief when he was 10 or so, and Clark started doing things around the fire house at an early age. Although he has passed the fire fighting duties on to younger members of the department, Ralph continues to be involved as a member of the board of directors.

"One of my prouder things I've done," said Ralph, was to help bring the ambulance to Crawford. He explained that he was fire chief when that happened. Several bad accidents pointed out the need, and he worked with the ambulance head to have an ambulance stationed in town to improve response time.

He also has experience on town council, serving two terms in the mid-1980s.

When asked why he was a candidate, Ralph quipped, "Some days I ask myself that question." He explained, "I've lived in Crawford my whole life, and I certainly have a commitment to the community."

For Ralph, some of the priorities for council include solving its funding issue, drainage, and streets.

"They are cutting everything they can to get by," said Ralph while noting the diminishing impact of mining to the tax base and the two-time failure to gain voter approval of a mill levy increase. The lack of funding is impacting the ability of the town to do any more than basic maintenance.

Clark is also concerned about drainage, and sees the problem growing larger. "The Clipper Ditch, which carries a lot of runoff and tank overflow, is going to be piped in the near future," said Clark. "This will cause even bigger issues for drainage."

With his background in roads, Clark also places a priority on town streets.

When asked why marijuana and municipal court continue to come up on the town council agenda, Clark said the court was being discussed when he was on the council 30 years ago. "It will not happen in the near future," he explained, "because of the costs and because the number of possible cases will not justify it."

As for marijuana, Clark is "not a fan." "I still consider marijuana a drug," he said. "If the FDA says it's okay and you can buy it as a prescription drug, I'm okay with that.

"If we put it to the vote of the town ... if the majority of the people are in favor, so be it."

He added, "I would not like to see Crawford having places to buy it."

Ralph likes outdoor activities, especially involving horses and border collies. He said his wife got a dog and involved with the stock dog trials, and then got him involved as well.

Mike Tiedeman is 50, and he and his wife Stephanie have four adult children. He has lived in Crawford for 25 years, and has been employed by Delta County Road and Bridge, District 3, for more than 22 years. He has also been a member of the Crawford Fire Department for 23 years. He enjoys "outdoor stuff" like hunting and fishing.

It is his sense of community involvement which moves him to seek his third term on Crawford Town Council. "If you have an opinion," said Tiedeman, "you should be involved. And I have an opinion."

He likes his community, and wants to keep things "quiet." "I am not a politician," he said. "It is becoming a little more political than I would like." Legalizing marijuana and other things have contributed to a growing sense of disquiet in town, and Tiedeman said, "If we do have to deal with it, dealing with it responsibly is the way to go."

He also believes that much of the conflict stems from a lack of communication. "People need to start talking to each other," said Tiedeman. Whether it is conflict over marijuana, or barking dogs, he would like people to behave like neighbors and talk about their differences. "Don't build fences when they don't need to be built."

A priority for Tiedeman is to bring the town together. "The politics is here, and there is a table [council] that will look at both sides of the issues. The town is split, but it is no different than the country. He would like to see more people coming to the council meetings. "People seem to want to listen to gossip ... Why don't you show up for a meeting and see what is really happening?"

He also wants to keep things simple. "Most of the people are here in Crawford for that reason," he said. As an example, the sales tax question is confusing. The question on the ballot includes an estimate of revenue which will be generated if the voters approve a sale tax on marijuana sales. That number is required by state law, but is simply a guess. Approving the sales tax measure is not approval of the sale of marijuana in town. "People think marijuana is coming," said Tiedeman, "which is not what the ballot question is asking ... the overall picture is very confusing."

When asked why marijuana and municipal court continue to come up on the town council agenda, Tiedeman said he personally does not approve of marijuana. "If the town does vote it in, I would, as a council member, go along with the people ... but that hasn't happened."

The municipal court continues to be an issue because of rumors and gossip Tiedeman said. He explains that in general the council has agreed a municipal court is not happening. However, one member of council continues to keep the issue alive, which is confusing for the people. Tiedeman said the town cannot afford a municipal court, nor is it necessary. "It is nice to live somewhere that one of the biggest problems is barking dogs," he said.

Jeff Peed, 60, has lived in Crawford for two years. He is a bivocational church planter and "fixes wrecked cars for a living." He is pastor of Grace Community Church of Crawford, which meets at town hall. He and his wife Jennifer have four adult children. He was appointed to Crawford Town Council last September.

Prior to his appointment, Peed attended many council meetings as a way to get in touch with his new community. "It is not really that much different than a factious church business meeting," he noted. As a trustee, he considers the other person's point of view when making decisions.

He has a wide range of interests, from reading to hiking, enjoys history, B&B's and old houses. He also likes motor sports like motorcycle and street machine racing (the closest track is in Clifton), and things like the car cruise to Sonic in Delta or the car show at Zack's in Hotchkiss.

He decided to seek election because of a desire to serve. "I hope I am a voice of reason for the town, to look out for what is best for the community," he said. "Not everybody will agree, but that's why I'm there."

A priority for Peed is to help people to lay down their arms and believe the best of others.

He saw people stand up and yell at each other during council meetings, which is upsetting. "The people in the audience have a right to speak, but council has the right to keep order," he said, adding that everyone should be respectful towards one another even if they disagree.

"I'm known as the street walker," said Peed. He does a prayer walk every Monday, stopping at homes around town and visiting and praying with people he meets. It is a way to stay connected with the people in his community. He finds some love it, others don't. "It is what God calls me to do," he said.

The internet is also a big deal for the town. Peed would like to see broadband service in town, to improve the ability for folks to work from home and to attract off site workers to live in Crawford. He has lived in other communities with good connection speeds and understands the benefits of broadband. In Crawford, he often ends up going to the library when he needs more bandwidth.

When asked why marijuana and municipal court continue to come up on the town council agenda, Peed sees both sides of the issue. "Proponents believe it will bring income, the opponents feel it is detrimental to society," he said. "The proponents think taxes won't have to be raised because (a marijuana sales tax) will provide income ... but the other side has their voice as well, that it is detrimental to society."

Although the town cannot afford it, he understands that proponents see it as a way to enforce existing laws. "If you see something wrong, it is a way to get something done," he said. However, he understands that pro marijuana folks are also anti court and a certain segment of Crawford "bristles at the idea of someone telling them to pick up the junk in their yard."

He said all the trustees care about the people of town. As an example, he cited how the town dealt with people living in RV's and other non-conforming housing. The town informed the people that they were violating state and local codes, and gave them time to correct the problem - giving an extension to some who were trying to fix their problem.

"Working with people ... is an art," he said. "I am glad to do my part, to serve."

Chris Johnson, 58, was born and raised in Paonia, graduating from Paonia High School in 1977. He attend Colorado School of Mines, and graduated from the University of Colorado with a BA in environmental design (architecture). He and his wife Kim have six children, all are also graduates of PHS. They moved to Crawford in 1993. He was pastor the Crawford Friends Church for three and a half years and has worked a variety of other jobs including Mountain West Communications and RE/MAX Mountain. He worked for West Elk Mine for 10 years, and was laid off in June, 2016. He is currently working an a Master's degree in counseling along with his wife through Colorado Christian University.

He was appointed to town council in March 2017. "I would like to continue to serve," said Johnson. "I've been able to get familiar with the process ... I can offer leadership and insight as the town works through difficult and important issues."

He added, "I want to represent all the citizens of the town. I'm not afraid to reach out to those who I may not agree with, or those who have had some past conflicts with the town. I'm especially concern about divisions within the community and would like to help opposing sides learn to communicate and understand each other."

Priorities for Johnson include budget, code compliance, drainage, and public input. He is excited that the town is working with DOLA. "We will look to them for ideas and direction, including budgetary ideas and obtaining grants for specific projects," he said.

He would also improve public input. "We need to find ways to get more input from the town folks," said Johnson. "The only time some people speak up is if they are angry or if there is a conflict and people show up to take sides." He suggests the town could host information coffees or meetings to hear ideas. "We should sit down and talk with each other," he said, "as opposed to shouting at each other.

When asked why marijuana and municipal court continue to come up on the town council agenda, Johnson said, "Marijuana is not only a divisive issue in Crawford but is still so throughout the county and state as well. It seems that people are for it or against it and there is no in-between." Noting there are many fears and concerns about marijuana that may or may not accurate, Johnson would like to see objective and unbiased reports on all aspects of legalized marijuana.

"I'm personally not in favor of a municipal court nor do I sense that from a majority of the council. I'm not sure why it is such a contentious issue for some people," he said. "I am in favor of exploring ideas where we can address these issues by communicating and working with offenders, and then ultimately seek action in district court against those who willfully violate town ordinance and refuse to comply or address those violations."

He added that Crawford is a great place to live and has a lot of great people. "We won't solve any problems or win arguments through yelling, spreading rumors, making disparaging remarks, or displaying signs ... I would like to encourage folks to become involved in civil discourse with those they disagree and discover that they probably have more in common than they realize. Respect and civility can go a long way and its actually quite satisfying and rewarding," said Johnson.

Julie Kinder is 61. She and her husband Roy have six adult children. She was born and raised in Casper, Wyoming, and has lived in a lot of towns, from "super small to bigger" than Crawford. She has connections to Crawford through her husband, who had family in the area in the early 1900s. Her husband's work brought them to Crawford about 15 years ago. Although his work now takes him out of state, Julie said they continue to live in Crawford because they like it here. "It feels like home," said Kinder. "My spirit is happy here. I've traveled all over the country and finally I've found where I belong."

She is also proud of being the first woman hired by the Holiday Inn chain in its maintenance department. "I opened doors for other women, and that feels pretty good," she said.

Although she likes Crawford, she is running for town council because of frustration with how the council interacts with the citizens. "It seems they would rather raise taxes instead of working to bring people into the community. They don't want people in," she said.

"I think the town is dying, and if we don't start thinking outside the box the town will die completely," said Kinder. "Then there won't be a need for town council or anything else."

Revenue, drainage and better water storage are priorities for Kinder.

"I have all kinds of ideas for creating more revenue," said Kinder. She pointed out that there are many things the town could do to help bring more people into the community for a day or two, to spend money. "Pioneer Days is good, why not do a fall festival ... a fishing tournament ... a 5k race ... there are so many things the town can do," she said. "Until we can bring people to town, to spend money with the businesses, nothing will get better."

She would like to town to allow groups to use the community room for free, to encourage a diversity of groups.

She also believes the town should allow retail marijuana shops. It would provide an economic spark which would help local restaurants and stores, which would benefit from the increased number of people visiting the town. "Marijuana keeps coming back on the town's agenda," said Kinder, "because the council doesn't want it, but the people do. It would bring people to town, to buy ... to eat here. The town can't thrive until the businesses can thrive."

Although marijuana is a divisive issue, Kinder believes there is no need to fear marijuana. "I am an herbalist," she said. "We don't even know yet the benefits of this plant ... it is really not the 'evil weed'." She added that alcohol is the evil of society and pointed out that Crawford has two liquor stores.

She also does not believe the town needs a municipal court. Kinder said it appears the council is looking at a court as a way to generate money, and that is the wrong way to determine the need of a court.

"A community is like a living organism," Kinder noted. "The people are the cells. If you don't nurture all the cells, pretty soon the organism dies."

Jessica Hart, 34, has lived in Crawford more than 20 years. She has left a couple of times but always came back. "It's just home," said Hart. She and her husband, John, have four kids, ranging in age from 17 to 4. She works in home health care, working for Valley Care Providers in Paonia, and also works at Diamond Joe Café in Crawford. She and her family loves doing anything outdoors, and they spend a lot of time supporting their kids, who are active in sports.

Hart decided to run for town council because she felt it was time to get involved. She is upset with the fighting and bickering. "It seems our town kind of got divided, and I hate to see it like that," she said. "I don't know if I can make a big change on that, but I figured I should try."

Her biggest priority would be addressing the rift between the people in town. She said she gets along with people on both sides of the big issues, such as marijuana. There is also a need to rebuild the trust between the town and its people. "I agree with bits and pieces from both sides. Hopefully everyone can calm down and try to get along," added Hart.

She also notes there is a lot of little stuff the town could address, a lot of things which needs fixing. "We have some momentum," said Hart as she pointed to new restaurants and people cleaning up store fronts and properties. "Hopefully we can get our town growing again," she added.

When asked why marijuana and municipal court continue to come up on the town council agenda, Hart replied, "I don't know why it has been blown out into the big deal it has become. People need to look at from different perspectives ... the town could use the tax revenue, and I also understand the perspective of not letting it get out of control." She has talked with a lot of folks in town who would be okay with marijuana stores in town, as a way to bring in significant tax dollars.

As for municipal court, Hart believes the town cannot afford one. Although she can see why the town needs to deal with persistent problems like barking dogs or speeding, Hart said, "Why can't we just talk to each other ... try to be the friendly little town that we say we are."

She attended her first town council meeting recently, and said she would go to more meetings in the future, even if she is not elected. "It is what we should do," said Hart.