Council candidates, in their own words

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In the race for Littleton City Council, incumbents Bruce Beckman and Bruce Stahlman are being challenged by James Dean and John Watson for the two open at-large seats. Running unopposed are newcomer Randy Stein in District 1 and incumbent Phil Cernanec in District 3. Colorado Community Newspapers asked all six candidates a series of questions, and their answers are below.

At-large

Bruce Beckman

Beckman and his wife, Susan, a former Arapahoe County commissioner and former Littleton City Council member, have lived in Littleton for more than 20 years. He retired from the Littleton Police Department as a division chief in 2011.

Beckman earned a bachelor’s degree from Washington and Lee University in Lexington, Va., and a master’s degree in public administration from the University of Northern Colorado.

Why are you seeking this office?

It has been an honor to represent the community as a councilmember at large for the past two years. It was an easy decision to run again. I still have work to do and would like to be kept on the job. Any successful and effective candidate for city council must, above all else, love Littleton and want the best for the community. That describes me. I have lived a wonderful life here and believe that I have skills to offer that will help to ensure that Littleton remains a wonderful place for others.

What makes you the best person for the job?

My roots are deep here. I spent 40 years working, living and raising a family in Littleton. I have the sense of history about what makes Littleton special. When making important decisions and voting, I put the neighborhoods first. I know that makes a difference. I like people and care about what they have to say. I know that the best ideas come from others. My personal goal is always to leave things better than I found them. That is my goal on council. I have a voting record that supports my beliefs.

What do you believe is the most important issue facing Littleton and how will you approach it, if elected?

The most important issue facing Littleton is how to protect the quality of life in our neighborhoods while dealing with slightly increasing city tax revenue and greatly increasing cost of services. The next council will make decisions concerning economic vitality for businesses located in town, face pressure for higher-density housing, and consider redevelopment of the retail sales base that provides most of the revenue for city services. These challenges are coming. Council involvement is required because of changes in the metro Denver area and the changes in our economy. City council must set, and follow, policies that protect the quality of life of those who live here now. Council must make decisions that, above all else, ensure the positive future for our city without losing the unique community that we know as Littleton. I am optimistic about our future, but recognize the challenge of protecting our neighborhoods.

James Dean

The political newcomer lives in Trailmark and wants to help his neighborhood, across Wadsworth Boulevard from Chatfield Reservoir, feel more connected to the city.

Dean has a master’s degree in communications and broadcast journalism from Brigham Young University. He owns Colorado Care Rehab Inc., which sells orthopedic medical devices. He and his wife, Mindy, have lived in Littleton since 2003 and have six kids.

Why are you seeking this office?

I am seeking office to try and give a voice back to all citizens of the City of Littleton. There are many outlying communities that have been neglected and looked at as an obligation rather than an important part of the community. I believe this has caused the council to make decisions that are not in the best interest for all of the City of Littleton. I hope to give some representation to those on the outskirts and bring some common sense back to city government. I want give better support to our public service, police, fire and paramedics who are struggling for resources.

What make you the best person for the job?

I believe I am the best person for the job because of my business experience. Running a successful business requires the ability to think outside the box. When the income doesn’t quite match the expenses, it is common sense that some trimming needs to happen. … I also have the important negotiation skills necessary to run a business and to make a city council more effective in its endeavors. Listening is another important cog to making things work in the most effective way and not just as someone in authority sees fit.

What do you believe is the most important issue facing Littleton and how will you approach it, if elected?

Because Littleton is landlocked, it is extremely important that we are very careful in how we use the existing land. There needs to be a balance to maintaining the wonderful community that we have while also ensuring enough economic growth to support the city so that its citizens don’t get stuck with higher taxes. There have been some very bad decisions to shove high-density housing into areas that could have been a great economic growth location. When the economy is more stable, we will see a higher vacancy in those apartments, which will be detrimental to the city. I think the most important issue facing our city is lack of clear vision. This year, the state government has allotted almost $6 million to attract businesses and tourism and I would like to use that money to help grow the future for the City of Littleton.

Bruce Stahlman

Stahlman believes his background in finance and management has served the community well for the last four years, and he hopes to continue to focus on tax savings, encouraging job growth and enhancing citizens’ quality of life.

Stahlman has lived in Littleton for 18 years. He and his wife of 28 years, Kelly, have three children. He holds a bachelor’s degree in economics and management from Albion College and a master’s degree from Indiana University. He is the chief financial officer of ARC Thrift Stores.

Why are you seeking this office?

I’ve thoroughly enjoyed the privilege of serving the citizens on council for the past four-plus years. Hardly a meeting goes by that I don’t learn something new. Engaging people throughout the community I’d otherwise never have come in contact with and working to resolve issues has been particularly rewarding. Collaborating with organizations such as Littleton Public Schools and other regional governments has helped me expand my vision of the local landscape. The betterment of Littleton today as well as down the road is something I’m very passionate about.

What makes you the best person for the job?

With 32 years in international corporate finance, an MBA in finance from Indiana University and a CPA (registered), I’m comfortable analyzing budgets and the financial attributes of city projects. As chief financial officer of ARC Thrift Stores, I fully understand the fiduciary responsibility of a public trust and the need for services among the most vulnerable members of our community. Lastly, with my tenure on council, I have a wealth of practical experience and have deliberated issues thoughtfully, honored all people and focused on a balanced, positive view of the future.

What do you believe is the most important issue facing Littleton and how will you approach it, if elected?

The most important issues are (1) deferred infrastructure maintenance related to the recession, especially the streets; and, (2) repudiation of unnecessary federal/state mandated nutrient regulations on the wastewater treatment plant. Council will be considering alternatives to address needed infrastructure improvements over the next two years but the first step is to inventory the assets regarding priorities and costs. I will also continue to push for state officials to delay or mitigate the imposition of nutrient regs that force ratepayers to bear a substantial expense without materially improving plant discharge flow quality which is already well within certificated compliance levels. Our most significant opportunities are (1) the continued economic revitalization of the Broadway, Littleton Boulevard and Santa Fe corridors; and, (2) the ongoing river restoration project. Council’s Economic Plan 2013 provides an outline of potential resources that may be utilized in support of business improvement and redevelopment.

John Watson

Watson and his wife, Val, have lived in Littleton since 2002. After retiring from a career as a self-employed real-estate developer, he now rehabilitates and rents out houses. He graduated from the Air Force Academy, then earned a master’s of business administration from California State University and a law degree from Loyola University.

He started attending council meetings as a representative of Citizens for Rational Development, a group opposed to high-density development, after a new apartment complex was proposed across the street from his Meadowbrook home.

Why are you seeking this office?

I love Littleton and want to help the city embrace a vibrant future without losing the special characteristics that made us all want to move here. Open government, good schools, the museum, library, parks and open space, low taxes, and a family-oriented community are what attracted us to Littleton. I am concerned that we are sacrificing some of those characteristics in order to achieve financial security. I believe we can achieve a strong economy and maintain the character of Littleton that we love, but that will take some changes in leadership.

What makes you the best person for the job?

First, I have experience in land development, which gives me the knowledge to understand the financial considerations involved in redeveloping those areas in Littleton which need redevelopment. But more importantly, I am more committed to maintaining the small-town atmosphere and protecting the low-density family-oriented neighborhoods than other candidates. I have demonstrated that commitment by my positions on issues facing Littleton, my involvement in zoning issues around the city and my service on the Building Board of Appeals and the snow squad.

What do you believe is the most important issue facing Littleton and how will you approach it, if elected?

We must insure the economic future of the city and its citizens by carefully shepherding our last few vacant land parcels through rezonings. We must insure that growth pays for growth so existing Littleton residents don’t have to subsidize new development. We must control spending instead of looking for more taxes and fees on citizens. We must respect all our citizens — especially our senior citizens. We must follow the charter and our code. Every decision I make and every vote I cast will be based on following the letter of the law but also the intent of the law. I will always seek to be respectful and fair to all citizens, regardless of their age or race. I will make sure that Littleton remains a desirable place to conduct business and that economic development is oriented toward helping citizens rather than increasing taxes. I will work to control spending.

District 1

Randy Stein

Stein is best known locally for renovating the downtown block that formerly housed Opus restaurant into a mixed-use project. He’s a founding director of development company Skeena Holdings, as well as a professional mediator and a lobbyist. His largest contribution thus far came from the developer of the Littleton Commons, which will bring 385 apartments to County Line Road east of Broadway.

Why are you seeking this office?

I direct a real estate development company focusing on the reinvigoration and enhancement of underutilized assets and the surrounding community, with a policy to add value and future tax revenue to communities without causing harm. In 1994, I assembled and renovated eight historic buildings into a synergistic mixed-use project, sparking the revitalization of Main Street in Littleton. My goal at the time was to create sustainable value for the future while honoring the broad and deep history bequeathed to us by previous generations. … I understand the development side and as a longtime and committed Littleton resident, I’d like to give back to the community by helping to forge positive alliances and to lessen the disharmony that I believe has grown considerably in our small town.

What makes you the best person for the job?

With 30 years of experience negotiating intricate real estate transactions between and among the public and private sectors, I have a superior track record of creating mutually beneficial solutions, with a particular expertise in sensitive environments. I have worked with local government agencies in five states and I have the ability to anticipate and assess the goals and concerns of construction, commerce and land use related conflict.

I am also a professional member of the Mediation Association of Colorado, currently serving on its Legislative Committee, and a registered lobbyist for the General Assembly of the State of Colorado, where I am working with legislators from both sides of the aisle to effect reform in standards of practice, land use and homeowners association legislation.

What do you believe is the most important issue facing Littleton and how will you approach it, if elected?

Today’s council is faced with decisions that will map out the city’s landscape for the next 50 years. Recent and pending land use modifications have created a tremendous chasm between those who support significant change, and others who prefer the status quo. I have effectively utilized my expertise to assist third parties in resolving their differences through mediation. I have extensive experience in litigation management relating to various real estate matters, allowing me to facilitate the resolution of such complex disputes from a knowledgeable and logical business-oriented perspective; bearing in mind that there is a highly charged emotional component regarding this issue.

District 3

Phil Cernanec

An independent financial adviser, Cernanec was on the South Suburban Parks and Recreation Board of Directors before being elected to council in 2009. He’s a member of the South Metro Denver Chamber of Commerce, the Denver Regional Council of Governments and the Colorado Municipal League.

Cernanec has been a district resident since 1990. He has more than 30 years of experience in financial services as an actuary, business unit manager, field manager and corporate officer.

He’s been president of an early childhood education center and served with a variety of community organizations. He enjoys sports and outdoor activities, and has been actively involved with various youth sports clubs.

Cernanec is married to Cathy Schwartz, and he has five children from a previous marriage.

Why are you seeking this office?

Four years ago, my love for Littleton was strong, and now it is even stronger. My wife, Cathy, and I appreciate the support we have received over the last four years, and I look forward to serving over the next four.

What makes you the best person for the job?

I bring to the table experience and attributes that will continue to make a positive difference for Littleton. I have a strong financial background, experience with inclusive strategic planning, active business networking, and a track record of community outreach. I have lived in Littleton over 20 years, and bring forward a solid understanding of our city. During the past four years, I have been involved deeply in the city, with businesses across the metro region, with our partners (SSPRD, City of Englewood, fire partners, LPS and others), and have been open, engaged and accessible to the citizens.

What do you believe is the most important issue facing Littleton and how will you approach it, if elected?

Littleton currently has an abundance of empty retail and commercial space. This positions the city with challenges and opportunities. The role of government is to ensure there is “welcoming” and predictable environment for our existing and potential businesses. This comes through the city staff, enabled by policies from council communicated through codes, permitting, and approval processes. And also facilitated through awareness and availability of information regarding the community profile, potential space availability, etc. The efforts have begun with the revamped city website, the “business addendum,” and council networking with the “nose for opportunity.” Closely ranking to this issue is the continued nurturing of Littleton’s strength, our neighborhoods. We have spent the last year or so developing initial plans for neighborhood grants, facilitating improved neighbor-to-neighbor communication, and continuing to do what’s needed to have our neighborhoods safe.

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