What may have been the best show in town was in council chambers Aug. 12 when Neil Levy was named Mayor of Woodland Park, the result of winning the draw over runner-up Phil Mella.
Of five candidates hoping to replace Mayor Dave Turley, who resigned in June, the two beat out the opposition by capturing three votes apiece from six councilors, including Mayor Pro Tem Carrol Harvey. The council voted by secret ballot.
The city’s charter approves the unconventional method of choosing a mayoral replacement when there seems to be no end to the tie vote.
The candidates, Levy, Mella, Gretchen Bundy-Ladowicz, Mike Maddux and current city councilor Gary Brovetto, were questioned by the council on issues ranging from business, education, housing and marijuana, the latter from John Schafer.
Of the five, Levy, Mella and Brovetto had more local connections, as each has and continues to contribute to the vibrancy of the community. Brovetto, for instance, is instrumental in the city’s two initiatives, the Main Street Program and the application for designation as a Creative Arts District.
And even though Bundy-Ladowicz and Maddux offered stellar credentials and a keen interest in the city, the two, along with Brovetto, were unable to capture a vote from the council.
In his presentation, Levy spoke of the turmoil caused by Turley’s resignation after he was arrested on suspicion of sexual assault on a minor by a person of trust.
“We clearly have some issues, to revive, if you will, the office of the mayor. I think I can be that person,” he said. “For the last 15 years I have done as much as anybody in this community in terms of contributing. Business welfare, school and our children are my passions and areas I’d like to see represented on this council.”
Eight-year member of the board of directors for the Greater Woodland Park Chamber of Commerce, including a year as chairman, Levy was named the chamber’s Wagon Boss for 2013.
“My strength is in building relationships; I look around the room today and can honestly say that, not only do I know most people but I’ve worked with most of them,” he said. “I think I’ve gained their trust and respect in the things I’ve done, not only for them but maybe for their church, their school and certainly for our community. From what I’ve done over the years, it seems like an obvious transition to me, to be part of this wonderful council.”
If selected, Levy promised to be a team-builder and consensus-maker while highlighting his managerial skills as the owner of the Swiss Chalet in Woodland Park and the Peppertree restaurants in Colorado Springs.
“My managerial style is simple; I let people take ownership because they love to do that,” he said. “Most of the staff at the Swiss Chalet has been with me between 10 and 16 years. That’s unheard of in our business.”
To a question about how to build the future for Woodland Park, Levy named the aquatic project along with generating a stronger business climate and increasing affordable housing. “You can’t pay teachers $30,000 a year and expect them to live here,” he said.
Brovetto, from his seat on the council, asked how Levy would get the public involved in the political process. “If I was mayor and as a result of the people I know and have created relationships with, I think I could help build excitement and encourage people to step up a little bit more and follow my lead, because I’ve been that person,” he said.
As the father of three boys, Levy is a perennial volunteer in the RE-2 School District, service he encourages others to follow. Asked about his interest in education, Levy emphasized his role in developing the alternative education program while being on the community task force to review the district’s curriculum.
“In terms of athletics I’ve coached baseball for the last 40 years, the last 15 in Woodland Park,” he said.
Noel Sawyer asked how Levy would bring the “wow!” to the city. “The ‘wow!’ is the support that I’m going to get from the community because of the relationships I’ve created over the years,” he said.” I love this community; I work hard and will do anything I can to put a great face on this community.”
To a question about marijuana, Levy had the answer. “I’m in favor of recreational marijuana. That means that we should have a ballot initiative and let the people in this community decide,” he said. “I see what other communities are doing; I see the tax revenue that is generated and would love to have those resources. I believe marijuana is here to stay. In my opinion, 10 years from now we’ll have more than two states that will allow marijuana.”
From the audience, several residents praised Levy’s qualifications, including his oldest son, Max Levy, who called his dad “my hero.”