Occupation: mostly retired journalist, finance chief of small family company
Why are you running for office and why are you the best candidate for the position?
I have 20 years of experience in fire mitigation on our own property and on volunteer projects. I have covered wildfire as a journalist and listened to families who’ve lost so much. I am well-read on all matter of wildfire mitigation planning and grants. The fire department needs grants. I started a nonprofit, and I have won hundreds of thousands of dollars in grants. I saved another nonprofit from bankruptcy. I understand financial statements, and how board oversight prevents fraud and waste.
What are the three biggest challenges facing the Inter-Canyon Fire District?
The federal government is about to release half a billion dollars in fire mitigation grant funding, but the department is too small to do the extensive work to apply for everything we need. Grants are needed for mitigating evacuation routes, fire breaks and defensible space for homes. Second, we need excellent financial oversight after the district’s history with a major embezzlement 10 years ago that was not caught by the board. Firefighting and emergency response appear to be working well and therefore are not top challenges.
How do you propose tackling those challenges?
I would move some funding from the building projects, which are too expensive to complete now, into additional expert planning for mitigation projects. Building funding can be restored in future budget years. I would recruit volunteers to contact property owners and plan and write grants. I would work to expand public enthusiasm for mitigation by showcasing success stories.
What experience or expertise would you bring to the Inter-Canyon board?
As a career journalist, I can communicate with the public, build enthusiasm, and I understand financial statements. I have participated in wildfire mitigation projects for 20 years, including volunteering on community mitigation with physical labor, organizing property owners and grant writing. As a nonprofit founder and officer, I have used these skills to create excitement around projects, win grants and ensure good financial management.
What would you do to promote openness and transparency in government?
I would try to expand public participation in the department by encouraging participation in board meetings, with public hearings and informal question-and-answer opportunities. I would publish more of the department’s plans and records on the website, and I would publicize their availability. As an expert on Colorado’s open meetings and open records laws, I would insist on the board following the law, and I would insist on prompt responses to open records requests.
How can Inter-Canyon better educate residents about fire mitigation?
We could start with a public meeting about the Community Wildfire Protection Plan, with sections for each neighborhood, so residents can ask questions specific to their neighborhoods and evacuation routes. Then I would encourage participants and others to become involved in planning the implementation of the CWPP. Then they will become excited about the task ahead and take ownership of pieces of the projects. For example, they could be encouraged to work on a fire break involving a small number of their neighbors.
Inter-Canyon, Elk Creek, Indian Hills and North Fork fire departments are discussing consolidation. What is the biggest asset to such a merger, and what is the biggest barrier?
The merger will mean more full-time staff to respond to emergency calls. It also will consolidate administrative work. Mergers tend to have the most difficulty bringing together staff and workplace culture.
Do you feel that consolidation is a wise decision for Inter-Canyon?
What approach should the Inter-Canyon board take to rebuilding Stations 1 and 3?
The department received only one bid, and it was far higher than budgeted. We should plan a smaller project covering the most critical need for now. We should consider that a merger is likely to occur before any construction, and that might change the need. Then the department should go out to bid on the new project, with much greater outreach, so it receives multiple bids this time. Contracts should not go to sole bidders. That’s a recipe for waste and even fraud.
How can Inter-Canyon improve communication with constituents?
The department should expand its communications enormously with public meetings and various social media. Most important is expanding communications from the public to the department.
Is there anything else you’d like voters to know about you?
I spent a year reaching out to county officials to persuade them to pull an expensive, unused piece of mitigation equipment out of the county yard, where it was being damaged by the elements. As a result, the equipment has been offered to fire departments for mitigation projects this year. I alerted our fire chiefs to community fuel break projects where this equipment could be used. I also found locals who can operate the machinery. This equipment will slash the amount of handwork needed.