Why are you running for office and why are you the best candidate for the position?
I grew up moving every three years as a daughter of a U.S. Marine, and living here for 15 years has allowed me to set roots in a community I love. It’s important to be an active member of your community and contribute your talents to where you can help it progress. My children, my extended family, close friends and my livelihood are dependent on our community thriving. I want to ensure our fire department is equipped to handle the threat of wildfire, so we all may enjoy the gifts and beauty our foothills community provides for years to come.
What are the three biggest challenges facing the Inter-Canyon Fire District?
Increasing threat of wildfire, declining volunteerism, budget constraints for the new station buildings.
How do you propose tackling those challenges?
As residents show interest in the increasing threat of wildfire, I’d like to see the department staff expand the Wildfire Prepared Home Assessment program and contract out the community chipping program. We’ll have to build a sense of community among firefighters to retain those we have, while identifying our strongest source of recruiting members to use that proven method moving forward to attract more members. The new station builds will have to be value engineered to meet current budget constraints due to increasing costs, while designing for future seamless addition to stations as the need for more space grows.
What experience or expertise would you bring to the Inter-Canyon board?
I currently serve on the Inter-Canyon Board of Directors, and I don’t shy away from asking tough questions to evaluate all aspects of a merger and other issues at hand, with a consistent focus on ensuring Inter-Canyon provides superior service to residents. I’m a founding member of the Homestead Emergency Action Team – an organization whose mission is to educate residents about wildfire risks and empower them to take action through education and engagement with local mitigation programs. I proactively reach out to elected officials advocating for wildfire safety, and my community engagement efforts have been highlighted in local news media.
What would you do to promote openness and transparency in government?
This is a hot topic in light of the lawsuit against the Douglas Board of Education citing alleged violations of the Colorado Open Records Act. Regular meetings of pairs of board members to discuss business is against the spirit of the law and leads to mistrust. Business discussions should occur at business meetings. Collaboration and discussion among parties with different opinions promote progress. Board meetings currently feel scripted with an emphasis on keeping them under an hour. If we have nothing to hide, then there should be no concern about having debates that can be observed by the public.
How can Inter-Canyon better educate residents about fire mitigation?
The Community Ambassador Program has been effective in creating collaboration among neighborhood leaders in promoting the safety message. Rather than spending money to replicate content that currently exists online and in print form, let’s invest in staffing to meet the demand of the Wildfire Prepared program. Home assessments allow for one-on-one engagement with a trained firefighter and accountability among homeowners. Studies have shown that when a homeowner does an assessment and works on their property, neighbors feel the peer pressure to work on their homes as well, and the impact of mitigation can be spread throughout the community.
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?
I haven’t heard yet of any benefits or improvements that can’t potentially be accomplished through an Inter-Governmental Agreement with neighboring departments. The biggest barrier is the ability of the interested parties to articulate not only why a merger will benefit residents, but how the proposed benefits will be implemented. Just stating it’s a “better service” isn’t good enough. How is it a better service? This merger is first a sales pitch to the four department boards, then to the voters. While there may be benefits, it’s unclear to me what they are yet.
Do you feel that consolidation is a wise decision for Inter-Canyon?
I currently sit on an advisory committee that consists of two board members from each of the four departments. I have read the consultant’s report and asked a lot of questions. I’m most interested in how we’d pay to staff at the level needed to improve service to the community. At the moment, I have more questions I’d like answered before I can make an informed decision to be an enthusiastic supporter of a merger.
What approach should the Inter-Canyon board take to rebuilding Stations 1 and 3?
As long as it’s within the budget, I support construction that meets both existing and future needs. The rising costs of construction is challenging, in which case I agree with scaling back the plans and designing stations that can be added onto down the road with seamless functionality when needed.
How can Inter-Canyon improve communication with constituents?
The fire department public information officer is doing a great job of sharing updates via NextDoor, Twitter, Facebook and on the department website. This online outreach is the most cost-effective use of taxpayer dollars vs mailing newsletters. The Canyon Courier and Conifer Area Council have been helpful forums in sharing news with the community. I encourage the residents to attend monthly board meetings to hear the chief’s reports and provide public comment. The board and chief should hear what’s going well and what needs improvement so we may have a two way conversation between the department and residents.
Is there anything else you’d like voters to know about you?
My approach as a board member is to act as a collaborative consultant while evaluating challenges with a business mindset. I consider the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats for every proposal with the end goal of a better service for the residents. Increasing 911 call volume, severity of calls and threats of wildfire are putting additional strain on dwindling volunteers. I am committed to ensuring the safety of both our firefighters and residents to allow our community to continue to be an enjoyable place to live and recreate.