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Town of Eagle seeking assistant town manager

The town of Eagle is seeking a new assistant town manager, one that oversees various operations and is in place to strategically address areas the town wishes to improve. Much of the position entails consistent communication and collaboration within the council and the town departments. 

“(The job involves) serving as a liaison and works with departments, officials, contractors and community organizations, fosters cooperative working relationships among town departments and various community and regulatory agencies,” the job description, which was released by the town on Nov. 18, reads. 

Aside from communication, another major focus of the incoming assistant town manager position in Eagle will be sustainability. Overseeing Eagle’s “sustainability programs, initiatives, planning and goals,” the assistant town manager will help greater Eagle work toward its net-zero carbon emissions goal by 2030.

Town Manager Larry Pardee said someone on staff with a sustainability focus in their job description may help Eagle take larger strides toward that net-zero goal, which was set in July 2021. 

Overall, Pardee said the assistant town manager will be a position “integral to the town and community,” bringing cohesion and coordination throughout town operations. 

“One of our strategic plan objectives is to ‘strengthen the town’s organizational culture,’” Pardee said. “We strive to accomplish this by hiring highly competent, empowered, motivated and collaborative team members who are fun to work with.”

Pardee said the work environment is inclusive, respectful and values contributions of any size. He outlined other assets of the position that might be attractive to candidates, like competitive benefits and pay. Those interested in applying for the position can visit TownofEagle.org/jobs

Food insecurity in Eagle County stems from several sources

Just over 6% of Eagle County residents face food insecurity, according to Feeding America, a nationwide food bank nonprofit. While this number is better than the state rate of nearly 10% and the national 11.5%, organizations working to combat food insecurity locally strive toward a future where no community member is left without a consistent supply of nutritious food.

Food insecurity is defined by the Department of Agriculture as the lack of access to food that helps one lead an active, healthy life, at a given time. So, even if someone is eating three meals a day, they may not be experiencing food security. The diet of a person without food security could include a lot of fast food, processed food or other convenient but non-nutritious options. At the same time, someone who can only access one healthy meal a day and doesn’t eat anything else may also be facing food insecurity. 

Poverty, often associated with hunger, is a substantial factor in food insecurity. Additionally, households with children are more likely to experience food insecurity than other households. However, there are a myriad of other factors that onset food insecurity. Often, food insecurity is a struggle left unnoticed, though if ongoing, those facing food insecurity may have even more to grapple with. 

For The Community Market, creating access to nutritious food for all community members is what it’s all about, all year round.
The Community Market/Courtesy Photo

Children experiencing food insecurity are also more likely to get lower grades in school and face behavioral difficulties at a higher rate than households with food security. Additionally, later on in their adolescence, children from households without food security are more likely to develop mental health difficulties such as anxiety, depression and ideation of suicide. In terms of physical health, those growing up in a home without food security also experience a higher rate of childhood anemiaasthma and tooth decay

Adults without food security also see various health struggles. Similar to children, adults can experience higher rates of oral decaymental health difficultiesdiabeteschronic illness and are at higher nutritional risk than those who have food security. 

Jenny Lowe, Vail Valley Salvation Army food pantry director, said that within the Eagle County community, the largest struggle is with malnutrition, not starvation. She said that with lack of education on healthy eating practices and lack of time to prepare nutritious meals, community members slip into food insecurity. 

“There are a lot of single mothers,” Lowe said. “They don’t have the time and maybe they’re working two or three jobs. They may not have the time to make healthy meals for their children.”

The Vail Valley Salvation Army and other local resources like The Community Markets provide fresh, nutritious food to community members at no cost. With locations for locals and visitors to obtain healthy food all throughout the valley, many individuals are supported enough to establish food security. 

In December 2021, The Community Market opened a new grocery location in Edwards to meet growing demand due to COVID-19. The store is located within the new Vail Health Community Health Campus.
The Community Market/Courtesy Photo

However, Lowe explained that there is only so much that resources like the Salvation Army can help with. In some ways, she explained, the food-insecurity problem is unsolvable with the help of food assistance programs alone. 

For example, the shortage of affordable housing throughout the valley makes a substantial impact on food security in many ways. 

“Sometimes people rent a room, but they can’t use the kitchen,” Lowe said. “It could be limitations like people who live in studios with no oven, just a microwave. There are all sorts of barriers, and just having the money to buy food.”

That isn’t to say lack of affordable housing doesn’t make things more difficult regarding food security. Lowe said that often, community members are forced to make choices with how to spend their limited budget. Rent expenses and inflation tighten one’s wallet and sometimes, food isn’t budgeted for at all. 

“People choose between gasoline and diapers and healthy food,” Lowe said. “Pay rent and utilities or buy fish and steaks.”

While food accessibility resources don’t necessarily have the ability to make the housing market better or do away with inflation, they do work to ease the burden of community members who struggle to obtain healthy food. 

Charitable donations from community members help keep food stocked for those struggling to “shop.” However, these options aren’t always what’s best for everyone, Lowe said. If someone does not have access to certain appliances like a fridge or stove, what they are able to prepare is limited. If someone does not have time to prepare meals, fresh ingredients may not be a practical option for them. 

Additionally, food donated to local food recourses may not always be options those struggling are comfortable choosing from. Lowe explained that residents from Columbia, Venezuela, Peru, Honduras and other Hispanic countries might not be used to or like the American cuisine found in nearby food banks. 

“There’s a cultural barrier with the food,” Lowe said. “A lot of Hispanics don’t really like peanut butter sandwiches or mac and cheese or other fast-prepared food here.” 

The Salvation Army and The Community Market joined forces in 2021 for a monumental Thanksgiving meal delivery.
Courtesy photo

Another way food resources may not be able to help combat food insecurity locally is with children in school. Lowe explained that with frequent vacations and breaks from school and parents working, students may not have access to nutritious meals throughout the day. Sometimes, Lowe explained that students may not even be eating at school at all. 

“I know the schools sometimes have a big problem in the cafeterias,” Lowe said. “If kids didn’t apply or they didn’t qualify for the free meals, they may not have lunch every day.”

If community members want to help food banks support those facing food insecurity in the ways they can, Lowe explained that donating food, money and even grocery store gift cards can make a difference in getting people consistent access to nutritious food.  

Participating in food drives and food donation events are also helpful, Lowe said. Resources like the Salvation Army collect more food at particular times of the year, anticipating an influx in community demand. 

Now, the Salvation Army is collecting donations for the second batch of holiday food box deliveries to go to households in need. In partnership with the Eagle County Sheriff’s Office, non-perishables, fresh meat and vegetables and more get delivered before Thanksgiving and Christmas, stocking families’ pantries for a festive and food-secure holiday. 

To donate or to seek support from food resources locally, people can visit the Vail Valley Salvation Army in Avon or the Edwards or Gypsum Community Market. More food assistance can be sought through the county’s Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program

Police: Common red flags for rental scams in Eagle County

Most Eagle County residents are aware of the monumental struggle that has become the local search for housing. Many renters are now becoming all too familiar with an array of scammers attempting to take advantage of an already slim housing market at the expense of scrambling residents-to-be. Vail Police suggest those on the housing hunt take caution. 

For quick, free and easy access to the local rental market, it’s clear why many potential renters take to sites like Craigslist, Facebook Marketplace or VRBO. A new dream winter rental, someone’s very first apartment, a rental with room for the whole family can all be at one’s fingertips through websites like these. However, disguised among the legitimate housing options are fraudulent listings with scheming scammers on the other side of the screen. 

Vail Police Department detective Greg Schwartz suggested potential renters take caution while on the hunt for their next home. He said that identifying red flags is an important way people can protect themselves from scammers.

Red flag one: No in-person viewing

Red flag number one? Schwartz said not being able to physically see the property can be a big indication of a scam.

“There are absentee landlords, but not as many as you’d really think,” Schwartz said. 

He explained that in many cases, fraudulent landlords will deny renters an in-person showing of the property, saying it’s currently occupied. Despite this, scammers can convince aspiring renters to send money in order to “secure the space” for their move-in.

Schwartz said that recently, a case came to the Vail Police Department with a similar type of scam. In this situation, the scammer had even provided the prospective renter a local address, so he could drive by to view the property despite its occupancy. 

“So, when he went to move in, a neighbor said, ‘Oh no, that place isn’t for rent. I know the owners and I know the people who live there and yeah, they’re not renting it out,’ and it was kind of a shock,” Schwartz said. 

The detective advised against sending money to any projected landlord without an in-person viewing of the property.  

“Really, truly, if you’re not able to see the property, it’s a scam,” Schwartz said. “And by ‘see the property,’ I mean ‘enter the property,’ not just pictures.”

With populations flocking to Eagle County for the winter, Schwartz said scammers are largely targeting people who are coming to the valley from elsewhere and might not even be able to physically view a property anyway. He explained that in these situations, renters must be extra careful to verify a rental property’s legitimacy before sending hard-earned money someone else’s way. 

Schwartz said writing a check to a physical local address or having someone meet a landlord or property manager at the site are good ways to legitimize the transaction. 

Red flag two: Suspicious payment requests

Another red flag that Schwartz warned those looking for rental properties about is the landlord’s preferred payment method. Payment methods that allow a recipient to remain more anonymous should raise renters’ caution, he said. 

“What (the scammers) do is they advertise the property and then they require payment only either through Zelle or a direct wire transfer to a bank account,” Schwartz said. “Usually, the bank accounts that those deposits are going into have been opened fraudulently and the money is then transferred out pretty quickly.”

It’s possible for law enforcement to track where a deposit goes once it is sent to a potential scammer, but Schwartz said the process is rather difficult. In an attempt to remain untraceable, scammers typically bounce money around from account to account. 

“We write a search warrant for the first account and yep, that money was there for three days and then it’s transferred to another account,” Schwartz said. “That can kind of go on and on for a while.”

After tracking funds from account to account, Schwartz explained that oftentimes, the money finally lands in a bank account with a foreign IP address. Because local police do not have the jurisdiction to write search warrants to foreign banks, the detective said searches typically fizzle once money hits a foreign bank account.

Another payment method Schwartz warned renters about are gift cards. Many scammers, in an effort to remain even more untraceable, request that renters send their payments via gift card. Schwartz said this request should be considered an immediate red flag.

“No real landlord is going to require 10 Best Buy gift cards for rent, you know,” Schwartz said. 

Schwartz said renters seeking housing need to use their better judgment and understand what requests seem legitimate and what requests might tip off a scam. Things not completely adding up is another red flag Schwartz advised renters to be wary of. 

Red flag three: Dissonance

An example of things not adding up with a landlord could be name consistency, Schwartz said.

“A lot of the time when a fraudulent landlord is requesting Zelle payments or wire transfers to bank accounts, the names don’t match whatever name they’ve been emailing back and forth with—it doesn’t match the information being provided,” Schwartz said. “So, that should be a significant red flag any potential tenant should look out for.”

Finding inconsistencies like names not adding up across accounts can take a keen eye. A media release from the Vail Police Department said that scammers targeting Eagle County renters are doing whatever they can to make themselves seem more legitimate and get sent money. For example, securing a local burner number may be enough to fool a prospective tenant. 

“Many scammers use a local phone number generated by web-based Voice Over Internet Protocol (VoIP) services that are available to anyone without any verification of identity required,” the release read. “Officers have taken several complaints initiated via a Craigslist ad which resulted in prospective renters wiring money to scammers.”

Rental red flag four: It’s too good to be true

The final red flag Schwartz warns against is when a listing simply seems too good to be true. Perhaps the cost is hundreds or maybe thousands lower than similar properties in the area, maybe it’s the fact that they’d allow five dogs without question or maybe it’s a location so desirable that it seems strange to even have a shot at it. Regardless, dreams of the perfect rental can come shattering to reality when scammers are in the mix. 

“If it seems too good to be true, it is,” Schwartz said. 

Renting online may seem much more intimidating with scammers attempting to take advantage of an already difficult market. However, Schwartz said law enforcement is always available to help. Whether it’s the Vail Police Department or another law enforcement agency in the valley, Schwartz said officers would be happy to review property advertisements and landlord interactions to see if they can spot anything “fishy.”

Schwartz said officers can help renters try to spot red flags among listings and help them determine how to move forward. 

“We’re always available to help,” Schwartz said. “If anyone has questions before they send that money, and in general, you know, no one should be sending money to someone they don’t know or haven’t met or haven’t spoken to.”

Precaution in situations like finding rentals is crucial, Schwartz said. 

“I think a lot of it is driven by the housing shortage that we have,” Schwartz said. “People are willing to go for something too good to be true, which is obviously unfortunate that we’re going through that valley-wide.”

While many may struggle to remove their rose-colored glasses when it comes to scam rental listings, it may be helpful to remember that law enforcement success in catching culprits of rental housing scams is incredibly slim. 

Scammers tapping into the local housing market are typically not from around here, Schwartz said. 

“A lot of these scams are international, you know, just kind of like the Nigerian prince scam from back in the day,” Schwartz said.

The “Nigerian prince scam” that Schwartz referred to is a popular version of the ancient “Spanish prisoner swindle,” both advance-fee scams, which involve scammers approaching recipients and convincing them to send money in order to retrieve an even larger sum of money, which of course, is never retrieved or returned. According to CNBC, the “Nigerian prince scam” still yields over $700,000 for scammers annually. 

Schwartz said scammers across oceans can be successful in taking locals’ money because they have done their research. He said they likely understand that the valley is a housing hotspot and know people may be willing to go to further odds for what they think will be their future housing. 

Similarly, with a little extra effort, Schwartz explained how scammers make their listings seem more believable.

“Typically, the person renting out the apartment fraudulently will take over somebody else’s post, or they’ll get pictures from Zillow so it adds a level of legitimacy to it,” Schwartz said. “They’ll pull maps and pictures and things like that. It’s all stuff that’s available on the internet.”

With the large sums of money rental scammers are dealing with, Schwartz said even one potential renter taking the bait after publishing hundreds of ads can end up being worth the effort for the accomplishment of defrauding somebody.

Despite the fact that they are typically difficult to catch, scammers are not impossible to identify. Schwartz said the Vail Police Department has successfully solved a couple of scammer cases. Without the scammers living locally, however, he explained that the consequences are elusive. 

“I was able to write an arrest warrant and had probable cause to write an arrest warrant for a girl who was doing this out of Texas,” Schwartz said. “Whether or not she’ll be arrested and brought back here to Colorado, that’s very unlikely and even if she is arrested, getting the money back is also very unlikely.”

Victims of scams can attempt to get reimbursed for the money they lost through the restitution process in the courts, however, Schwartz said total reimbursement is uncommon. 

“I think something that some of these tenants need to keep in mind is that with fraud, the chance of getting the money back is very slim, even if we’re able to determine who the offender is,” Schwartz said.

Reporting a rental scam

If those searching for rental properties encounter listings with multiple red flags for scam potential, Schwartz said reporting the listing to law enforcement is often a good idea. 

He also suggested people report the email addresses of scammers to the FBI-operated collection database for fraudulent activity. 

“Their analysts collect and evaluate all this data and that’s how the FBI is able to try and track some of the stuff on a more international level,” Schwartz said. 

The database can be accessed at www.ic3.gov. To reach the Vail Police Department, call 970-479-2201. 

Traffic stop near Eagle yields 30 pounds of meth and cocaine

On Thursday, Nov. 17, just before 2 p.m. the Gore Range Narcotics Interdiction Team (GRANITE) contacted a vehicle for traffic violations on I-70 near the town of Eagle.
Contact was made with the driver and passenger, indicators of further criminal activity were observed and a K-9 was deployed around the vehicle. His handler quickly observed an alert to the passenger side of the vehicle. Methamphetamine and cocaine were discovered inside two hidden compartments, underneath the front vehicle seats. Contents of the hidden compartments included 12 pounds of methamphetamine, and 18 pounds of cocaine as part of the investigation.

Each occupant of the vehicle, Fernando Paez-Parra, 32, of Sinaloa, Mexico, and Jose Luis Paez-Avila, 26, of Sonora, Mexico, is being held on a $100,000 bond and face several felony drug charges including:

  • Distribution of a schedule 2 controlled substance — methamphetamine, a class 1 drug felony
  • Possession of a schedule 2 controlled substance — methamphetamine, a class 4 drug felony
  • Distribution of a schedule 2 controlled substance — cocaine, a class 1 drug felony
  • Possession of a schedule 2 controlled substance — cocaine, a class 4 drug felony
  • Special Offender importation of cocaine, a class 1 drug felony
  • Special Offender importation of methamphetamine, a class 1 drug felony

The Gore Range Narcotic Interdiction Team is a multi-jurisdictional drug task force composed of local law enforcement partners and detectives from the Eagle County Sheriff’s Office and the Vail Police Department.
If you think you may have any information about the suspect(s) or this crime, please call the Eagle County Sheriff’s Office at 970-328-8500 or if you would like to remain anonymous you can call the Eagle County Crime Stoppers at 970-328-7007, 1-800-972-TIPS, or submit your tip online at p3tips.com or send a mobile tip using the free ‘P3 Tips’ mobile app.  If your tip leads to the arrest and indictment of any suspect involved, you could earn a CASH reward from the Eagle County Crime Stoppers. 
People charged with crimes are presumed innocent until proven guilty in a court of law. 

Officers volunteer to keep roads safe on holidays

While some may consider upcoming holidays like Halloween, Thanksgiving and Christmas the perfect opportunities to let loose, others think of them as a time to avoid the roads. Dealing with an influx of travelers during the holidays is one thing, but an influx of intoxicated drivers on holidays is an even more dangerous problem.

To keep Eagle County roadways safe on upcoming holidays, the Gore Range DUI Task Force plans to be out in force this holiday season. 

Sgt. Alex Iacovetto of the Eagle County Sherriff’s Office works as the scheduling manager of the Gore Range DUI Task Force. On holidays, when intoxicated people may be getting behind the wheel more frequently, Iacovetto explained that the outfit has even more officers scheduled and ready to enforce. 

He said the grant-funded task force provides overtime reimbursement for officers who volunteer for road patrol, increasing visibility and getting intoxicated drivers off the road during prime DUI time. 

Doing something they’re already trained extensively to do, officers who sign up for Gore Range shifts can come from any department within the county and patrol for intoxicated drivers, complete Standardized Field Sobriety Tests and enforce DUIs. 

“It’s pretty good overtime and [officers] usually like doing the job,” Iacovetto said. “They like working out there and doing something that’s important to them.”

On an average day, about 30% of car crashes involved intoxicated drivers, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation. However, on holidays, this percentage jumps to 40%. Also, just because one driver was drunk does not mean everyone involved in the accident was intoxicated. Much of the time, fatalities and injuries are suffered by completely sober and innocent parties. 

To try to prevent as many injuries and deaths from DUI accidents as possible, the Gore Range DUI Task Force always takes a hard stance against intoxicated driving on holidays. 

Though, Iacovetto said it is important for other motorists to be alert as well. With holidays bringing visitors to the valley, he explained that it is important to be a cautious, defensive driver. It’s likely that one’s holiday bucket list won’t include getting involved in an accident, after all. 

“I would encourage the citizens of Eagle County to exercise good judgment and drive safely,” Iacovetto said. “Slow down, take time, and pause a little bit.”

Iacovetto explained that like drunk driving, road rage is a threat to safety that might increase during holiday travel. Regardless, Iacovetto said drivers must exercise patience and have a plan to safely get home if drinking. 

“There’s public transportation, friends, family,” Iacovetto said. “There’s a lot of options that some people can use besides getting behind the wheel intoxicated.”

For more information about how Gore Range DUI Task Force works to keep Eagle County roads safe, visit Eaglecounty.us/sheriff.

What is ‘puffing’ and why is it illegal in Colorado?

On cold mornings, a person’s routine may consist of several efforts to ‘warm up.’ Be it sipping on coffee, slipping into a sweater or starting the car early, attempts to bear chilly mornings comfortably become routine this time of year. One popular habit that is intended to help cope with cold could land people in a more troublesome situation altogether. 

“Puffing” describes when a driver starts their car and leaves it unattended — idling with the keys inside the vehicle. The term, which references puffs of exhaust escaping a tailpipe in cold weather, expresses a way to warm one’s car up before heading out for the day.  

Avon Police Sergeant John Mackey said this common habit is surprisingly illegal in Colorado. Why?

“More vehicles are stolen in Eagle County from puffing alone than anything else,” Mackey said.

Despite the environmental repercussions of leaving cars idling to warm them up, the degree of car theft observed when puffing is what justifies the law prohibiting it, Mackey explained. Overall, Mackey said vehicle theft volume in Eagle County shows that drivers should remain alert and always keep their cars secure. For a thief, stealing a car is often as easy as finding an unlocked car with keys in the ignition, ready to go. Understanding this is important for drivers who make a habit of trusting their car unsecured while running. 

Puffing essentially tempts thieves with an easy and high-reward steal. The engine is running for a quick getaway, the car owner is out of eyeshot and car doors are often left unlocked. No matter where your car is, leaving it puffing invites potential theft. 

While law enforcement does what it can to assist those who had vehicles stolen due to puffing. The act of leaving a running vehicle unattended is illegal itself, to defer people from making their vehicles vulnerable to theft in the first place. 

However, many people aren’t aware of what puffing is, let alone that it is against Colorado law. So, Mackey explained that spreading awareness about the issue is crucial to help stop it. If law enforcement finds a car unattended and idling for more than five minutes, the owner may be subject to a $60 fine.  

Mackey explained that people with cars that offer remote-start capabilities, should they start their car remotely, are not puffing their vehicle. Puffing involves having one’s keys in the ignition, leaving the car ready for a car thief. 

Wanting to get the car comfortable for one’s morning drive is understandable, Mackey said. However, other ways to warm up one’s vehicle won’t leave it susceptible to theft, like blasting the heat for a few seconds or leaving it idling while scraping the windows. 

Gypsum’s Top Notch Logworks opts for employee ownership

On Oct. 14, Gov. Jared Polis recognized Gypsum company Top Notch Logworks among four other businesses for transitioning toward employee ownership. 

“I congratulate these businesses on their transition to employee ownership and am proud to continue our administration’s work to save businesses money and support employee ownership so that everyone can benefit when a business thrives,” Polis said in a press release.

Help from the Colorado Employee Ownership Office and the Employee Ownership Grant is allowing Top Notch Logworks to break free from its original structure. With this assistance, previous owners David Sante and Herman Mendoza prepare to step back and let employees become more substantial company stakeholders on Jan. 1, 2023.

Sante explained how with its various resources dedicated to employee ownership, the state of Colorado made employee ownership seem even more appealing.

Since its establishment in 2020, the Colorado Employee Ownership Office provides programs, funding and incentives like the Employee Ownership Grant for businesses to transition toward the model. Since Polis established the office, 18 businesses switched gears to employee ownership statewide. Top Notch Logworks is thus far the first in Eagle County to plan an employee ownership transition with these resources. 

Colorado Office of Economic Development and International Trade director of business support Nikki Maloney explained the importance of businesses working with Polis’ Employee Stock Ownership Plan award-winning initiative. 

“When a company transitions to employee ownership, the business benefits from a more engaged workforce, a guaranteed succession plan, and a way to attract and retain top talent,” Maloney said in the release. “Employee-owners generally experience higher wages, access to better benefits, and improved job security.”

Sante explained that this win-win nature of the employee-ownership model is what made the transition so appealing for Top Notch Logworks. 

The Gypsum company has been around since 1999, and Sante said that allowing employees to gain value working there also establishes security for the business. Sante said that if employees are benefitting from working at Top Notch Logworks, the company can continue long-term. After all, if a business continues to work for its employees, employees are more inclined to continue working for the business. 

“There’s a lot to learn and a lot to do to implement (employee ownership), but typically, successful (Employee Stock Ownership Plans) outperform other companies quite a bit,” Sante said. 

While the process of transitioning to employee ownership is not without its challenges, Sante explained that support from the Colorado Employee Ownership Office has been instrumental in making it all work. The resources available to businesses through the Colorado Employee Ownership Office are not just through economic incentives, though. Sante said education on successful employee-ownership business planning is helping Top Notch Logworks make successful strides toward employee ownership.

For example, Sante explained that understanding how to detach himself as a private owner is crucial for Employee Stock Owned Plan success. If a private owner does not manage their company in a way that puts systems in place to train employees to take over the company, Sante said the business won’t succeed under employee ownership. So, he and his partners have learned to continue to empower each of their employees to have ownership capabilities. 

Sante said that empowering employees to succeed is simultaneously equipping one’s business to succeed. He explained that because of this, Top Notch Logworks’ plan to transition to employee ownership seemed like the right thing to do. 

“Our (company) mission statement is to do the right thing, which is very simple,” Sante said. “It’s simple for our clients, it’s simple for our employees to know what to do. If you take that attitude, especially in the construction industry, I feel like you’ll be successful.”

District 5 judge finalists have been selected

Fifth Judicial District Judge Russell Granger will be retiring Nov. 1. Anticipating the bench opening following his retirement, Colorado’s Judicial Department has posted a call for applications to the position. Having completed interviews and other procedures with qualified applicants, the Fifth Judicial District nomination commission met Friday to select the finalists to be nominated to Gov. Jared Polis for appointment. 

According to the Colorado Office of Judicial Performance Evaluation, Granger served within the Fifth Judicial District since 1998, when he first sat on the Clear Creek County bench. In 2006, Granger was appointed to the District Court bench, where he has worked within Eagle County since. In the 2020 Retention Survey Report on Granger’s performance, it was noted that Granger is “proficient at complex trials” and advocates for out-of-courtroom solutions to problems. Forty-one written evaluations, including 39 completed by attorneys, evaluated Granger on various aspects of his performance. 

“The survey results found that Judge Granger meets performance standards, higher than the 83% rating for all district judges,” the evaluation read. “Judge Granger scores slightly higher than the average for all district judges on case management. The commission noted that Judge Granger scored lower than average for all other district judges in fairness; however, there were multiple survey respondents who praised him for his fairness. Granger noted that fairness is important to him in his work on the bench. He stated that he recognizes that people in court need to be heard and understood and he works to provide that for each person who appears before him.”

Following in Granger’s footsteps, the incoming Fifth Judicial District judge will also be faced with balancing sides in a trial.

The Colorado Judicial Department on Oct. 11 released the names of three candidates the nominating commission chose to move forward in the appointment process. Inga Causey of Gypsum, Courtney Holm of Edwards and Rachel Olguin-Fresquez of Gypsum were selected to be the candidates Polis will evaluate and eventually choose from to sit on the district court bench following Granger. 

Causey explained that like Granger, she believes a district court judge needs to prioritize effective listening in order to make fair decisions. 

“Over the years, you sometimes see judges that are worn down, that are fatigued and oftentimes, they stop listening to the people before them,” Causey said. “I believe that as a judge, we are here to serve the community. We are here to serve others and that mandates serving with compassion, empathy, creativity and resourcefulness.”

Causey, like the position’s other nominees, has deep roots within the counties that make up the Fifth Judicial District. She noted that this kind of community connection is essential to a better understanding of issues presented and resources available to make decisions. 

“When you understand the heartbeat of a community, you’re better able to serve that community,” Causey said. 

Causey is currently the town prosecutor of Vail, a magistrate judge for the 13th judicial district, a deputy judge for Minturn, an associate judge for De Beque and a partner at Causey & Howard Attorneys and Counselors at Law. She said she believes her background in law qualifies her to fill Granger’s position. Along with her 20-plus years of experience, Causey shared that her passion for what she does is tethered to her every move in the courtroom. 

She described how this sentiment was inspired, telling a story about how she was tasked with representing an entire Louisiana parish while a third-year law student.

“I walk into the courtroom and it is packed,” Causey said. “It’s full of TV and news and I see people in the community are just wall-to-wall. I’m terrified. I’m thinking, ‘oh my gosh, this entire parish is depending on a law student to help them.’ I started walking to the podium to give my oral argument and I was nervous; my voice was shaking and my ears get hot when I get nervous. But behind me, this community, with each sentence, I would hear their words of encouragement. ‘That’s right,’ ‘you tell it,’ those kinds of things. At that point, I knew that what we did matters and that our work is meant to serve others. I wanted to carry that with me today and I will keep that perspective on the bench.”

Per the Colorado Constitution, Polis has 15 days following the nominations on Oct. 10 to select the new Fifth Judicial District judge. 

Depending on who Polis appoints to the position, the future of the seat is up to the candidate’s available start date. Robert McCallum, Public Information Officer at Colorado’s judicial department, explained that the selected candidate may need to wrap up a private practice as well as personal affairs before moving to serve on the bench. Because of this, the judgeship may be temporarily filled until the incoming judge is able to take the seat. 

McCallum also explained that a start date before Election Day results in a difference in initial term length compared to a start date after midterms. 

“If this person started on Nov. 1, in two years they would be eligible to stand for retention again, because it would be prior to the next election,” McCallum said. “If the person started, say Nov. 15, after this year’s general election, that person would actually have to wait four years to sit for the provision because there wouldn’t be an election cycle.”

Colorado judges are appointed, but voters can remove them at a general election.

The two-year window around elections is given to those at the beginning of their judgeship before a retention evaluation for judges to get their footing and tackle the new-position learning curve, McCallum explained. 

“It’s a big job to take the bench and be a judge,” McCallum said. 

Orquesta Akokán rounds out Underground Sound on Thursday

After five sensational shows of Underground Sound at the Vilar, ranging from rock and bluegrass to soul and funk, Orquesta Akokán closes out the season of ‘Love for the Locals.’

Orquesta Akokán delivers a hot Havana night to Beaver Creek Thursday, just as the temperatures here in the mountains begin to cool. The band gets audiences up and dancing with its blazing Latin jazz and soulful mambo rhythms.

The Grammy-nominated musicians hail from Cuba and New York with a common goal of honoring what they love about the mambo. They fuel their legendary Cuban grooves with powerful “akokan,” a Yoruba word Cubans use to mean “from the heart” or “soul.”

Orquesta Akokán debuted in the U.S. in 2018, after releasing its first album on Daptone Records, the first Spanish-language record the label ever released. The band performed a sold-out show at Lincoln Center for the Performing in New York City, then toured worldwide in 2019 and 2020, garnering nominations for a Grammy, Billboard Latin Music Award and Telemundo Latin American Music Award along the way.

It all began when producer and multi-instrumentalist Jacob Plasse, pianist and arranger Michael Eckroth and lead singer Jose “Pepito” Gomez traveled to Havana to record their take on mid-century Cuban band music in 2016. There, they ended up gathering an ensemble of some of the best musicians on the island, culled from huge groups like Los Van Van, NG La Banda and Irakere.

“We got a great response and became a band. It was amazing to play with these guys who I grew up listening to. They bring a different attitude and approach as performers and as a band,” Plasse said, explaining how his experience in New York City’s musical culture placed less emphasis on big bands and more on jazz and improvisation. “In Cuba, I’ve never heard a band that plays so cohesively and tightly. The government considers it a job, so two to three times a week bands rehearse.”

Orquesta Akokán brings a contemporary sound to Cuban mambo’s golden days, while still drawing inspiration from mambo’s early musicians like Perez Prado, Beny Moré and Machito. They expand upon Cuba’s rich rhythmic repertoire by pushing ideas of what’s considered mambo and drawing from folkloric and religious traditions; in doing so, they stretch into uncharted waters while still remaining true to the music’s spirit.

“We’re not trying to modernize it, but we’re in a different time and place, so it’s going to be different,” Plasse said. “We (ask) how can we write music that’s true to ourselves to show how amazing the music is. The music is just so strong on its own, with the complex harmonies and melodies.”

He believes a lot of people are “starved for good music today,” so Orquesta Akokán “speaks to a great truth of how we hear music.”

“In New York, the mambo and salsa are still a living language — a communication between the dancers and performers,” he said, adding that the greatest gift Orquesta Akokán has is its deep friendships between the musicians. “When you hear us play, you can feel that sense of comradery and that everyone respects this tradition. It’s easy to love the music. By the end, usually everyone is dancing.”

Though the lyrics are written and sung in Spanish, the musicians introduce the songs in English, to give audiences an understanding of the themes, which mostly revolve around love.

“This music was always heard live — there’s an energy to the percussion and the rhythms you just can’t get from the record. It’s taking you to another place through rhythm, and that’s what this band does really well,” he said. “We live in a time where music is sort of disposable with streaming and whatever. I think it’s important to go see live bands and figure out what’s going on in the music and feel like music matters again — it’s so full of life and energy — because people want that connection again, to feel like there’s a sense of community.”

If you go…

What: Orquesta Akokán

When: 7 p.m. Oct. 6

Where: Vilar Performing Arts Center

Tickets: $20

This show is for you if you also like: Marc Anthony, Ricky Martin, Las Cafeteras, Todo Mundo, Flor de Toloache or Jarabe Mexicano.

More info: VilarPAC.org


Orquesta Akokán
Camila Falquez/Courtesy photo

‘Moms Rock’ climbing classes provide much-needed support for new mothers

Navigating life postpartum is undoubtedly difficult for mothers. That challenge may only be amplified when a new mother does not have ample social support available. 

While experiencing this challenge herself, Eagle Climbing and Fitness employee Courtney Moore sought to provide a resource that had previously been unavailable to herself: A mommy and me climbing class called “Moms Rock.” 

Moore explained how having the opportunity to find community within an established interest can help new mothers feel more like “themselves.” After giving birth, a mother of young children may feel as though they lost their identity and individuality — they do, after all, have a whole other person under their wing now. 

In Moore’s experience with her two young children, she explained that isolation and a sense of loss of self become even more difficult to manage when a parent’s young child starts crawling. The child’s newfound mobility makes it possible for more dangerous situations to arise. Moore said any new parent can attest to the quickness young ones can find themselves in harm’s way. In constantly playing the role of a protector, she explained that having the time to do what they love often goes out the window for a new mom.

Mothers Stacy Duval (left) and Sara Wilson (right) help their young children, Charlotte (left) and Maverick (right) get accustomed to safely climbing at a “Moms Rock” mommy and me climbing class.
Courtney Moore/ Courtesy photo

With her younger child beginning to embark on crawling adventures, Moore said establishing a place where new mothers can find a community with a shared interest outside of all being new mothers was game-changing for herself. Moore explained how the extra support from the other new moms around her is what helped her start climbing again. 

“I kind of started it just so I could find some other moms who have been through it or are going through it,” Moore said. “We can all share in the ‘It takes a village to raise the kids’ idea of just getting some extra pairs of eyes on the little ones so that moms can keep climbing or try climbing for the first time.”

The “Moms Rock” climbing classes, which started on Sept. 17 are not only there for moms to scale rock walls and find peer support, but also for their infants and toddlers to develop important safety skills. 

Many of the safety skills the young children in Moore’s climbing classes learn involve familiarizing themselves with climbing gear should they grow up to share the interest with their mom. However, much of the safety that the infants and toddlers are getting taught can be transferred into other areas of their lives, which in turn can help their parents breathe easier.

“If they’re bouldering on the shorter walls, the biggest thing is that the kids learn to climb back down after they’re done climbing instead of jumping into mom or dad’s arms,” Moore said. “At some point in their toddlerhood or early childhood, they will climb when mom or dad is not within an arms-reach and we don’t want them launching themselves from, you know, our or even 10 feet up.”

Mom Lauryn Weaver spots for her child, Josie, while she gives climbing a try during Eagle Climbing and Fitness’ “Moms Rock” class.
Courtney Moore/ Courtesy photo

After getting the inevitable toddler tears out of the way at the beginning of class, Moore said the little ones and moms both ended up having a great time. The first portion of the class is designated for young children to explore and learn what climbing is all about. Once the kids have worn themselves out, Moore explained that the moms had their chance to enjoy climbing themselves. 

For more information or to purchase tickets for the next mommy and me “Moms Rock” climbing class, visit EagleClimbing.com.