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In call with Ilhan Omar, Lauren Boebert refuses to publicly apologize for anti-Muslim remarks

Rep. Lauren Boebert, R-Colo., speaks at a news conference at the Capitol in Washington.
J. Scott Applewhite/AP file

WASHINGTON — Days after firebrand conservative Rep. Lauren Boebert of Colorado was harshly criticized for making anti-Muslim comments about Rep. Ilhan Omar, a Minnesota Democrat whom she likened to a bomb-carrying terrorist, the two spoke by phone.

By both lawmakers’ accounts, it did not go well.

Monday’s conversation, which Boebert sought after issuing a tepid statement last Friday, offered an opportunity to extend an olive branch in a House riven by tension. Instead, it ended abruptly after Boebert rejected Omar’s request for a public apology, amplifying partisan strife that has become a feature, not a bug, of the GOP since a mob of Donald Trump supporters stormed the Capitol on Jan. 6.

Boebert previously apologized “to anyone in the Muslim community I offended,” but not directly to Omar.

It’s just the latest example of a GOP lawmaker making a personal attack against another member of Congress, an unsettling trend that has gone largely unchecked by House Republican leaders. It also offers a test of Democrats’ newfound resolve to mete out punishment to Republicans.

Earlier this month conservative Rep. Paul Gosar of Arizona was censured over a violent video. In February Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia was booted from congressional committees for her inflammatory rhetoric.

After Monday’s phone call, Omar and Boebert quickly issued statements condemning each other.

“I believe in engaging with those we disagree with respectfully, but not when that disagreement is rooted in outright bigotry and hate,” Omar said in a statement. She said she “decided to end the unproductive call.”

Boebert shot back in an Instagram video: “Rejecting an apology and hanging up on someone is part of cancel culture 101 and a pillar of the Democrat Party.”

The chain of events was set in motion over a week ago when a video posted to Facebook showed Boebert speaking before constituents, describing an interaction with Omar — an interaction that Omar maintains never happened.

In the video, the freshman Colorado lawmaker claims that a Capitol Police officer approached her with “fret on his face” shortly before she stepped aboard a House elevator and the doors closed.

“I look to my left and there she is — Ilhan Omar. And I said, ‘Well, she doesn’t have a backpack. We should be fine,’” Boebert says with a laugh.

Omar is Muslim. Boebert’s comment about Omar not wearing a backpack was an apparent reference to her not carrying a suicide bomb.

TODAY’S UNDERWRITER

Reaction to the video was swift. Omar called on House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Republican Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy to “take appropriate action” because “normalizing this bigotry not only endangers my life but the lives of all Muslims. Anti-Muslim bigotry has no place in Congress.”

House Democratic leadership also issued a joint statement condemning “Boebert’s repeated, ongoing and targeted Islamophobic comments and actions,” while calling on McCarthy “to finally take real action to confront racism.”

Yet McCarthy, who is in line to become House speaker if Republicans retake the majority next year, has proven reluctant to police members of his caucus whose views are often closely aligned with the party’s base.

Pelosi spokesman Drew Hammill said the speaker had nothing new to add Monday and pointed to the statement issued by Democratic leaders last week calling on McCarthy to act.

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Boebert tweeted Friday that “I apologize to anyone in the Muslim community I offended with my comment about Rep. Omar,” adding that “there are plenty of policy differences to focus on without this unnecessary distraction.”

It’s not Boebert’s first brush with controversy — nor Omar’s. Since Boebert’s election to Congress in 2020, she has leaned in to provocative broadsides that delight the party’s base. Omar has drawn her focus in particular. She has previously called Omar and others “full time propagandists” for “state sponsored terrorism,” and “politicians with suicide belts strapped their body.”

In May, she tweeted that Omar was “a full-time propagandist for Hamas.” She has also called Omar and Michigan Rep. Rashida Tlaib “evil” while also referring to them as the “jihad squad.” Tlaib, like Omar, is Muslim.

Omar too has drawn scrutiny for her comments, often in reference to Israel, some of which have been blasted as anti-Semitic.

In 2019, she suggested that Israel’s supporters are pushing U.S. lawmakers to take a pledge of “allegiance to a foreign country.” She was also pressured to apologized “unequivocally” for suggesting that congressional support for Israel was “all about the Benjamins baby,” a longstanding trope about Jews buying influence.

House Democratic leadership directly rebuked Omar over the remarks.

Vail Town Council race was a modest-spending affair

Brian Stockmar, right, was one of four candidates among the 10 running for seats on the Vail Town Council who reported no campaign expenditures. Scott N. Miller/Vail Daily

Two years ago, Vail Town Council member Kevin Foley received the most votes in that seven-member race, spending just more than $3 in his campaign. Barry Davis can top that.

According to the most recent campaign contribution and spending documents filed with the town, Davis reported spending no money on this year’s race, in which he finished third.

Davis was one of four candidates — Brian Stockmar, Jermaine Wates and Kirk Hansen — who reported no campaign expenditures. Davis was the only one of the group elected.

Stockmar, an incumbent who wasn’t reelected, spent more than $5,000 on his first run for council in 2019.

Niko Sayag, a first-time candidate this year, raised more than $2,700 and spent just more than $2,100.

Three other candidates — reelected incumbent Travis Coggin, along with Kathryn Middleson and Pete Seibert — raised between $1,000 and $1,100. Seibert paid his campaign expenses from his own pocket.

Jonathan Staufer also paid his campaign expenses — a bit less than $500 — from his own pocket.

Most of the candidates’ spending went into campaign signs, flyers, office supplies, post cards and stamps.

The most money raised and spent in the council race was from Citizens For Responsible Government, which backed four candidates: Stockmar, Hansen, Staufer and Middleton. That group raised money from a number of donors and spent just more than $7,000. Much of that was spent on online and print advertising.

The committee to support Vail’s ballot issue 1A, a 0.5% increase in the town’s sales tax rate, drew by far the most donations, from both individuals and businesses.

The group, Vail Locals for Housing, raised nearly $11,000 and spent more than $6,000.

So what happens to excess money raised and not spent?

According to the Colorado Secretary of State’s office, money raised but not spent can be rolled over for future use, which requires a committee or candidate to maintain an “active” status with the state. Funds can also be returned to contributors or donated to charities that have 501(c)(3) tax status.

Vail’s Kerry Donovan suspends campaign against Lauren Boebert

Kerry Donovan, who has a residence in Vail and a family ranch near Edwards, faced a steep challenge to unseat Lauren Boebert in Colorado’s sprawling, red-leaning 3rd Congressional District.
Dave Zalubowski/AP

Kerry Donovan, the leading Democratic challenger for Lauren Boebert’s seat in Colorado’s sprawling 3rd Congressional District, announced Friday morning that she is suspending her campaign as a result of Colorado’s new congressional map.

“It has been an honor and a privilege to earn the support of Coloradans and Americans from all walks of life, and I cannot express my gratitude for each and every person who stepped up to help our campaign. With over 60,000 contributions and an average donation of less than $25, we built a grassroots movement that crossed the continental divide, party lines and ideological differences,” Donovan said in a statement. “We built one of the most powerful campaigns in the country, bringing together tens of thousands of people dedicated to standing up for our democracy and bridging divides to solve the problems our nation faces.”

Donovan, who has a residence in Vail and a family ranch near Edwards, already faced a steep challenge to unseat Boebert in the far-flung, red-leaning district. The state’s redistricting of Colorado’s eight congressional districts only pushed Boebert’s advantage by pushing Donovan into the 2nd Congressional District. Donovan had already suspended fundraising for her campaign last month after the state’s independent congressional redistricting commission approved the new map before submitting it to the Colorado Supreme Court for final approval.

The new map puts most of the Eagle River Valley in the 2nd Congressional District — leaving Dotsero and a few other random slivers isolated in the 3rd Congressional District with El Jebel and Basalt in the Roaring Fork Valley.

Previously, the Eagle River Valley was more evenly split between the 2nd and 3rd Congressional Districts with the boundary falling in the Avon/EagleVail area. Congressional representatives don’t have to live in the district they represent, according to federal law, just the state their district is in.

“This campaign was about standing up to hateful and divisive leadership and making sure that the West, which has big problems to solve, was represented by someone who would fight for us, not a headline,” Donovan said. “While each $15 check in the mail with a memo ‘We believe in you’ or $20 donation at a meet and greet made me more committed by the day, the congressional maps failed to recognize the complexity of rural Colorado and instead divided communities, protected incumbents, and ignored Coloradans’ voices. As a result, there is no viable path forward for me to remain in this race, and I have made the decision to suspend my campaign for Congress.”

There was no reaction from Boebert on either of her Twitter accounts to the news of Donovan all but exiting the race. The congresswoman based out of Garfield County was generating headlines, however, for a post she shared on Twitter on Thursday night showing her wearing a red dress with the phrase “Let’s go, Brandon” while posing next to former President Donald Trump.

The phrase has become a rallying cry for Republicans in recent weeks as a snub to Joe Biden and his administration.

“It’s not a phrase, it’s a movement,” Boebert wrote in the tweet.

Vail’s voter turnout best ever with mail-in ballots

Joanne Cermak, right, and Julie Salaz, count and process ballots on Election Day Tuesday at the Eagle County Government Building in Eagle. Most voting is done by mailing or dropping off ballots.
Chris Dillmann/Vail Daily

Some in Vail have been lobbying to shift the town to a mail-in election for years. That seems to have worked this year.

This year, for the first time, the town participated in the Eagle County consolidated election, which included contests throughout the county and its towns. The result of that participation was a record turnout, both in terms of ballots cast and turnout percentage of registered voters.

The results won’t be official for a couple of weeks, but won’t change much from this: 1,814 Vail residents voted, which is 40.5% of registered voters in town. Both are the highest figures for a municipal election since at least 1985.

General elections, in which state and federal offices are contested, are a different story. The 2020 general election saw the highest-ever turnout in town: 3,408 ballots cast, an 85% voter turnout.

For years, general elections in Colorado have been conducted via mail and drop box. That’s part of what has led residents to advocate for the town to take a similar path.

Amanda Swanson/Vail Daily

On the other hand, there have been people in town who revel in the old-school feel of showing up to vote in person at Vail Town Hall.

“I get that, and it’s not bad… it’s a beautiful feeling when Vail acts like a real town and you see everybody,” resident Mark Gordon said. Gordon is a former Town Council member and has served on other town boards and commissions.

While Gordon said he understands the feel-good elements of voting in person, having more people participate is better.

“I’m so happy about us going to a mail-in ballot,” Gordon said. He added mail-in voting in Colorado works well, and “having more people participate is a fantastic goal unto itself.”

Vail Town Council member Jen Mason was also happy to see this week’s turnout numbers.

“It was fun to see,” Mason said, noting that the turnout may indicate higher participation from younger voters.

“The younger (Town Council) candidates worked really hard,” Mason said. “It gets that younger generation, and we need them to get involved. They live here.”

By the numbers

By the numbers

Here are the top four vote totals in Vail municipal elections since 1985:

2021: 1,814 ballots cast.

2005: 1,356 ballots cast.

2019: 1,102 ballots cast.

1999: 1,075 ballots cast.

Sources: Town of Vail, Eagle County

Barry Davis pulls ahead of Brian Stockmar, Jonathan Staufer in Vail Town Council race

Teams of election judges verify people's ballots during Election Day Tuesday in Eagle. The process to get Eagle County ballots counted takes a whole team, each performing a specific job.
Chris Dillmann/Vail Daily

UPDATE: Barry Davis trailed incumbent Brian Stockmar by just 15 votes for the fourth and final seat on the Vail Town Council as of 9 p.m. Tuesday. But by midnight, Davis had pulled ahead of Stockmar by 41 votes and Jonathan Staufer by nine votes to sit in third in the closely contested race.

If the results hold, Davis will win a four-year term, while Staufer will earn a two-year term and Stockmar will be left without a seat.

Pete Seibert

Unofficial election returns as of midnight Tuesday show Pete Seibert leading the field with 827 votes (14.7%), incumbent Travis Coggin pulling into second with 676 votes (12.01%), Davis pulling into third with 655 votes (11.64%) and Staufer dropping to fourth with 646 votes (11.48%). Stockmar, the other incumbent in the race, fell to fifth with 614 votes (10.91%). The top three finishers will serve four-year terms, while the fourth serves a two-year term.

Travis Coggin

Results won’t be official for another couple of weeks, pending receipt of overseas and military votes.

Barry Davis

There was a 10-person candidate field this year, with a mix of youth and experience in the group. Three candidates grew up in town: Seibert, Staufer and Coggin. Coggin and Stockmar were the two incumbents running.

Jonathan Staufer

There were two open seats, with Jenn Bruno and Mayor Dave Chapin leaving due to town term-limit rules. The new council, which meets Dec. 7 for the first time, will select a mayor to serve for the next two years.

The group also featured a former council member, Kim Newbury Rediker.

The other four candidates, Niko Sayag, Jermaine Wates, Kathryn Middleton and Kirk Hansen, were all seeking a first term on the council.

The race focused in large part on the traditional issues of housing and transportation, as well as how best to fill employee shortages. There were also discussions about the prospect of the town being too busy on some summer weekends.

Candidates can hold a wide range of opinions, but campaigns are generally civil. That’s been the case this year, with the exception of a handful of “No Staufer” signs sprinkled around town. Staufer dismissed the signs, saying he’d rather focus on issues.

The same thing happened in 2019 during then-candidate Karen Perez’s run for council.

How they voted

Unofficial results for Vail Town Council:

Jermaine A. Waits: 174 votes

Kathryn Middleton: 535 votes

Kirk Hansen: 372 vote

Jonathan Staufer: 592 votes.

Pete Seibert: 708 votes

Brian Stockmar: 561 votes

Niko Sayag: 309 votes

Kim Newbury Rediker: 524 vote

Travis Coggin: 578 votes

Barry Davis: 546 votes

Voters reject tax increase for Mountain Recreation facility upgrades

A rendering of the proposed upgrades to the Edwards Field House.
Courtesy illustration

Returns at 9 p.m. Tuesday show Ballot Issue 6A behind in the polls by a margin of 302 votes.

6A asks voters in the Mountain Recreation District in western Eagle County to to approve a property-tax increase that will support about $60 million in construction, as well as provide operating and maintenance funds moving forward.

Returns show 3,020 votes in favor of the tax increase with 3,322 votes opposed.

Janet Bartnik, Mountain Recreation’s executive director who also is running for town council in Eagle, said the effort was a result of community listening sessions and planning.

“While sharing information at over 30 events across the valley and connecting with the community, we heard loud and clear that many community members want these improvements, but we also heard that the total cost of improvements felt steep to taxpayers,” Bartnik said. “I am pleased with the work done by our team to sharpen the pencil and appreciate the board’s thoughtful discussions about the costs and concerns we heard from our community members.”

Mountain Rec said the mill levy increase of 4.505 mills would raise about $3.8 million in 2022 and afterward and is estimated to cost $32 per year per $100,000 in home value, about $217 per year for the average home in the district.

The effort would fund renovation and expansion of recreation facilities in Edwards, Eagle and Gypsum to provide new recreation spaces, equipment and programs and community health and well-being services for children, teens, adults, families and seniors; year-round access through updated and new community spaces, behavioral health programs, local nonprofit services and social activities; and improvements to trailhead, swimming, and recreational facilities to provide more access for active outdoor recreation, summer camps, and youth and adult recreation programs.

Geoff Grimmer, Nick Sunday lead the two races for Eagle Town Council

Eagle Town Council candidates participate in a forum on Oct. 21. In the back, from left, are Weston Arbogast, Shawn Bruckman, Jamie Woodworth Foral, Weston Gleiss, Judson Haims, Sarah Parrish, Nick Sunday and Geoff Grimmer. Janet Bartnik was unable to attend.
Kelli Duncan/Vail Daily

Incumbent Geoff Grimmer beat out newcomer Weston Gleiss in the run for the Eagle Town Council’s sole four-year term, with 59% to Gleiss’s 41% as of 9:15 p.m. Tuesday.

“Big projects take time,“ Grimmer said Tuesday evening, calling the opportunity to spend four more years serving his community ”just a tremendous honor.“

“I’m just going to wake up even earlier tomorrow and try to research even more and do everything I can to feel good after four years,” he said. “This is just the beginning.”

Joining Grimmer on the Town Council are the top vote-getters for the town’s three two-year seats up this election: Nick Sunday, Janet Bartnik and Sarah Parrish. Sunday led the pack with 19% of the vote, Bartnik claimed 17% and Parrish claimed 16%.

A total of 1,771 ballots cast by Eagle voters had been counted as of 9:15 p.m. Tuesday. Election results are set to be updated again just before midnight on Tuesday, and results will not be finalized for another two weeks.

Bartnik, an incumbent and three-year Eagle resident, is the executive director of Mountain Recreation.

Nick Sunday, center, and Geoff Grimmer, right, were the front-runners in their respective races for the Eagle Town Council’s open two-year term seats and four-year term seat.
Kelli Duncan/Vail Daily

Sunday and Parrish will be new to the Eagle Town Council but are by no means new to the Eagle area. Both longtime residents, Parrish is a real estate agent, and Sunday is the operations manager of Alpine Vending & Video Inc.

“I was optimistic from the start. I talked to a lot of people,” Parrish said Tuesday. “There’s a lot of great strengths within this group, and I do feel really proud to have made it to rise to the top.”

“It’s a really awesome feeling that the town of Eagle, so far, has turned out for me,” Sunday said. “Either way, I don’t think Eagle could lose, and I’m really excited for that.”

Both Sunday and Parrish expressed admiration for their fellow candidates. Being such a “close-knit community,” five of them actually watched the results roll in together at Bonfire Brewing Co. in Eagle, Sunday said.

“We’re assuring everyone that is below us that they’re not off the hook,” Parrish said of the other candidates. “We’re going to still need them as resources, and we’re going to put them to work because everyone did offer such great viewpoints.”

From left, Eagle Town Council candidates Shawn Bruckman, Weston Arbogast, Nick Sunday, Sarah Parrish and Jamie Woodworth Foral watched the election results come in at Bonfire Brewing Co. in Eagle on Tuesday night.
Nick Sunday/Courtesy photo

Shawn Bruckman and Judson Haims both garnered 14% of the vote. Weston Arbogast and Jamie Woodworth Foral had each earned 10% as of 9:15 p.m.

To Parrish’s point, Grimmer said he would like to interview any candidates who did not make the cut and incorporate their ideas into the work of the new Town Council.

“We’re going to need to take the time to make sure that we debrief all the candidates and make sure we cast a broad net as far as collecting ideas that could be useful for all the residents’ quality of life,” Grimmer said Tuesday.

Some of the top issues at play this election were affordable housing, small-business support, environmental sustainability and maintaining the cultural integrity of Eagle.

These issues and more were discussed at an Eagle Town Council candidate forum held by the Eagle Chamber of Commerce last month.

The four newly elected candidates will form the majority of the seven-member Town Council in a dynamic moment in Eagle’s growth.

Eagle voters show approval for ballot question authorizing $27M in downtown development bonds

Eagle Flight Days parade attendees play in the water as it sprays from an Eagle County Regional Airport Aircraft Rescue Fire Fighting vehicle on Broadway in Eagle in June.
Kristin Anderson/Courtesy photo

Voters in downtown Eagle overwhelmingly approved a ballot question from the town’s Downtown Development Authority requesting permission to borrow up to $27 million in tax increment financing bonds.

As of 9:15 p.m. Tuesday, 81% of residents had voted in favor of the measure and 19% against. Election results will be updated again at midnight.

The bonds would be used for small business grants and other improvements to the downtown area.

Only property owners along Capitol and Broadway streets were eligible to vote on the ballot measure, a group that amounted to just 95 people in last year’s election.

Ballots cast by about one-third of that group, or 37 voters, had been counted as of 9:15 p.m. Tuesday with 30 voting in favor and only seven against.

The bonds issued by the Downtown Development Authority would be paid back through a public financing method called tax increment financing, or TIF.

The TIF bonds would allow the entity to get up-front funding for grants and improvements to the downtown area, which would then be paid back over a period of 20 years using the future anticipated increase in tax revenue generated by said improvements.

“Whether it’s sales tax or property tax … if your tax collections are $100 a day and the next year you increase that to $200, that tax increment financing, that revenue stream … supports the bond that you’ve gone into debt for,” Eagle Town Manager Brandy Reitter said in August.

This is the same financing method used to create the Downtown Development Authority after a ballot initiative was approved by voters in the November 2020 election.

Alter, Conlin, Peña, Stecher, Reynolds win seats on school board

Two factions of candidates emerged in the school board election — represented by two political committees.
Nate Peterson/Vail Daily File

Votes compiled by 9 p.m. on Tuesday night indicate that incumbents Kelly Alter and Michelle Stecher as well as newcomers Lelia Conlin, Juan Peña and Dan Reynolds will take over the five open seats on the Eagle County Board of Education.

Early results have District A candidate Alter taking 63% of the votes ahead of Andrew Keiser; District B candidate Conlin taking 68% of the votes against Kyla Sink; District E candidate Peña taking 64% of the votes against Heather Bergquist; and District G candidate Reynolds with 70% of the votes against Susan Cunningham.

District F candidate Stecher claimed 7,129 votes to write-in candidate Maribel Avila’s 1,221 votes. District B write-in candidate Bridget Russell received 40 votes.

A contentious campaign season

From left to right, Kelly Alter, Lelia Conlin, Juan Peña, Dan Reynolds and Michelle Stecher celebrate on election night.
Carolyn Paletta/Vail Daily

The school board election was highly contentious this year as 11 candidates competed for five open seats. The high participation in the race followed months of high-spirited school board meetings where local parents and community members brought mask debates, politics and more to the forefront of school discussions.

Two factions of candidates emerged in election season — represented by two political committees, the Community Coalition for Eagle County School Board and People for Eagle County School District. Each committee supported a slate of five candidates.

The Community Coalition candidates, also known as the Vote Smart x5 campaign slate, will take the five seats.

Wendy Rimel, who served as the volunteer campaign coordinator for the committee, expressed pride on election night for the campaign’s success.

“We really want to represent 100% of the voices,” Rimel said. “I’m incredibly proud that we ran a nonpartisan campaign, because that’s what the school board represents, and that we had representatives from all parties who share common goals for a broad majority of our community.”

And as the campaigning heated up, the election also brought in a large amount of donations for individual campaigns and the two committees, as candidates spent money on campaign signs, door hangers, ads and more.

As of Nov. 1, the Community Coalition had received and spent the most out of any individual or committee campaign, bringing in $19,318.63 and spending $16, 353.31. The other committee, in comparison, received $825 in donations and spent $696.47.

However, the individual candidates represented by the People for Eagle County School District also had their own significant campaign contributions — whereas those represented by the Community Coalition funneled all donations through the committee.

Bergquist received the most donations ($15,012.10), and spent the most ($10,478.49) out of any individual candidate. These contributions and expenditures were followed by Keiser, who brought in $10,215 and spent $9,776.80; Sink, who brought in $2,772.81 and spent $1,528.66; and Cunningham, who brought in $2,580.40 and spent $2,131.30.

Throughout the campaign and through election night, Peña expressed gratitude for the support he has received, and that the campaigning paid off.

“I’m overwhelmed by the support that everyone has been giving, it’s just unreal. I’m kind of on Cloud Nine. It’s a great feeling, and it’s a lot of work that went into it,” he said.

Incumbent Alter said that this campaign season was very different than past school board elections.

“This is one of the first years, in all my years in Eagle County, where because we had so many candidates they were all really passionate and really wanted it, whereas in the past you’re often drawing people in as appointees,” she said. “We have really passionate, informed school board members that are excited to get to work.”

Getting to work

With three new directors joining the Board of Education, based on the current election results, there will be almost an entirely new board starting in December.

The board also will be sending off two long-serving members, Kate Cocchiarella and Shelly Jarnot, who served 11.5 years and eight years, respectively, as well as Fernando Almanza, who served one term on the board.

And with the new board will come new leadership. At the end of their terms, Cocchiarella served as board president and Jarnot as the vice president. One of the first duties of the new board will be to elect their new leadership.

Cocchiarella has mixed feelings coming to the end of her service.

“I am grateful for the experience: success and failure, heartbreak and joy, wicked problems and creative solutions; I am grateful for all of it. It has been an honor to be part of such a dynamic and dedicated team,” Cocchiarella wrote to the Vail Daily. “However, after 11 ½ years, I am ready to relinquish the responsibility of my role. Board work is a labor of love, and it demands commitment and sacrifice.”

And in passing on the torch of service, Cocchiarella is ready to see the “fresh perspective and renewed energy” that the new directors bring.

Incumbents Alter and Stecher will remain on the board — alongside directors Ted Long and Lucila Tvarkunas — to bring in the three new board members.

“Having fresh perspectives will be great. I’m really proud of the work that’s been done on the school board, while I’ve been on the board for three years, and really over the last five to 10 years, especially how we’ve navigated all of the challenges of the pandemic,” Stecher said. “But our work needs to continue on, and having folks with different backgrounds and fresh perspectives, who are comfortable with each other where we can challenge each other in order to make breakthroughs and decisions that are best for the kids is going to be amazing.”

As for her words of advice to the new members? “Ask questions,” Stecher said. “We do have a lot of business as usual processes, but we are also up against some really difficult choices where it seems like both ways are really going to be challenging or both ways could be really good, and we have to pick between them.”

Alter added that she hopes all the new members will jump right into their work.

“My encouragement to the new board members is to try and find your voice as soon as possible, because it seems intimidating when you first get into board meetings, but the people are all really friendly and open,” she said.

For many of the new candidates, jumping in will include bringing their own perspectives to the table and tackling challenges — like the district’s staffing shortage — head on.

“My goal is to keep good teachers in our valley. We have some great teachers, and we’ve lost some really great teachers, and it’s really hard when you get to know these people who come here and want to teach and they build these kids up, but then they have to leave because they can’t afford to live here,” Peña said.

Peña added that he would like to see an increased focus on Hispanic students and keeping their Spanish language skills alive.

“We have a lot of Hispanics, and I am a part of that, and I want to dig deeper into that to make it better and more efficient. I’ve seen some of the kids that say they are bilingual, and then if you hear them read Spanish they struggle because they focus so much on English that they’ve forgotten their first language,” he said. “They can speak it well, but they’ve forgotten how to read it. So I want to improve on that.”

For Conlin, helping teachers and achieving her goals will include working with the community as whole.

“Throughout the campaign, we’ve talked to a lot of constituents and teachers and what I’ve figured out is that we have to put an emphasis on taking care of each other and working together as a community and doing what we can to take care of our teachers, whether that’s monetary compensation or housing or childcare or wellness,” she said. “When they are taken care of, they are taking care of our kids, and that means better and brighter futures for all of our kids.”

Carolyn Paletta contributed reporting.

Commissioners can now seek a third term in Eagle County, but will they?

Joanne Cermak verifies and counts ballots before securing them on Election Day Tuesday in Eagle. Cermak has been working elections since at least 2005, doing most all jobs affiliated with elections, even picking ballots up one year.
Chris Dillmann/Vail Daily

The Eagle Board of County Commissioners were pleasantly surprised to see ballot measure 1A pass on Tuesday, allowing them to seek a third term in office.

Most counties in Colorado allow elected officials to serve more than two terms, but in Eagle County, the two-term limit set by the state Constitution has always been enforced.

Eagle County sought to change that this year, asking voters if it would allow commissioners to serve a third term. Commissioners weren’t exactly expecting it to pass, much less by a 15% margin. The results as of 9 p.m. showed 7,043 voters in favor of the third term allowance, with 5,180 against.

“I thought with some of the national distrust, people would just vote no on general purposes,” Commissioner Kathy Chandler-Henry said. “So I’m pleased to see this affirmation from local voters.”

Chandler-Henry positioned herself as the poster child for the effort, as she herself has already served more than eight years as commissioner due to the fact that she was initially appointed to fill out another commissioner’s term. Chandler-Henry won’t term out until 2024 and has agreed not to run again.

“I hit eight years as of July 1, and that was telling to me, that that would have been it,” she said.

Chandler-Henry is the county’s representative to the Water Quality Quantity Committee, Reudi Reservoir Water and Power Authority, Northwest Colorado Council of Government Economic Development District Board of Directors, Lake Creek Affordable Housing Corporation, FirstNet Governing Board and the Colorado River Water Conservation District Board of Directors.

She is also vice chair of the Public Lands Steering Committee, Healthy Counties Advisory Board Member, Membership Standing Committee Member, Resilient Counties Advisory Board County Board Member and Rural Action Caucus Member.

She said all those board appointments are the result of being in government for a long time, and Eagle County commissioners are disadvantaged in seeking those board appointments due to the fact that they’re not allowed to serve as long as commissioners from many other counties in Colorado.

“There’s only about eight counties that are limited to two terms, so it really puts Eagle County at a disadvantage,” Chandler-Henry said. “Some of those appointments at the national level, like the public lands steering committee, if you’re term limited in the next year or so, you’re not going to get appointed to something like that.”

Chandler-Henry was appointed first in July of 2013, was elected in 2014 to finish out the term of the person she was appointed to fill, was elected to her first full term in 2016, and was reelected in 2020. With the passage of 1A, Chandler-Henry would be eligible to run again in 2024, but says she will not.

“Because of the appointment, I will have essentially had three terms, so it felt right to me, in campaigning for this, to say I’ll be finished in 2024 regardless,” Chandler-Henry said. “It felt to me like the spirit of the ballot issue was 12 years, which is about what I will have had.”

Chandler-Henry said her colleague Jeanne McQueeney, however, will be at the end of her term in 2022 and will be eligible to run again.

“I hope she decides to run again, because she’s really making an impact at the state level with child care and children and family issues,” Chandler-Henry said.

Commissioner Matt Scherr, the newest member of the three-commissioner board, is only one year into his first term. He also said he hopes McQueeney will run again.

“Jeanne is an expert in early childhood education and is very level-headed about governance,” Scherr said.

McQueeney said she hasn’t decided yet if she will run for another term. Her husband, Henry McQueeney, retired in June after 30 years with Eagle County Schools, and the couple is still seeing how Henry’s retirement will affect McQueeney’s work.

McQueeney said the passage of 1A has accelerated the big question — will she run again — but she also said she never felt the issue was about her.

“We tried really hard to have it not be about the three us,” McQueeney said. “So many county commissioners across the state have three terms, and we try to get elected to different leadership roles around the state and the federal level, it takes a while, so we really were looking at this as a good thing for Eagle County, it just elevates the position that you can achieve.”