Chlouber’s race revives a town |

Chlouber’s race revives a town

J.K. Perry
Preston Utley/Daily file photoKen Chlouber of Leadville faces Democrat Dan Gibbs in the race for the House District 56 seat vacated by Gary Lindstrom. Chlouber said his nearly two decades experience in politics will help him pass laws if elected to the Legislature.

LEADVILLE ” The Climax Mine closure halted Leadville’s economy. Republican Ken Chlouber responded by creating the Leadville 100 trail race.

The 67-year-old candidate for Eagle County’s state representative has run in and organized the race since 1983. It now draws 450 runners and 800 bikers. In 24 years, the 100-mile race has fetched millions of dollars.

“It’s the largest direct financial injection into our community all year long,” said Chlouber, a Leadville resident.

This isn’t the only race Chlouber has run. The economic problems Leadville faced after the mine closed spurred Chlouber on to Denver to find solutions. He served in leadership positions in both the state House and Senate from 1986 to 2004.

After a brief retirement, he faces Democrat Dan Gibbs for the House District 56 seat, which includes Eagle, Summit and Lake counties, The post is being vacated by Democrat Gary Lindstrom.

Chlouber trails Gibbs significantly in contributions and money spent on the campaign. He currently is working with nearly $28,000.

Chlouber said he is running to return experience to the House and restore the honor, decency and dignity damaged by recent ethics scandals.

Chlouber said he is particularly proud of several bills he passed during his tenure in Denver, including the prevention of telemarketing calls to homeowners and the creation of the Arkansas Headwaters State Park.

The small-town Oklahoma native also sponsored a bill to bring Powerball to Colorado. Although the bill was vetoed, Powerball was later approved by voters.

He said he is opposed to “527 groups” that, because of a tax loophole, can raise and spend money to influence the outcome of elections though they’re not affiliated with any candidates. Chlouber has asked such groups not to support him or bash his opponent, he said.

Still, Chlouber said he got a negative piece of mail about himself from a Democratic group.

“I hate, loathe and despise them,” Chlouber said. “The main reason is because of all the negative garbage they’re putting out about (candidates).”

Chlouber married his wife Pat out of high school and later received a degree in biology from Oklahoma Baptist University, a school his son also attended. Chlouber intended to go to medical school, but then chose not to because of the cost.

He served in the Army six years and came to Leadville in 1974.

“One of our main goals in life was to get out of Oklahoma,” he said.

In Leadville, Chlouber worked as an underground shift boss at the Climax Mine. When times were good in 1980 in the nation’s highest town, he became a county commissioner ” an office as tough as being sheriff, he said.

“At least nobody’s shooting at you,” Chlouber said.

When Chlouber gets free time, he runs and mountain bikes to stay fit. He said he finished 14 of 24 of the Leadville 100 races. He recently purchased a single-speed mountain bike and once he becomes proficient with the bike, he plans to compete in mountain bike races.

Ken Chlouber answers seven questions:

Quality of life is the primary reason we choose to make these mountains our home. And a basic premise for quality of life is having a job.

Our tourism industry is the most critical component of our economic vitality. Having served on our State Tourism Board for a number of years, I know there is no single answer or approach to effective, ongoing tourism.

Targeted advertising and promotion from cooperative public and private entities are a necessary component, along with convenient, economical and uncongested transportation access. These are the backbone of a successful tourism destination. And of course, a multifaceted solution to Interstate 70 is an absolute must.

These things, plus enhanced air service, will get our tourists here. Once here, nature and our rock-solid mountain citizens will show them a good time and they’ll be back.

Illegal immigration must be stopped. Who can legitimately argue with that?

We are a nation of laws and illegal means just that. None of us (hopefully) are opposed to legal immigration. It’s the foundation of this great nation. And there are pathways for legal immigration. There are laws in place that allow foreign workers into our country for specific purposes and for a specific period of time.

Because of illegal immigration, there are today, tremendous costs primarily in education and health care that are being shifted to the back of the local taxpayer. And sure, it can be argued that there are economic benefits, but by definition one who is here illegally is breaking the law.

The primary incentive for aliens to enter this country illegally is employment. Many Coloradans believe the key to stopping illegal immigration is to eliminate the economic incentives to both employer and the illegal alien employee.

The financial burden to the Colorado taxpayer would be reduced with legislation eliminating employers tax deduction for wages paid to illegal aliens; requiring employers to verify social security credentials; prohibiting in-state tuition rates in our higher education institutions; eliminating non-emergency taxpayer funded services and most important, increasing support for law enforcement at all levels. Limited space here does not allow for the discussion this extremely critical problem deserves.

Soon after coming to Colorado, and quite by accident or most probably by divine guidance, while wandering about the incredible majesty of the Glenwood Canyon, I came upon Golden Bair, a sheep rancher.

Again by luck, divine intervention or whatever, he quickly became my mentor, my substitute father and my best friend. And after work days that were controlled by the sun and not the clock, I would be enthralled by the sweet history of how things used to be.

For one, the canyon road used to be dirt. Hard to imagine from the skyways that occupy that space today. So I suppose the lesson there is that change is coming. And as to I-70, change is needed.

At times it’s both dangerous or a dead stop or both. I-70 must be widened. There is no other way to efficiently, effectively and safely move the volume required. Additional modes of transportation should be considered and applied wherever feasible. Our economy and our quality of life require we do our best. We can and we must.

There are at least three incredibly demanding and compelling environmental challenges before us. The pine beetle and water are two to be discussed next. The third, and certainly not a new challenge, is growth.

The Legislature over the past number of years has struggled with this question and generally from an economic perspective. When the economy was poor the Legislature would do everything possible to create jobs, offer business tax incentives and encourage growth. With a good economy, uncontrolled growth was the enemy.

The bottom line is we don’t want state government’s heavy hand making these determinations. These are our towns, our communities, our homes and those necessary decisions concerning how much is too much, how much is enough, what direction and where, what are the infrastructure costs and who pays ” these are all questions to be addressed by our city councils and our boards of county commissioners.

Questions and directions for growth must be made locally by the folks who live there and are most affected. The state’s responsibility is to provide the tools necessary. Local control should never mean control the locals.

My B.S. degree with a major in biology probably gives me enough background to get into trouble on this subject.

Unfortunately, there is very little we can do on a scale large enough to affect what is a natural epidemic created by a native insect. That said, there are a few remedies that are available to the property owner wanting to save what trees aren’t infected.

Removal of infected trees and spraying is somewhat successful in at least slowing the loss. But this has its limits, with costs being a major factor. And then there are the wilderness areas that we want to maintain as just that. Another complication is the salvage value of removed, diseased trees is very little, if any.

There is hope, perhaps long term, but hope nonetheless. One is that this little critter has an affinity for older trees, 8 inches in diameter or larger to fully engage its life cycle. Smaller trees have a better chance of survival and less chance of continued larval production. Also, where there are existing aspen stands, they will increase depending on location and specific conditions.

The long shot, but best chance for interruption of life cycle and limiting the epidemic would be a super hard freeze before the larvae has gone dormant. Right now would be perfect. There is none better than our Colorado State Forest Service to answer these questions and to respond quickly and effectively in helping our communities.

We have known for a long time that Colorado does not have a water-shortage problem. We have a water storage problem. We must find a way to retain our melting Colorado snowpack for use by our citizens before it rushes out of our state.

The environmental community has long resisted interrupting rivers for storage, and with good cause. But today, things have changed dramatically. The Front Range, with seemingly unlimited dollars, is continuing to reach farther and farther west buying what was agricultural water and removing it from the land for their own use.

Now I’m just a country boy, but to me that’s environmental disaster. The deer, elk and all the wild critters depend on that water for their existence. When the deep snows come, these animals move down lower expecting the grass to be there. If the water is gone the grass is gone.

I would explore solutions among the water users, the environmental community and the agricultural industry to find common ground before all our West Slope water has East Slope ownership.

Now we’re talking about the working man and working woman ” the ones who really make the whole economic engine run smoothly. They not only need affordable and quality housing close to their employment ” they deserve it. And it’s extremely gratifying to know that the major business owners and employers recognize this and agree.

That’s why I’m very proud to have the support and endorsement of both the AFL-CIO and business groups such as Colorado Association of Commerce and Industry and the National Federation of Independent Businesses.

With cooperation from the major stakeholders, a legislative pathway can be crafted to create a major public-private partnership. The goal would be to bring together business, organized labor, ski areas, cities, counties and the state to design tax incentives for job creation coupled with the construction of appropriate housing.

This is a challenge that can and must be solved sooner rather than later. Without question, solving this challenge is critical to our economic success and our continued quality of life.

Staff Writer J.K. Perry can be reached at 748-2928 or

Vail, Colorado

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