Gypsum voters elect two incumbents and one newcomer, strongly support Sweetwater campaign

Incumbents Tom Edwards and Chris Huffman will be joined by newcomer Kathy Brendza

Gypsum Election Results:

  • Tom Edwards — 513
  • Chris Huffman — 462
  • Kathleen Brendza— 450
  • Marisa Sato — 441
  • Jesse Meryhew — 440
  • Cicero Da Silva — 403
$80,000 Gypsum donation to the Gypsum Sweetwater Save the Lake Campaign
  • Yes: 859
  • No: 253

GYPSUM — In Tuesday’s municipal election, Gypsum voters returned two incumbents to the Town Council and resoundingly voiced their official support for the Sweetwater Lake preservation effort.

Incumbent members Tom Edwards and Chris Huffman were re-elected to the council and will be joined by newcomer Kathleen Brendza. By a vote of 859 in favor and 253 against, voters resoundingly supported an additional $80,000 contribution to the Sweetwater Save the Lake Campaign.

The July 7 election was postponed from April 7 because of COVID-19 concerns. It was Gypsum’s first mail-in ballot vote and the community saw the highest turnout ever for a municipal election. There were 1,112 ballots returned of the more than 4,000 mailed out. For comparison, around 700 residents voted in Gypsum’s 2018 municipal election.

Sweetwater support

In November, the Gypsum Town Council pledged $20,000 to the Save the Lake campaign, an effort of the Eagle Valley Land Trust to raise money to purchase the popular Sweetwater Lake Resort. The ballot question in Tuesday’s election asked if voters supported donating an additional $80,000 to the effort.

The Sweetwater campaign marked a milestone last week when The Conservation Fund announced its purchase of the 488-acre property. One of the reasons the national nonprofit closed on what is planned as an interim ownership deal is the high level of local support for the plan to preserve the property.

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The Conservation Fund’s purchase ensures the property will not be developed and allows time to obtain necessary federal funding to transfer the land to the U.S. Forest Service. The Land and Water Conservation Fund will play a critical role in ensuring permanent protection of the lake as part of the White River National Forest.

In May of this year, the USFS announced that Sweetwater Lake was No. 9 on its list of nationwide priority land acquisitions for 2021. The agency is seeking $8.5 million for the project from the Land and Water Conservation Fund — a bipartisan, federal program that has used a percentage of proceeds from offshore oil and gas royalties, not taxpayer dollars, to acquire critical lands and protect natural resources for more than 50 years.

The Conservation Fund’s interim purchase of Sweetwater Lake was made possible through support from Great Outdoors Colorado, a $500,000 donation from Eagle County, and roughly $350,000 from private community donations raised by the Eagle Valley Land Trust. The land trust’s “Save the Lake” campaign is still actively seeking contributions for ongoing stewardship of the lake, and to ensure proper long-term management, maintenance, and recreational amenities.

Charter changes

Voters overwhelmingly agreed that it is time to clean up some of the provisions of Gypsum’s nearly 40-year-old home rule charter.

Gypsum officials said changes in the community and advancements in technology prompted the suggested charter changes.

The ballot results from the five charter changes are:

  • Election timelines: Colorado HB15-1130 changed the timelines for filing nomination petitions, and this change would reflect the state law. Yes: 771/No: 341
  • Initiative and referendum processes: This change would clarify the rules for the processes and reflect state regulation. Yes: 821/No: 291
  • Powers and duties of the mayor: “Back in 1982, Gypsum had one or two employees and the mayor, and they ran everything,” explained Gypsum Town Attorney Bob Cole. “The way your charter is written, the mayor has the power to come in and run the show, but that hasn’t happened recently.” Gypsum now operates in a more conventional manner, with the mayor and town council making policy and the town manager implementing their actions. The charter change reflects that practice, Cole said. Yes: 705 /No: 407
  • Hard copy or electronic copies of ordinances: This change allows the town to provide ordinance copies both electronically or by hard copy. Yes: 977/No: 135
  • Posting and publication: This change would designate the town’s website as the official location for any posting or publication of notices and documents. Yes: 913/ No: 199

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