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Trustees select Luis Yllanes to fill vacant seat

By John Colson
Sopris Sun Staff

Luis Yllanes,  a Florida-born man with a background in the arts, was appointed to join the Carbondale Board of Trustees at a meeting of that board on Aug. 8 at Town Hall in Carbondale.

Yllanes, 43, is married with two children and has lived in town for close to two years and in the Roaring Fork Valley for a total of about eight years.

He is fluent in both Spanish and English and offered himself as a liaison between the town government and Carbondale’s Hispanic population, among other attributes, he told the town’s trustees at the meeting.

He was picked from a field of six candidates whom the sitting board members universally praised as highly qualified men and women who each would have made a good choice to replace former Trustee Katrina Byars, who resigned from the board earlier in the year when she had to move out of Carbondale in order to find affordable housing.

The town’s codes require that trustees live in Carbondale.

Byars still had about nine months left on her four-year term as trustee, and Yllanes will serve out that remaining time, then will need to run for election if he wishes to continue to be a trustee.

Other candidates included Colette Armstrong, Hank van Berlo, Niki Delson, Julia Farwell and Jade Wimberley, all of whom were encouraged to run for election next April, the next regularly scheduled trustee contest.

That election promises to be an unusual one, as five of the board’s seven seats will be up for grabs due to a combination of factors.

Trustee Frosty Merriott will be stepping down due to term limits. Other seats up for election at that time include those currently held by:

• Mayor Dan Richardson, who was elected to a trustee’s position in 2016, but ran for and won the mayor’s job last November to fill out the term of retired Mayor Stacey Bernot;

• Trustee Heather Henry, appointed last year to replace departed Trustee A.J. Hobbs;

• Trustee Erica Sparhawk, who was appointed in January to fill out the remainder of Richardson’s term as trustee, after Richardson stepped into the mayor’s spot last year.

• and Yllanes, since Byars’ term was set to expire in 2018.

The only sitting trustees who will not be standing for election in April are Ben Bohmfalk and Marty Silverstein, both of whom were elected in 2016 to four year terms that end in 2020.

At the Tuesday meeting when Yllanes was chosen to replace Byars, all six of the applicants for the position showed up and gave brief introductions of themselves, then were asked a series of questions by the trustees and, in turn, were offered the chance to ask the trustees questions of their own.

Almost as if they had rehearsed their remarks, nearly every one of the applicants mentioned that the trustees were faced with having to pick one out of a field of just about equally-qualified individuals.

Many of the applicants recounted their volunteer service to various organizations, and one, Colette Armstrong, emphasized her status as a Carbondale native and local high school graduate who went away for college and work but returned about three years ago.

She said she has volunteered for the historical society and other organizations, though not on any town advisory boards, and that she applied for the trustee position because “I really want to be part of helping to shape the community in moving forward.”

Farwell, who has been a key member of the town’s Environmental Board for years, and whose history of volunteer service was openly admired by some of the sitting trustees, pointed to her bilingual status (English and Spanish) as something that would help her serve as a link between the town government and the Latino community that makes up  hefty portion of the town’s population.

Yllanes said he learned about the trustee opening while he was away on vacation, and told the trustees that he felt an “obligation” to apply and offer his offer to help improve communications between Town Hall and the Latino population.

Toward that goal, he said he would initially reach out to Latino business owners to learn what their interests are, their views of the town government, and how that government might best modify its outlook and operations to improve communications with Latinos living and working here.

Trustee Sparhawk asked Yllanes about his background working in art museums, and whether that background might be helpful in the town’s relations with the Carbondale Arts organization, a key player in the town’s social and creative life.

After lauding the work of CA, Yllanes said with a smile, “I would love to bring my knowledge to that.”

Although he has been in town only about two years, Yllanes said he feels he has a good grasp of the town’s cultural and social priorities and problems, and that he will be able to help encourage greater participation in town affairs by Latinos and other immigrants.

The trustees, on a motion by Silverstein, voted unanimously to appoint Yllanes to replace Byars.

In other action, the trustees:

• Agreed to keep Byars on duty as the town’s liaison to the oil and gas industry and to the Garfield County government, a role she fulfilled when she was a trustee;

• Approved a transfer of ownership of the Colorado Product Services marijuana cultivation and retail sales firm (which does its retail business as Doctor’s Garden on Main Street) from founder James Leonard to one of Leonard’s employees, Sara Johnstone, who has purchased the business from Leonard.

• Adopted a proposed Carbondale Environmental Bill of Rights, drafted over the course of months by Trustees Frosty Merriott and Heather Henry, with assistance from the E-Board’s Julia Farwell and others, to guide the town’s future decisions regarding environmental sustainability.