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A closer look at the Carbondale trustee candidates

Sections: News Published

By John Colson
Sopris Sun Staff

If all goes according to plan, the Carbondale town trustees will interview six candidates and pick a replacement to serve out the remaining months of Trustee Katrina Byars’ vacated term during their next meeting on Aug. 8.

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There have been some who have questioned the use of the appointment process rather than allowing the voters to pick Byars’ replacement, but the trustees have maintained that it would cost an unacceptable $8,000 to go to the voters so soon before the spring election. And waiting that long would mean the board of trustees, with only six members including the mayor, might find their work hindered by the kind of tie vote that last week lead to the rejection of a development-review extension for a proposed storage business along Highway 133.

To better acquaint readers with the applicants for the vacant trustee position, The Sopris Sun offers a partial summary of statements made in the applications submitted to Town Hall.

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Colette Armstrong

Armstrong, 35, grew up in Carbondale, according to her statement included with the application for the trustee position, though she moved away after graduating from Roaring Fork High School and returned to town about three and a half years ago.

Her “professional background,” she explained in her statement, has included work for forensic engineering companies, energy consultants, internet marketing and in organic gardening. Currently, she told The Sopris Sun, she is working as a freelance graphic designer and web designer, professional seamstress (for a Carbondale company) and as a technical writer and editor working for various private clients.

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In her work as a forensic engineer, she wrote “I learned a great deal about the intricacies of well-planned and designed development and homes, as well as the significance of building and infrastructure maintenance.

“Most importantly,” her statement continued, “I’ve learned the importance of collaboration … listening to others’ points of view and having a proactive discussion aimed at solving problems rather than proving a point … and a dose of humor never hurts, lightening the mood when discussions become tense.”

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She wrote that all of this “would help to inform and guide my role on the board of trustees.”

Hank van Berlo

Van Berlo, 68, moved here from California in 1980, following a career there as a plumber. Married with kids and grandkids, he wrote in his statement that he has “been politically active [his] entire adult life” though he never sought and elective office prior to applying for the open trustee position.

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Now retired, his work history here, according to his resume, includes stints as a plumber and business owner, and 10 years as a paid firefighter and EMT-1 in Carbondale as well as two years of service on a town advisory board and five years on the Carbondale Mountain Fair board of directors.

His qualifications for the trustee position, he wrote, include being a “good listener” holding “a cross-section of political and economic philosophies,” a “problem solver/critical thinker” and “consensus builder,” as well as being “friendly, pragmatic, honest, compassionate,” among other attributes listed in his resume.

In his statement to the trustees, van Berlo conceded, “I am not the diverse candidate sorely needed on this board (referring to trustee remarks about wanting a woman or a Latino to apply for the post), but I hope to contribute age-tempered wisdom and work for the remainder of this term to cultivate more diverse representation in Carbondale’s decision-making.”

Niki Delson

Delson, 74, is married and a mother and grandmother. She is a retired social worker currently working as a private consultant, who moved from California to Carbondale eight and a half years ago after she retired, according to her statement.

Prior to retirement, according to her resume, she was involved in family-violence counseling, juvenile sexual abuse intervention and a range of other social-work related areas, and attended numerous professional seminars and conferences.

“Carbondale has been a natural fit for me,” she said of the town. “My family is racially and ethnically diverse (as well as long-lived — her mother turned 100 recently). We live from coast to coast, and in Asia.”

Since moving here, she wrote, she has taken advantage of “our incredible natural resources — cycling, hiking, downhill and cross-country skiing” as well as having outfitted her home to make it “electricity neutral” with the help of the Clean Energy Solar Collective.

Expressing her understanding in the valley’s population growth, particularly among senior citizens, she wrote: “Seniors bring resources and skills to their community. We contribute economically, working longer and supporting local businesses and organizations,” and she expressed the belief that “healthy communities prepare for the needs of their people.”

Her statement and resume contain a lengthy list of her community involvement, ranging from mentoring non-English native speakers, writing a newspaper column and other activities.

Julia Farwell

Farwell, who gave her age as “both old enough and young enough” to handle the trustee position and still be open minded, has lived in the valley for more than 20 years, working largely for hospitality and retail businesses, and recently has become a fairly familiar presence around Carbondale thanks to her work with the town’s Environmental Board (known as the E-Board), which has included ramrodding the town’s regular community cleanup and household toxic waste collection efforts.

Already holding a degree from the University of Illinois, Farwell currently is enrolled in the Bachelor-level Sustainability Program at Colorado Mountain College and has completed two intensive Spanish language courses in Mexico, according to her resume.

Her work history includes her current post as a waste-specialist intern with the Aspen Environmental Health department as well as a job with EverGreen ZeroWaste (since June 2015), a waste management service in Aspen; manager of the Basalt Thrift Store for about five years (2012-2017); housekeeping duties at several valley hotels and lodges; and jobs are several restaurants and other establishments starting in 1997, shortly after she moved here.

Farwell’s primary reason for applying for the trustee position, she wrote in her statement, is that “I love Carbondale” and she wants to help “keep it fun, funky, further sustainability efforts, further protect our local ecosystems, assist marginalized groups in having their voice heard and support our vibrant local arts scene.”

Jade Wimberly

Wimberly, 47, has lived in Carbondale for 16 months, is unmarried but has been in a stable relationship for a decade, she told The Sopris Sun in a telephone interview.

A naturopathic doctor for the past 13 years or so, some of it in the Mancos-Durango area of southwestern Colorado as well as in California, she currently is a part-owner of the Lux Wellness Center in Carbondale.

Other than that, she said, he once started a “house call” naturopathic business in the Oakland, CA area, where her patient list included personnel from the Oakland Raiders football team (though she was quick to stress, “I’m not a Raider fan” to reassure local fans of the Denver Broncos).

In her statement, Wimberly said she is “proud to call this small town my home,” not least because of its “endless connection to nature” and the communities “willingness to entertain and adopt innovation” in many areas.

She also predicted that the town must be prepared to take growth in stride, but not just any kind of growth.

“Positive growth is thoughtful and takes into consideration the natural environment and each individual’s needs,” she explained, and in general is an arena in which “we cannot be bystanders and complain about the process, but, instead, roll up our sleeves and participate.”

Luis Yllanes

Yllanes, 43 and married with two kids, has lived in the valley for nearly eight years, including nearly two years in Carbondale in a house they bought after living in other valley towns and finding they preferred Carbondale.

“I now understand how a wonderfully diverse community can thrive and be the key to balancing one’s work and life priorities,” he wrote in his application statement.

Yllanes, who is fluent in Spanish (thanks to time spent in South America) and English, was born and raised in Miami, Fla., and since 2009 has worked for the Aspen Art Museum, where he is director in charge of overseeing the assembly of exhibitions.

Among other interests, he has volunteered as a tutor for English in Action, coached youth sports and been an active supporter of KDNK, Carbondale’s community access radio station.

His interest in becoming a trustee, he said, comes partly from his feeling that “I can be a voice that can reach out to those in our community who may not feel as though they have a say in how our town operates.”

In addition, he wrote, “I hope to bring my own views, which align closely with the town’s mission statement, as well as a practical approach in considering issues that come before the board.”

The applications for town trustee, in addition to their statements to the board, can be found on the town’s website, www.carbondalegov.org.

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