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Two contested seats, Salida on ballot for CMC

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Five seats are up for election — two contested — on the Nov. 5 ballot for the Colorado Mountain College (CMC) Board of Trustees. Each term of office is for four years except for Trustee  District 7 which is two years.

Also on the ballot will be whether to annex the Salida School District in Chaffee County.

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If approved, CMC Salida students will pay in-district tuition rates of $80 per credit hour. Currently, those students pay out-of-district rates of $170 per credit hour. The lower tuition rate is possible because taxpayers within the CMC district pay a 3.997 mill levy that supports the college. Taxpayers in Salida would pay that same rate if the town is added to the CMC district. The current in-district tax rate would not be affected..

The Steamboat Springs School District in 1982 was the last school district to be successfully annexed into the CMC community.

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Trustee candidates

Trustee District 2 (Roaring Fork School District RE-1 boundaries) – Mary Nelle Axelson and Marianne Virgili are running. This seat was vacated by Kathy Goudy, due to term limits.

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Trustee District 4 (Summit School District RE-1 boundaries) – Current trustee Patricia J. Theobald is running unopposed.

Trustee District 5 (Steamboat Springs School District RE-2 boundaries) – Current trustee Bob Kuusinen is running unopposed.

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Trustee District 6 (Lake County School District RE-1 boundaries) – Bob Hartzell and Christine Whittington are running. This seat was vacated by Pat Chlouber, due to term limits.

Trustee District 7 (Eagle County School District RE-50J boundaries) – Current trustee Chris Romer is running unopposed; he was appointed to the board in 2018 and is running for the remaining two years of the four-year term that began in November 2017

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Mary Nelle Axelson, of Glenwood Springs, running for the  District 2 seat, explains she has been thinking about running for the board while on staff at CMC, “I want to help CMC work even better for all of our communities. If you live in a community, you should be involved.”

Axelson taught developmental studies at CMC for 28 years, adding, “I’ve basically been in school since I was four,” and many of her family members have been teachers. Her experience includes volunteering on high school scholarship committees.

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“I firmly believe education is the way forward for all of us.”    

She favored annexing the Salida district, as it is a good fit. She said “We should listen to what our communities need.”

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Marianne Virgili, of Carbondale, also on the ballot for  District 2, said participating as a CMC trustee is a good way to pay back to the community as “education is the key to a better future for all of us.”

Virgili would like to see more four-year degree programs; “We should research the skills employers want, and what jobs are going unfilled.”

She worked as CEO of Glenwood Springs Chamber of Commerce for 30 years. Virgili also served as a volunteer CMC lobbyist at the Colorado State Capitol in Denver. She worked to emphasize CMC’s ability to offer 4-year bachelor’s degrees.

Her goals include providing affordable education for students to be able to study, reside and work where they live and training first responders, nurses, law enforcement and teachers

Robert Hartzell, of Leadville, is a trustee candidate for  District 6. He served as Leadville campus dean and was also integral in starting a nine-county (CMC service area) leadership development program. Central Rockies Leadership (CRL) was the result and functional from 1993 through 2002.

Hartzell saw encouraging signs for the college,” I am really very impressed with the leaders we have.”

His top priorities include bringing all of the communities together as one. He approved of Salida becoming a full partner with the  District as it has a strong outdoor component.

When asked about CMC’s facilities in the town, Hatzell remarked, “We’ll have to study whether any new construction is warranted.”

Christine Whittington, of Leadville. is vying for the  District 6 seat. As director of the Leadville CMC Library since 2014, “I have been very impressed with the level of academic instruction. The faculty has provided good mentorship to our students,”

“I believe instructors should have the freedom to teach the way they want to,” she stressed. “When we hire the best people as faculty and staff, we make it possible for students to do the best they can.”

She noted many college-age residents may be leaving Leadville to attend other academic institutions, a pattern she’d like to reverse. Salida faces the same issue.

As for the Salida question on the ballot, “I can’t think of any downside to adding the town into our district.”

The Colorado Mountain College Board of Trustees has seven at large seats which are elected by all the voters in the six counties comprising the CMC District.

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