Editor's note:The Republican primary June 28 will decide who will face Democrat candidate Electra Johnson in the general election Nov. 8 for District 3 county commissioner. The Pioneer plans a Q/A before that election with Johnson and the Republican primary winner.
The two Republicans in the D-3 primary are Karen Cullen, who made the ballot through the petition process; and Stan VanderWerf, who was selected by delegates at the Republican county assembly in March. Neither has previous elected experience.
The election winner will replace Republican Sallie Clark, who is term-limited after serving for 12 years.
District 3 covers western El Paso County, including the Westside, Manitou Springs, Green Mountain Falls and north to the Air Force Academy and south along Highway 115 (across from Fort Carson).
The Westside Pioneer asked both candidates for basic personal information and to respond to the same three questions. The personal information pertained to age, family, years lived in their district and career outside politics. The three questions were:
1. How does your experience prepare you for being a county commissioner? (150-word limit)
2. Sallie Clark has held this seat for 12 years and is now president of the National Association of Counties (NACo). In what ways would you try to be like her/unlike her? (200-word limit)
3. Is there a specific initiative you're proposing on how to make county government more efficient/ effective, whether in providing services, protecting rights or stimulating the economy? (200-word limit)
Q/A: Karen Cullen, Republican primary candidate, El Paso county commissioner,
Time in district: Lived in the district 12 years, worked in the district since 1993.
Type of career: Small-business owner, property management for both short and long term rentals. Former IT consultant.
1. Experience. County commissioner takes a wide variety of skills and as a small business owner and former IT consultant, I can relate to the challenges of running a business, managing a budget, hiring employees and working for a common goal. I understand the threats that we face in our community with fires and floods. I have been at ground zero for both. I plan to continue efforts in fire mitigation and disaster recovery to keep our communities safe and work with the Office of Emergency Management. I have the courage and creativity to handle complex situations and I love to solve problems. Building relationships is key! I have served on many local and state boards, including the Manitou Springs Chamber Board for nearly eight years, on which I was most recently president. Balancing the needs of the residents and businesses alike is at the forefront of my mind.
2. Sallie Clark. Commissioner Clark has been an advocate of the Westside for years beyond her tenure, beginning with the “Save the Westside fire station.” The traits that we share are our passion for the Westside, promoting small businesses, the tourism industry and our ability to get things done. I will continue to remove roadblocks that hinder our ability to make El Paso County great. The communities and neighborhoods are the most important part of who we are and who we want to be. I will hear your voice and be a part of the collaboration and solution. I believe that finding common ground to provide solutions to the challenges that our community faces is an important goal. The Organization of Westside Neighbors and Council of Neighbors and Organizations are good building blocks and working with them is an important part of collaboration within El Paso County and the Westside.
3. Specific initiative One of my top priorities is working with state and local leaders to modify the Senior Homestead Exemption. Today, in order to receive the exemption, you must be over 65 and have lived in your home more than 10 years. I would like to modify the rules and allow seniors to sell their homes, downsize and still take advantage of the exemption. This allows those on fixed incomes to focus on their needs like food, clothing and health care rather than the upkeep of a larger home.
In addition, I will have a watchdog eye on the important Westside Avenue Action Plan as it moves forward. This plan (No Man’s Land) has significant impact on connecting the communities of Manitou Springs and Old Colorado City. It is imperative that the communities blend together and offer a smooth transition between them for economic development.
Lastly, panhandling – I support a regional approach where El Paso County, municipalities and all public/private partnerships would come together to provide the services and facilities required to get those in true need off the streets and into jobs. We need to track results and ensure that our efforts are data-driven to ensure our success.
(Posted 5/24/16; Politics: City/County)