Get to know your ERBM Board candidates

MEEKER | Ten candidates running for three open seats on Eastern Rio Blanco Metropolitan Recreation and Park District’s board of directors have responded to questions about themselves, their reasons for running and what they hope to accomplish if elected. Their responses are printed in full below.

Winning candidates will take the seats of outgoing directors Zach Clatterbaugh, Drew Varland and Kris Arcolesse.

On Monday at 6 p.m. at the Fairfield Center, the candidates will participate in a public forum co-sponsored by the Meeker Chamber of Commerce and the Rio Blanco Herald Times, where they will have an opportunity to respond to questions and interact with community residents afterward.

If you can’t make it to the forum in person, you can watch a livestream on the Herald Times Facebook page (barring technical difficulties) at https://www.facebook.com/theheraldtimes/

The election is set for May 8, 2018. ERBM has not had an election since 2012.

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ROB BAUGHMAN

I came to Meeker in 1982 after graduating from the Colorado State Patrol Academy. I had never heard of Meeker before, but I soon found out that of the possible assignments I could have been given Meeker was by far the best I could have hoped for. Having grown up in a rural area of the California Sierra Nevada mountains, coming to Meeker was like coming home. As a trooper I tried to become involved in the betterment of this community by going into the schools to educate our youth about general safety issues as well as the hazards of drugs and alcohol. I also became involved as a board member of the Build A Generation program and the Community Evaluation Team Board. I have been involved as a trustee for The Church At Meeker and have served as the commander for the American Legion and the VFW Posts. My adult life has been one of service to this nation, the state of Colorado, and Rio Blanco County so when I was asked to submit my name as a candidate for ERBMRD Board it seemed to be an opportunity to continue to serve this very special community.

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JOE BECK

I moved here with my wife and two sons in August 2006, coming in at the tail end of the boom. I was working for Exxon at the time doing fracs and completion work. Two years later, I began my career with BLM as a petroleum engineering technician providing oversight and enforcement of federal law in the oil and gas industry. You could say we moved here for a job but stuck around because this is the community where we wanted to raise our children. Why?

At first I thought being elected to the board would be a novel idea in that I could hold it over my wife. “Joe take out the trash.” “You can’t talk to me like that I’m a board member.” All joking aside, I did not realize the size of the hornet’s nest I was about to kick. Since I started attending board meetings it is hard to fathom why a person would want to get embroiled in such a mess; it sure as hell is not for the $100 you’re paid each month. So far I have seen the board rubber stamp pretty much any project that comes from the director whether it is a $335,000 pond or $150,000 trail. And when the public has the audacity to ask questions as to why the board would take a bid that is three times higher than the lowest local bid, the board dismissively says, “We don’t answer questions.” If the board is not accountable to the public it serves then to whom do they answer? The policy may be legal as it is spelled out on page 18 section 5.7 of the Board of Directors Bylaws, but it is not courteous and gives the sense of impropriety. I think this community is fed up with these practices as evidenced by the number of people running for the board. So, “Why do you want to be on this board?” to sum it up, accountability. Whether I’m elected or not, the board should be accountable to the people of this community, not every four years when there is an election, but every month at the meetings. If the decisions made by the board are sound and backed up by law, precedence or just plain old common sense then there should be no problem in explaining and answering questions from the public.

I would like to rein in some of the outlandish spending, especially when we don’t shop locally. There seems to be a pattern where we get a quote from an outside company and somehow make the bid fit that specific company. The trail contract was awarded to a company out of Bentonville, Ark., when there were two local bids that were substantially lower. The explanation we get is that the local guys are not qualified and those were “frivolous bids” (Sean VonRoenn). Now we set our sights on a $335,000 pond based on a design drawn up by Five Rivers, Inc., out of Montana. Will we find ourselves looking at a request for bids catered specifically to Five Rivers? Not if I have anything to say about it.

Improve the morale at ERBM. The Rec District has one of the best compensation packages in this community. With 100 percent paid insurance for employees and their families and a decent wage for the area, ERBM should be an employer of choice in Meeker. So how do we, as board members, address these issues? I would like to see a line of communication developed for employees to the board. A simple suggestion box that is locked and accessible only by the board would allow employees to put forth ideas, bring up grievances or introduce best management practices. Employees can file these anonymously if they choose and the board will address each item with the appropriate member of management at the beginning of each meeting.

Work with what we have. While building new trails and a pond are exciting endeavors, why don’t we invest in our neighborhoods by fully utilizing existing resources? There are parks at 11th St., 12th St., and Sage Hills that are rarely used and underutilized. Why not set up a horseshoe and bocce ball pitch at these locales, then make a league sponsored through ERBM? I’m pretty sure this could be done for less than the budget of $30,000 for a skate park. I would also suggest using the river by setting up a shuttle from City Park to some destination up river where people would be transported to and provided with tubes or rafts to float the river. This project has the added benefit of creating another revenue stream for the district. Finally, the Rec District can assist where needed or requested by the shooting range and golf course.

These ideas may have already been brought up and for one reason or another shot down but in closing I think ERBM can do better by its employees, its patrons and this community.

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DONALD BLAZON

I’m married with two children and have lived in Meeker for more than 25 years. For the past 12 years I’ve worked at Natural Soda as an operator, climbing the ladder of success I’ve landed in a supervisor position through hard work and dependability. I’ve coached many youth programs: coach pitch, 8-10 baseball, flag football, Mustang football, youth basketball and I am the assistant coach for the high school baseball team.

I am running for Eastern Rio Blanco County Recreation District Board to ensure responsible spending. We need to keep in mind the balance between the upkeep on existing structures and the desire for new facilities.

I believe that we have a great recreation district and would continue to promote the healthy lifestyles that this community desires. I am very involved with the youth programs as well as participating in many adult programs.

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DAN CHINN

I grew up on a fruit farm in Cedaredge where my parents taught me the importance of a strong work ethic. The small town and school experience helped to positively shape my life through participation in numerous activities, primarily athletics.  After attending college and receiving a bachelor’s degree in biology with a minor in physical education, I started my teaching career at the age of 20. A few years later, I earned an M.A. in education with an emphasis in guidance and counseling. This led to a fulfilling 30 year education career as a teacher, counselor, coach, and administrator.

My decision to run for the rec board is due to a sincere appreciation for the rec district which has helped to positively shape the lives of my three young boys. In addition, I firmly believe that the rec center, parks, and trail system are among the greatest assets the Meeker area has to offer. The mental and physical benefits of physical exercise (which the rec district helps to facilitate) have been well documented.

I would like to help explore ways for the rec district to expand while practicing fiscal responsibility.

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ANDREA GIANINETTI

I came to Meeker when I was 3 years old. You may know me as the “middle LeBlanc kid.”  No matter where I’ve been, Meeker has always felt like home. I left Meeker to attend college and started on this journey called motherhood. I have found my greatest joy is the blessing of family. My husband, our four kids and I moved back in 2017 and we are very excited to be here again to enjoy family and the great outdoors!

I would like to make sure that families with children have a representative on the board as decisions are made about future plans and programs offered through the Rec. District. Over the next 4 years, I will have kids ranging from 6 to 17, which I believe allows me the opportunity to accurately represent a large number of families and their interests. I also think that a mom’s point of view can bring a new perspective when problems arise because moms have to think outside the box, frequently. In addition, having a family of 6, requires deliberate financial restraint and accountability, which I feel is an important quality to bring to any position where tax dollars are being utilized.

I grew up in Meeker and loved it!  I hope that we can continue to make this a great place to grow up. The Rec District provides many opportunities to enjoy living here, and I hope to make sure that we continue to offer as much as possible for kids and adults. As a kid, I spent many summer afternoons at the pool and never dreamed of having a year-round facility that would bring the entire community together. I hope we can continue to make life even better for the next generation in Meeker and I want to be a part of it!

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CHRIS LOCKWOOD

I came to Meeker in 1990 as a fishing guide and stayed because I loved the White River Valley and the Meeker community. My wife and I have been proud supporters of the Rec District since the first bricks were placed. We welcomed our daughter Kate in 2004. We’ve watched her grow up dancing with Ms. Kari Jo and now see her thriving on the swim team.

I have served on the ERBM board and worked in its maintenance department. This, and my experience as a contractor and business owner give me a unique perspective. I can strengthen communication between the board, facility and the community because I see issues from all sides.

A strong community is identified by the full involvement by all of its citizens. Meeker is very blessed with a citizenry of community-minded folks—all must serve. I strive to contribute where I can; be it as a Meeker Mustangs coach or ERBM board member.

The district will soon be challenged by aging infrastructure. I would like to protect the district’s ability to grow and inspire future generations. It is my sincere desire to see ERBM, and this community, weather any storm through careful consideration of fact, non-emotional response, and a responsible dedication to the future.

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SAM LOVE

I have been in and around the Meeker area for 55 plus years. I graduated Meeker High School in 1962, I got my associate’s in engineering physics at CNCC, where I was in the first graduating class. I was on the student senate and helped set up the colors, motto, constitution, song and mascot. I then went on to receive my master’s at Western State College—Gunnison, in both mathematics and physics, with a minor in education. I taught school and coached football and wresting 13 years, six of which were in Meeker. I continued to coach in Meeker with wrestling for an additional 31 years. I have been involved in the community from many aspects, which included being a member of Pioneers Hospital Board, chairman for five years; school salary committees for nine years, serving as chair of the Meeker School District salary committee for five years; and the Meeker Board of Education. I held the position of president of the Highland Ditch for eight years, secretary/treasurer of the Powell Park Ditch for six years, and was actively involved with our sons in sports, 4-H and other activities. I have been married for 29 years to my wife, Ginny, and we have four sons, two of whom live in Meeker, one in Washington D.C., and one with his wife and young son in Littleton. I began my own business, Love Livestock, in 1978, and raised cattle and hay until my retirement from ranching in 2010.

I would like to be on the rec district board because I personally have used the rec center since it’s beginning and have enjoyed being a member, not only for the health-related benefits, but so I could support a wonderful facility and be involved in our community. I can bring to the board many years of experience in both management, leadership and knowledge of the importance of athletics and training for a thriving community.

With my varied background and understanding that it is the people who own the rec center and it’s the people whose taxes provide the basis for the monetary makeup of the district, I feel that I can make a difference in listening to the taxpayers and combining the efforts of the rec center’s vision and work efficiently and productively for all ages in our community.

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MICHAEL SELLE

Bred and born in the Rocky Mountain west, Idaho, to be specific. Moved to California at a young age, about 4—father was in the Navy and there are no Navy bases that I know of in Idaho, where I grew up outdoors as much as possible and loved bicycling, sidewalk surfing and body surfing as much as I could. I liked weekend camping trips in Scouts while I was part of Scouting.

I entered University of Arizona and majored in anthropology with a minor in math and physics, BA 1974. Loved spending as much time as school permitted hiking with my friends, especially in the Catalina Mountains outside Tucson.

In 1979 began my career with the BLM as an archaeologist which usually allowed lots of time outdoors hiking and doing other field work. I also supported the BLM’s fire program and dug lots of fire line over the years. Moved to Meeker in 1984 and continued working as an archaeologist and supporting the fire program as much as physically able to—it requires one to be in really good physical condition.

I have completely enjoyed my time in Meeker and all the recreation opportunities living here affords one. The board has a terrific partnership with the BLM. I do want to give back to the community and ensure we are able to maintain the facilities we have and improve opportunities whenever possible. Studies have shown that outdoor recreation, whether just walking/hiking or other activities, as well as physical exercise of all kinds, let’s just call it “play” of all kinds, is very beneficial in helping control weight and blood pressure, manage stress and improve mental health. I have benefited from exercise and social interactions and want to share those benefits with others.

I want to keep in touch with people in the district and see what recreational opportunities they are interested in and, if possible, improve existing programs to meet identified needs. In addition, if there are needs that aren’t being met that the district and board can work towards meeting within our legal authority, working with the director, other board members and the community. I want to try and work to meet those identified needs, Ultimately, improving our health and lifestyle would be a very desirable outcome of my service on the board.

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JOHN STRATE

I was born and raised in Meeker and graduated from MHS in 1999. I attended Western State College for undergraduate and Colorado Mesa University for graduate school. I have taught at MHS for 14 years. My wife teaches at the elementary school, and I have two sons, one a senior, the other a freshman.

I want to serve on the ERBM Recreation and Parks District Board of Directors because I enjoyed my time as a trustee for the Town of Meeker during the two terms I served.  After not serving on a board the last two years, I have decided it is time to find a new board to put my energy into. The eight years I spent as a town trustee gave me experience in all things involved with being on a board, everything from budgeting to long term planning and implementation. I choose to run for the ERBM Recreation and Parks District Board because I am passionate about recreation and the role the district plays in our community. Three generations of my family currently enjoy what the recreation district has to offer and I would like to see the diverse offerings continue and expand.

The difference I would like to make on the board is to continue the positive impact on economic development that current and past boards have started.  I love how our recreation center, trail system, and parks have started to draw people in from surrounding communities.  Meeker and the surrounding area is a great place for recreation for both locals and visitors. The recreation district plays a vital role in providing information and accessibility for the activities that are unique to our area. I am thrilled to have the opportunity to have a seat at the table as Meeker moves forward.

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CAITLIN WALKER

I have lived in Meeker for 16 of my 27 years, most recently 2016 to present after my family and I moved back home to purchase the Herald Times. I work from home as the paper’s editorial designer and also as a reporter. I’ve been reporting on the recreation district’s board meetings since January, and after much consideration, have decided to withdraw from the race so I may continue in that role. I feel I can serve you, the community, best by keeping you informed of the board’s decisions, rather than having a say in those decisions myself. I am excited to follow the new board’s progress in my continuing role as Herald Times reporter and columnist. Best of luck to all the candidates!

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