The Grand Lake Board of Trustees election is set to take place on Tuesday, April 7. Four seats are open on the seven-member council. The three receiving the highest number of votes will serve four-year terms and the fourth will serve a two-year term.
Trustees John “Mickey” Rourke and Judy Burke are both ending their years of public service at the end of this term, while Trustee Tom Weydert and Mayor Pro-Tem Steve Kudron are seeking re-election.
To assist Grand Lake residents with your ballot choices, the Winter Park Times reached out to the candidates to learn a little more about them. This week, we introduce you to six of the seven candidates.
Candidates for Mayor
I’ve lived in Grand Lake since September 2002. My formal education includes an Associate of Arts degree and an A.A.S. in Law Enforcement. Favorite activities include road trips, bird/animal/nature watching, motorcycling and camping. I am a huge history buff, and collect antler sheds –as well as other space compromising stuff. I also love dogs.
Q: Why are you running for Mayor? I’m running for Mayor in hope of providing a fresh and objective perspective within our town administration.
Q: What are 3 priorities the Town Board should focus on right now? My priorities are to (1) ensure town stability and growth (2) enhance and support both law and code enforcement (3) see that the needs and focus of community goals are addressed and hopefully met. Our Comprehensive Plan is currently being addressed and those results will certainly be used as a primary reference in decisions affecting the community.
Q: What challenges/barriers do you see? Challenges in our community are fluid –not unlike a tumbling mountain stream– which, for us, requires close monitoring. We are a small community that supports thousands, including our own residents, outlying communities, and certainly our visitors, who contribute a major portion to our economy and welfare. As such, those who are eligible to vote in this upcoming election have a responsibility that will affect tenfold if not a thousandfold.
Q: Why should we vote for you? “Why should we vote for Bert?” Because I embrace our town character and seek to ensure it endures. I thank you for your consideration.
I came to Grand Lake in 2012 when I opened a business in town. I moved here full time in 2013. Our cats came to Grand Lake in April of 2014 with us. That’s what we consider our official family move date. With my wife Jennifer, we are the owners of the Quacker Gift Shop, the Mountain Gal, Where Art Thou Gallery and the Overlook Grand Lake. Education I started my college career in engineering in the late 70s. I graduated from the University of Colorado Denver with a bachelor’s in business administration in 2012. There was a pause in there, but I was determined to listen to the advice I gave my children: finish your educational pursuits. Favorite activities When I am not at our businesses or serving our community, I enjoy time in the forest, summer and winter, connecting with my children and granddaughter (more on the way), and down time in our home with our three cats – Delilah, Daffodil & Diesel. Questions:
Q: Why are you running for Mayor? On my first visit in 2012, I sat on the L dock at the lake like so many before me and fell in love. As we walked the weathered boardwalks, we knew our business would be a hit here (not everyone thought a duck shop would survive). What I saw in Grand Lake that I had never experienced was the deep sense of community. Town’s people, 1st and 2nd homeowners were all contributing to their town. I imagined that here was a place, driving down the street that I could wave and get a wave back. I’d always been involved in the communities where I’ve lived. I began volunteering in Grand Lake with the branding committee in 2013 and began attending town meetings. In 2016 I ran for the town Board and was elected for a four-year term. I was appointed by the Board of Trustees in 2018 as Mayor Pro tem. I represent our town on three water issues committees as serve on the board of the Grand Lake Creative District. In the last four years on the town board, we’ve seen unprecedented change. Board members have resigned, we’ve seen many of our experienced and wise staff members retire, town managers have changed, and more visitors than ever before have descended on our community. The short-term rental phenomenon has exploded, increasing the burden on our local workers to find affordable housing. We’ve had to tackle our aging infrastructure issues; land use needs and efforts to improve our economy. My experience with the issues of our town, a lifetime of leadership, a passion for the town of Grand Lake and the community surrounding it make me uniquely qualified to be the next mayor of Grand Lake.
Q: What are 3 priorities the Town Board should focus on right now? I don’t want to list our priorities; I want to discuss them as a whole. We don’t truly succeed until we accomplish all these urgent priorities. I believe the most notable challenge we as a community face is how we address the many needs of our town, prioritize them and act in a manner that preserves our special town character and prepare for the changing needs of our community and visitors. Creating a way to develop affordable housing must be addressed. Our working locals – those who live here all year and would like full time work all year. The cost of building continues to rise, yet the ability to pay more for housing has not. I will bring together not only our tireless staff on this project, but the community that needs it the most, our locals. We face the challenge of creating an economy that addresses our business needs as well as respect the authentic and laid-back character of Grand Lake, maintaining our community’s culture & history and transportation, parking & infrastructure needs.
Q: What challenges/barriers do you see? Today is March 21, 2020. My comments on current challenges and barriers may pale to those of April 13th, 2020 when our new board is sworn in. This election will select a mayor who can lead our board in making the very best decisions in a time not seen in our lifetimes. Our decisions must consider the needs of our many townspeople. Our community has members who live on fixed and investment incomes, two mortgages, month to month, some week to week, others day by day. We need to be aggressive in maintaining resources to keep essential operations running smoothly. I will maintain strong partnerships with our county, state and federal officials. I will actively keep engaged to ensure our town’s safety and security during extraordinary times. Not only will I lead our community through unknown and turbulent waters, I will lead our town in it’s finest moment as we invite our extended community, the visitors who have made lifetime memories on the shores of our legendary lake to the vistas of Rocky Mountain National Park, back to our most incredible town.
Q: Why should we vote for you? I’ve been here just shy of a decade, but I have spent my time here listening to the stories of this amazing place. I am honored to have had so much support from our community as I have served the town and community of Grand Lake. I have learned what a passionate, caring and dedicated community we live in. We don’t always agree, and every voice deserves to be heard. As mayor of Grand Lake, I will drive an agenda that addresses the challenges of our community. We will be prepared for the future, remember our past and create new experiences in the most amazing of places, Grand Lake Colorado.
Candidates for Trustee
Ernie Bjorkman has lived in Grand Lake full-time for a little over a year but has been a part-time resident since 1985. He earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Broadcast Journalism from the University of Florida and an Associate Science degree in Veterinary Technology. He enjoys fishing of any kind, especially ice-fishing and fly-fishing. He also loves playing golf, cross-country skiing, hiking, boating – all the things the Grand Lake area offers.
Q: Why are you running for Trustee? After enjoying Grand Lake so much over the years, I finally have time to give-back to this great community by serving on the council and being part of the solutions.
Q: What are 3 priorities the Town Board should focus on right now? First, Affordable Housing so we can maintain a viable work-force year-round. Second, water use and quality. Since three beautiful lakes are in our backyard and provide so many recreational opportunities, the town needs to take a stronger stance on protecting this valuable resource. We need to fight for more compensation for the mining of our water to be used along the Front Range. Third, preserving the rustic-and-real charm of this town that the locals love, and tourists love to visit.
Q: What challenges/barriers do you see? Anytime there is proposed change there is a natural pushback. I think any challenge that we will face, however, can be overcome with frank discussions, cooperation and compromise.
Q: Why should we vote for you? For more than 40 years, I had a career in Journalism and understand that there are always two sides to every story and numerous opinions about every issue. I will bring the same fairness, open-mindedness and listening skills to this position that I did all along in my career. I love Grand Lake, it’s people and its uniqueness and look forward to having a part in shaping its future.
Grand Lake has always felt like home since I first visited with my family when I was only 12 years old. While I wasn’t lucky enough to be born here, I moved here immediately after my college graduation. I care deeply about Grand Lake, it’s my home.
Education: I attended Colorado State University, where I graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Hospitality Management/Business
Favorite activities: In my free time, I like to be with my family, and also love to spend time outside with my yellow Lab, Ollie. I am so fortunate to be able to enjoy all of my favorite activities year-round in Grand Lake. In the winter I like to ski/snowboard and am learning to snowmobile. In the summertime, I love dirt biking, kayaking, wake surfing and camping.
Q: Why are you running for Trustee? As a homeowner and a taxpayer, I take an interest in how our community is managed and how our leaders are stewards of our tax dollars. I think I can represent others who share those concerns. Being a restaurant owner, I have the opportunity to talk to a lot of people. I have heard from many of my fellow local residents that they want their ideas to be heard and often feel unsure as to how to voice their opinions. I come from a big family and have learned how to be a good listener which I believe is one of the most important qualities to have as a Town Trustee. Before opening our family business in Grand Lake, I had the privilege of creating a teaching farm in Uganda – and worked closely with the Ugandan government and community to create both new jobs and sustainable agriculture. I discovered that I enjoyed working with their government and would be so honored to be elected to serve Grand Lake.
Q: What are 3 priorities the Town Board should focus on right now? Aside from the devastating CoronaVirus pandemic and keeping our community safe healthy and viable, I believe we should work toward restoring our charming community and quality of life, and for well over 100 years people have chosen to visit Grand Lake to experience what we have that is special: a quaint Western town built on solid “old-time” values that most other towns seem to have lost, and a community that helps each other. Preserving our traditions as well as our landscape and creating lasting American-Made memories for future generations for many years to come.
Q: What challenges/barriers do you see? The challenge is to preserve Grand Lake’s values in a modern world. I want to continue our traditions. The barriers to that are to somehow articulate to the younger generation the value of why those before us chose this amazing community.
Q: Why should we vote for you? I genuinely care about our community and have the energy to do what it takes to restore the charm and quality of life we all love about Grand Lake.
Melissa Ratzmann is her name and she is running for Trustee on the Grand Lake Town Board. Melissa has resided in Grand Lake for the last 12 months after being brought here with her husband for employment as your Fire Chief. Melissa works for the Fire Department as the Public Relations Specialist and is looking forward to serving The Town of Grand Lake in any capacity she can.
Q: Why are you running for Trustee? I am originally from Florida, where I graduated with a AS Degree in Human Services, moving on to a Bachelor’s in Psychology. My education will serve as a great foundation to helping those in Grand Lake with issues that have been brought forward for the Town. Listening, understanding and researching are huge factors that must happen in order to make a great decision that benefits all involved, my education has taught me that.
Q: What are 3 priorities the Town Board should focus on right now and what challenges/barriers do you see? Notable challenges are happening in Grand Lake each day, issues like the need for a Town Planner, better pay as you go efficiency, Streetscape (a huge financial aesthetic endeavor this town will undergo), things like placement of trash cans, Fees in Lieu of parking, Quiet hours and Noise Control, understanding tourism and how it affects our town, good or bad. Understanding Fire and Safety in our short-term rentals, just to name a handful.
Q: Why should we vote for you? I have been here just one year. I do not pretend to know all the ins and outs of the Town, but I’d like to learn and help Grand Lake be its best version for those who have brought it this far and for those who can keep it moving forward. I welcome the opportunity to represent you on the Grand Lake Town Board.
My wife Kathy and I have lived in Grand Lake for 33 years. We have raised our family here, our children were 4, 6, & 8 when we moved from Denver. We built and operated Grand Lake Lanes for 14 years. I have been employed with the County since 2001 and my wife and mother in law owned the Red Sled Women’s Clothing store in Grand Lake for 22 years. She retired last year.
Q: Why are you running for Trustee? Having served on the Town Board for 20+ years, I made the decision to go back onto the board last year. I was very concerned with the direction the Town management was taking at that time, but believe we have turned the corner and are headed in the right direction. I feel there still needs to be more oversight and supervision for the multi-million dollar streetscape project as well as normal town governance.
Q: What are 3 priorities the Town Board should focus on right now and what challenges/barriers do you see? The most notable issue is the completion of the streetscape project. Due to cost overruns this is a complex issue. It is important that we complete this project according to the original plans and wishes of the public. Affordable housing continues to be an issue, not only in Grand Lake, but the entire county. We are currently working with the Space to Create initiative with the hopes of finding a partial solution to this problem.
Q: Why should we vote for you? I have the experience necessary to continue my work on the town board. I have served for 20+ years on the Grand Lake Town Board, served on the Fire Department Board for 20+ years, and fully understand the needs and responsibilities for serving our community.
Trustee Candidate Michael Arndtson was unable to give us his input in time for this week’s edition. He encourages Grand Lake residents to reach out to him prior to the election to discuss the issues.
Local Election 2020
Due to health concerns related to COVID-19, the Town of Grand Lake encourages all residents to vote by Absentee Ballot. A drop box is located just outside Town Hall. Absentee Ballot applications are available for pick up at Town Hall, inside the vestibule or, by download at townofgrandlake.com.
Email applications to Town Clerk Jennifer Thompson at: firstname.lastname@example.org or mail to the clerk’s attention at PO Box 99, Grand Lake. Absentee Ballot applications must be in by Friday, April 3rd at 5 pm. Absentee Ballots must be returned by Election Day, April 7th at 7 pm. For assistance, call (970) 627-3435.