Town Board upbeat about mayor | SteamboatToday.com

Town Board upbeat about mayor

Alexis DeLaCruz

— With a new mayor in place, Oak Creek Town Board members said they are confident the town is heading in a positive direction.

Board members said Mayor J. Elliott is a no-nonsense, by-the-books type of leader who can help the town through its budget woes and unite a community divided about the resignation of three-time elected mayor Kathy “Cargo” Rodeman.

“I think he’ll be no-nonsense, to the point, let’s get back to work, stop the squabbling and cry-baby stuff,” said Spike Beven, the lone Town Board member who supported re-instating Rodeman. “With J., it will be done.”

Elliott was appointed mayor during a Nov. 28 meeting. The vacancy was created when Rodeman resigned because she said she no longer could work with the current administration. The resignation came on the heels of a Sept. 25 secret session meeting during which three town employees complained that Rodeman overstepped her boundaries and functioned as a town manager rather than mayor. Rodeman denied the accusations.

But board members are quick to look to the future when discussing town politics. The Town Board faces some difficult decisions in regards to balancing its budget, updating the town’s comprehensive plan and completing the Main Street, wastewater treatment and Old Town Hall renovation projects.

Board member Angie Ken-Cairn said with Elliott leading the pack, the town is ready to get going.

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Introducing the mayor

If you live in Oak Creek, you know Elliott.

The Colorado Bar & Grill owner runs one of the most successful businesses in town and has been elected three times to represent the residents of Oak Creek on the Town Board.

He applied for the mayoral position after learning of Rodeman’s Oct. 13 resignation.

“It’s not the way I wanted it to happen, but somebody had to do it,” he said.

Elliott has owned the Colorado Bar & Grill with his wife, Rebecca “Beck” Elliott, for seven years. The couple fell in love with Oak Creek during the course of the 25 years they had spent coming to the Yampa Valley to fish.

“We liked the area, and after we retired we decided to stay,” he said. “It’s been excellent.”

Elliott said he’s not worried about juggling a business and running a town.

“We’re just going to keep going the way we’ve been going. We’re committed to building our cash reserves (in the town’s general fund) and getting our wastewater treatment plant and Main Street project done,” he said.

The biggest changes Oak Creek residents will notice with Elliott behind the gavel will be how problems are handled at the Oak Creek Town Hall, he said.

“You have to follow the chain of command,” Elliott said, referring to complaints from town residents and employees that town procedure has not always been followed in the past.

Sharing the Town Board table with such a diverse group of Oak Creek residents is exactly what the town needs to move forward, Elliott said.

“Our board is highly representative of the citizens of our town. We’ve always just tried to do our jobs, and we’ll keep doing our jobs,” he said.

Transparent government

Town Board members say a top priority is getting more residents involved in town affairs.

“The new Oak Creek is about transparency in government. It’s about answering the tough questions and being honest and forthright,” board member Dave Fisher said.

Attending Town Board meetings, budget meetings and special work sessions is key to staying informed, he said.

“If people are curious and they feel like they don’t know what’s going on, please attend the meetings. They are very informative,” he said.

KenCairn echoed Fisher’s sentiment.

“I think we have a lot of new blood in the community coming to the Oak Creek Town Board meetings and staying for the whole thing, not just their (agenda) item,” she said. “That’s the kind of democracy we want.”

One of the most important projects town residents can get involved with will be updating the town’s comprehensive plan, KenCairn said.

The plan is supposed to be updated every five years; it’s been a decade since Oak Creek last updated its plan.

“We need to be the architects of our own destiny. My hope is that when the time comes the community will voice their comment on how they envision us growing,” she said.

KenCairn said the comprehensive plan may not come to fruition for several more years because the town must first deal with other projects and issues, including its budget.

Balancing and building

During its last budget meeting, the Town Board cut about $15,000 from Oak Creek’s 2007 budget. Most of the cuts came at the expense of the police department.

Making tough decisions such as those hopefully will put the town in a better financial place, Elliott said.

“We want to put Oak Creek on a sounder financial basis,” he said. “We can do better.”

With the budget nearly under control, the Town Board now is looking to complete Main Street beautification projects and start construction on the town’s new wastewater treatment plant.

Construction on the new wastewater treatment plant is scheduled to begin in spring.

But to complete these projects, address growth and move on from recent divisiveness, the community needs to unite, KenCairn said.

“I’d like to see the town have a better working relationship with the (Oak Creek) Planning Commission, Oak Creek Fire Protecion District and the community,” she said. “Right now we’re kind of fragmented, and to be stronger we need to unite as a community.”

– To reach Alexis DeLaCruz, call 871-4234 or e-mail adelacruz@steamboatpilot.com