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Guest commentary: An open letter from Aspen School District’s new superintendent team

Dear Aspen Community,

As your new Aspen School District superintendent and assistant superintendent, we wish to express our appreciation to the community and the Board of Education for the confidence that you have placed in us.

We approach our new roles with humility and enthusiasm, recognizing that much good work has preceded us and that much opportunity for excellence lies ahead. We would be remiss in not expressing our appreciation for the role that Tom Heald has played in maintaining a firm hand on the tiller during this past year. The challenges and tasks that lie immediately before us as we assume our new positions July 1 would look very different were it not for Dr. Heald’s deep commitment to our students.

As career educators, we have each been involved in many worthwhile initiatives and innovative projects, and we have learned much from those experiences. Perhaps the most enduring and valuable lesson we have learned is that good things come from teamwork, passion for excellence and dreaming big dreams.

The board has made clear its high expectations for innovative learning opportunities for students and staff, and has encouraged us to dream big. We share these aspirations, and we share a genuine enthusiasm for working together and learning from one another.

Most importantly, we share the belief that there is no discernible difference in the potential achievement inherent in all students, and all children deserve an education that will make them the very best versions of themselves. In the end, it’s all about our students — everything we do as educators and school administrators is for their well-being.

We are privileged and honored to have been selected as your new superintendent and assistant superintendent, and we pledge to serve our district with integrity, energy, passion, open hearts and open doors. Again, thank you for the confidence you have placed in us. We cannot wait to get started.

David Baugh and Tharyn Mulberry will take their respective roles as superintendent and assistant superintendent in July.

Basalt council candidate: Glenn Drummond ready to address corona aftermath

April 7, you will have the opportunity to vote for Basalt’s mayor and three council members. I am running for Basalt Town Council and I am asking for your vote.

I love our community and I want it to flourish in the decades ahead. I realized how much I enjoy the process of working with others toward a common goal when I volunteered on Basalt’s Parks Open Space and Trails Committee. I appreciate the rewarding feeling of being involved and giving back to the community.

I understand the time commitment that comes with this position and will put forth the effort required. I would be honored to have the privilege of representing the citizens of our great town. That is my motivation.

As a community, we need to evaluate the impact of our current unprecedented situation due to COVID-19. We will need to come together to mitigate the impacts on the employees and small businesses of our community. This should be our No. 1 priority. The new Town Council will need to do everything we can to help the businesses and employees that have been impacted by the current situation.

Businesses have been ordered to close their doors and employees have been furloughed or let go due to the efforts to contain the spread of the virus. These community members did the right thing and abided by the order of their government and ceased operation. These actions will prove to have saved lives in the long haul. They should not be penalized.

Recovering from this situation is going to require a great amount of cooperation and support from all of us.

When I decided to run for council, I had other goals in mind for the town of Basalt. I realize these goals should be put on the back burner for now. The most important thing we can do as a community is to help each other get through the times ahead.

Figuring out how to navigate this uncharted territory can be scary when thinking about going it alone. We all have a partnership in success: banks, landowners, business owners, tenants and employees. We have rallied behind each other to get through dire times before.

That is part of what makes Basalt the small-town community that we all know and love. Basalt is the community that will set the example of how supporting each other and working together can be the solution. If elected, addressing the impact of COVID-19 on the community will be my number one priority.

My name is Glenn Drummond and I am asking for your vote on April 7.

Editor’s note: Leading up to the Basalt election April 7, The Aspen Times is publishing one guest commentary from each candidate. He can be found on Facebook at @GlennDrummond4BasaltCouncil. He can be reached at gdrumbasalt@gmail.com.

Basalt council candidate: Tiffany Haddad ready to deal with extraordinary times

Before the stay at home order and social distancing was put in place I was at Basalt High School volunteering for a team dinner for my son’s track and field team. I saw a motto in the front building that read “One Town, One Team, One Dream” and then it hit me — this is what I feel when I think of our town as a whole.

We are one. We all want what is best for our future and our children’s future. Having two kids in Basalt schools was definitely a driver for me to run for Town Council.

In extraordinary times it has become clearer to me why I am running for Town Council. When I was 28 years old, I was a single mom with two young boys. I worked hard for them every day.

Part of that was because I have a really strong work ethic that I learned from my mom and dad, who were both blue-collar workers. There were times in my life that have been very challenging, but I’ve always risen up to every challenge in my life even when there were times when I wanted to give up. I’m telling you this because this is a part of my character that I pride myself on and I want you to know that if I am elected as one of your town councilors I will always work hard and never give up, even when our opinions differ.

If I am elected, I believe working with the community is the best way to ensure the efforts at creating a more vibrant Basalt. My hope would be that we can create a youth center for our kids and giving our elderly the opportunity to age in place safely by working to create more affordable housing not just for our seniors but for anyone who aspires to live here. I believe these things are possible while maintaining Basalt’s charm and character.

Lastly, I will always be an ear to listen and provide a voice to you and to our community. It is my belief that it is time for fresh ideas, and new perspective. I hope all of you are staying healthy and connected during this unprecedented time.

Don’t forget to vote and let your voice be heard!

Editor’s note: Leading up to the Basalt election April 7, The Aspen Times is publishing one guest commentary from each candidate. She can be reached at tiffanyhaddadbasalt@gmail.com.

Basalt council candidate: Jennifer Riffle points to her established leadership

What does the future hold? What is certain is the Basalt Municipal Election on April 7, which is not postponed.

This is a less than predictable time in history and our future leaders will be responsible for great courage and outcomes. The community priorities are shifting immediately from BC (before COVID-19), during and AC (after COVID-19), which is incredibly important and complex. We are stronger and safer together than we are individually and the community will require leadership. I am willing and able to be one voice and collaborator of the seven individuals who represent you and our greater Basalt community.

The next four years will likely be an economic and societal transformation that will affect our community and how we govern to recover.

Frankly, the future of Basalt necessitates highly skilled governance that requires experienced leaders whom work well together and have a proven track record through crisis. The years 2016 to 2020 in Basalt held multiple crisis and we are stronger and more resilient. I am honored and proud to be part of your elected management team who brought our town to the stability we can bank on for tomorrow. I aspire and am able to serve you the next four years.

In an effort of brevity, I am excluding my platform, which you can find in previous articles and forums. Simply stated, I negotiate stalwartly for our community, economic and environmental sustainability. Our future holds much promise and prospect.

I thank you for voting and earnestly considering myself, Jennifer Riffle for your Basalt Town Council vote. Take care of yourself, and each other the best that we can.

Editor’s note: Leading up to the Basalt election April 7, The Aspen Times is publishing one guest commentary from each candidate. Riffle can be reached at Jenn4basalt@gmail.com.

Basalt council candidate: Dieter Schindler optimistic for future, has plans to support kids

I am running for Basalt Town Council to make a positive impact on the future of Basalt — for all its citizens, kids, seniors, businesses, first responders, visitors and neighboring communities. I bring to the table a business sense, budget experience, thoughtfulness, respect, a collaborative spirit, and a healthy optimism for the future.

To address Basalt’s growth and affordability, I believe in respecting Basalt’s Urban Growth Boundary while developing mixed-use projects that fit the quality and character of the surrounding neighborhood to address affordable housing and other community needs. Sustainable affordable housing can be accomplished through deed restrictions, credits and subsidies. Further, the affordable guidelines need to be in tune with the actual income of our residents.

It is also time to act and implement solutions to address the shortage of infant care and early childhood education opportunities. We need support and encourage continuing education programs and livable wages for child care workers. We can also incentivize and/or fund a sliding scale payment system by which families can pay based on wage earnings.

And for our older kids, it’s time to bring to life a recreation and youth center to provide our kids much needed healthy space to congregate after school while offering the entire community health benefits and activities. One idea that the Town can explore is converting the current Art Base building into a youth center when the building becomes vacant.

I believe we can take bold steps to further protect our natural environment and enhance our recreational spaces. As Basalt Mountain continues to recover from the fire, we need to ensure that the vegetation and wildlife rebounds and thrives. Once reestablished, this could be a place for a more robust mountain bike or recreation system. We also can reduce carbon emissions and connect our community by enhancing our pedestrian trail system and exploring the viability of a town shuttle.

We need to support the Town of Basalt employees who are directly operating the civil services and protections. We need to rethink, study, bring fresh ideas and compromise to move Basalt forward.

Most of all we need to believe in ourselves as a community and work together through healthy respectful discourse. Spring is in the air and soon the summer sun will grace our valley opening our high mountain trails and campsites. Fishing enthusiasts will return to make the perfect catch. Our children will return to parks and soccer fields. Farmers will bring to market what they have produced. Soon enough neighbors will gather around fire pits and talk about their kids, the future and what adventures they are off to next.

I am running for Basalt council because I wish to make a positive impact on the future of Basalt, and, yes, I bring a healthy sense of optimism for the future.

Editor’s note: Leading up to the Basalt election April 7, The Aspen Times is publishing one guest commentary from each candidate. Schindler’s Facebook page is @DieterSchindlerforBasaltTownCouncil, and he can be reached at dieter4basalt@gmail.com.

Basalt council candidate: David Knight ready to lead the charge

My name is David Knight and I’m running for Basalt Town Council. I live in Elk Run with my wife, Melissa, and son, Luca, who is in kindergarten at Basalt Elementary. I work remotely as a senior manager of a project management team for a technology firm and am fortunate to be able to live anywhere. After living in Denver and several Colorado mountain towns since 2002, we decided to settle in Basalt in 2017 and now live in the greatest place and community imaginable. We fell in love with and chose Basalt for the small mountain-town feel and proximity to outdoor activities. Since we are new in the community, I have found ways to get involved including Habitat for Humanity, Cub Scouts, and previously serving on the ASE Vision Airport Experience Working Group. Basalt is an amazing place to live and work and I am running to ensure the town continues to be a vibrant mountain community.

When our national politics are so dysfunctional, local government has the power to affect us in simple yet profound ways. It’s important for Town Council to be made up of collaborative, humble and honest members who work together to serve the people. If elected, I am confident that with my professional experiences and personal perspective I will be able to work together with the other council members. I am not affiliated with any of the other candidates, in large part because I am committed to working with everyone. I would be honored to serve the people of Basalt.

As a town councilor I would advocate for the arts, connectedness and smart, sustainable growth in our community. As a drummer and composer/arranger I appreciate how performance can bring people together, whether they are playing or listening. I also would advocate for our town to be more connected through trails, transportation, and additional high-speed internet. I believe in the importance of managing growth by preserving our community character while recognizing that some development meets crucial needs while actually reducing impact — workforce housing is an example. Our community character is what makes Basalt a special place for our residents, businesses and visitors. Therefore, our approach to growth should be pragmatic and balance the need to sustain a vibrant economy with preserving our character. Finally, we must look at all of our initiatives and issues in Basalt through the lens of respecting the environment and mitigating the effects of climate change. Climate change is the great existential problem that we must deal with as a town and as a planet.

We must continue to work together to ensure Basalt remains the incredible place that it is. I believe that effectively managing growth, promoting the arts, and fostering connectedness plays a big role. I hope that you will consider me for council when you receive your ballot in the mail. But most importantly, I want to thank all of you for participating in our local election by using your voice and voting.

Editor’s note: Leading up to the Basalt election April 7, The Aspen Times is publishing one guest commentary from each candidate. Knight can be reached at basaltknight@gmail.com.

Basalt mayoral candidate: Infante is looking forward

My family and I chose Basalt after years of serving our government overseas because it is an exceptional and unique community from its residents to its natural environment and creative fervor. We settled here and are enthusiastic to share our perspectives and experiences, and be part of Basalt today and in the future.

We love the outdoors. We hike, bike and fish — all within our town limits ­— and I strongly believe in preserving our ability to live, work and play in Basalt. The best way to preserve our open spaces, rivers, forests and fields is to focus on our core in Willits and historic downtown. It’s logical and wise to locate population near transport, entertainment, education and medical services that support daily needs and minimizes our carbon footprint.

Smart, responsible and resilient development caters to the needs of aspiring entrepreneurs, families with school-age children and the elderly on fixed incomes, and ensures that our community remains diverse, attracting the best and brightest who inspire knowledge-based growth.

Knowledge-based growth includes smart agriculture that delivers locally grown produce, meat and dairy, and attracting big-thinking institutions like RMI, AGCI and the RFC that are pioneering energy solutions, advancing understanding of climate change and protecting our waters. It means promoting arts, culture, skilled and professional trades that generate revenue and jobs while enriching our community. Attracting knowledge-based enterprises also drives economic diversification ahead of global warming that will savage ski-tourism dependent economies. As mayor, I will continue to cultivate entrepreneurship that nourishes our community, literally and figuratively, and which brings vitality and jobs that build a strong community.

Strong communities are built on the foundation of strong schools. As a councilman and parent, I am committed to supporting our local schools. Council can: support affordable teacher housing that helps recruit and retain great educators, spearhead outreach that keeps our children safe and healthy, support fundraising that pays for facilities, and show up at community events.

Community is what small-town character is all about. People sharing values: teamwork, commitment, respect, integrity, trustworthiness. Small-town character is a mindset shared by people who call Basalt home, and embrace common purpose and identity. The notion that “NO growth” protects small-town character reflects a failure of leadership to lead, and to model the behaviors that bring people together. Leaders listen, and then chart a path that inspires trust and which others follow because it reflects their will.

It’s time for Basalt to engage the communities and counties that share our watershed to address issues of common concern that none can solve alone: affordable housing, climate action and the environment, enhancing the business environment, and the list goes on. Embracing partnerships will ensure that we have a seat at decision-making tables to meaningfully tackle energy, broadband access, housing and waste management: all are topics that I have addressed with local, county and state officials over the past two years, and which are poised to deliver results. I have every intention of continuing to reach out energetically and to further build relations that benefit Basalt today and in the future.

I am hopeful because of our accomplishments. I’m conscious of our past, but I’m unencumbered by it. As mayor, I will work to build trust by listening to residents, businesses and partners who are part of our community. Our community is calling for new ideas, vision and approaches that chart a path for us to follow as one Basalt. If elected, we will work to protect the social, cultural and environmental values that attracted us, while continuing to promote vibrancy that creates opportunity for families to live, work and play in Basalt.

Editor’s note: Leading up to the Basalt election April 7, The Aspen Times is publishing one guest commentary from each candidate. Infante’s Facebook page is @BillforBasalt and he can be reached at wsinfante@gmail.com.

Judson Haims: Making the best while the county is shutting down

As the country shuts down to take proactive measures and limit the spread of COVID-19, so is our county. Currently, all public and private schools have closed for at least three weeks because of the coronavirus. In effort to put our community’s health, safety and well-being first, restaurants and many businesses have closed – desperate measure for a desperate time.

So, what can you do during this period of shutdown?

In the absence of work and places to go where larger groups of people congregate, perhaps this may be a time to spend time with family, help others, and give a lending hand to others within our community who may need assistance.

As schools and recreation centers are closed, I was wondering what children within the community were going to do to keep busy. While I had feared many would resort to their phones and electronics, I was happily surprised these past two weekends to see many children outside playing.

This weekend I saw children out ridding their bikes, riding skateboards, throwing lacrosse balls, playing soccer, football, baseball, and in my neighborhood, I saw a few cleaning out the garage.

We live in an outdoor playground — while the weather holds out, encourage your kids to take advantage of it and get outside.

When the weather inhibits outside activities, consider spending time with your kids reading, playing board games, listening to podcasts or TED Talks, doing arts/crafts, and spending time preparing and cooking meals.

Give a kid a hot dog, you feed them for the moment. Teach a kid to prepare a tomato pasta, baked chicken, roasted broccoli or a salad, you’ll give them important life skills to eat healthy for a lifetime.

For adults who are working from home or who have been temporarily laid off, perhaps the shutdown will provide time to get chores done that always seem to get put off. Does a room need painting or can closets be cleaned out? Does the yard need tending to? Can the garage finally be cleaned out and organized?

Because the coronavirus may pose a greater threat to our community’s elders, it’s important to remember that those who are younger and may have a greater ability to fend off the virus have an important role to play.

One way to help is by offering to assist our elders get groceries and essential items. As this population will be more prone to isolate and avoid possible exposure, they may forego getting household and health items they may desperately need.

If you would like to offer a helping hand to our senior community, please reach out to Pitkin County Senior Services manager, Chad Federwitz. He can be reached at 970-920-5432.

For those who are healthy, able-bodied and have the means, please offer your assistance to help our aging community members. There are family members and caregivers who could greatly use some assistance.

As we all appreciate and value our outdoors, please consider looking around our town(s) for trash that has found its way to our roadsides and trails and so desperately needs to be removed. This could be a great opportunity for families to get outside together and do our part to bettering our community.

The shutting down of our community is going to cause many short- and long-term issues. Hardships will be inevitable. Nonetheless, we will persevere and lives will be saved. Like the phoenix from the flame, we will rise.

Please think about those in our community who may need some help. Nothing can get you outside of yourself and provide greater self-worth than helping others.

Judson Haims is the owner of Visiting Angels Home Care in Aspen, Basalt and Carbondale. He is an advocate for the elderly and is available to answer questions. He can be reached at www.visitingangels.com/comtns and 970-328-5526.

Supporting the community during a pandemic

About two weeks ago, the world as we know it changed.

To say the emergence of COVID-19 in our tri-county region has wreaked havoc is an understatement. Businesses have scaled back operations and some are completely shut down. Events and gatherings have been canceled. Schools are closed. Nonprofit organizations are unable to provide services. Thousands of people are out of work. Our economy has ground to a near halt.

Things are not normal.

The COVID-19 outbreak is, in essence, a disaster. One that, while not damaging to property or habitat, is threatening the safety, livelihood and well-being of people throughout the region. It wasn’t too long ago that our community was impacted by another disaster, the Lake Christine Fire in El Jebel and Basalt. And as with Lake Christine, Aspen Community Foundation (ACF) has jumped into action to help those impacted by this latest calamity.

ACF is closely monitoring the COVID-19 outbreak and its impact on the community, particularly on our vulnerable neighbors. We are in continual communication with our three counties’ public health and human services departments, school districts, family resource centers, food pantries and other nonprofit partners to identify specific needs and coordinate the community response efforts so they are as efficient and effective as possible.

In the immediate term, the safety and well-being of everyone in the community is the top priority. There has been a huge need for food, especially for our low-income, elderly or isolated neighbors. LIFT-UP and Food Bank of the Rockies have been packing boxes with groceries and distributing them between Parachute and Basalt. Aspen Family Connections has taken on the role of feeding people in Aspen and Pitkin County. In other parts of the region, school-based family resource centers are distributing food and helping connect families to economic assistance.

But we know that many will feel the impacts of this virus for months to come. In the coming weeks, thousands of people economically impacted by business closures, cancellations and the premature end to the ski season will be faced with rent, mortgage, utility payments and not enough money to cover these expenses. The county human services offices have assembled government resources to provide financial assistance to those in need. And for those who don’t qualify for government assistance, nonprofit organizations such as Catholic Charities, the Salvation Army and the River Center of New Castle stand ready.

ACF established the COVID-19 Regional Response Fund to channel needed resources to respond to the immediate and long-term needs of the Aspen to Parachute region. Monies raised will be disbursed to nonprofit organizations meeting essential human needs such as food access, rent and utilities assistance and health care access for individuals and families impacted by the virus. More information can be found at bit.ly/2y4bFsh.

Throughout the region and state, other funds have been established to support various recovery efforts. Many of these are listed at bit.ly/2xkFdl6.

To help disseminate all the various information about local resources, events and volunteer needs, ACF is launching the Aspen to Parachute COVID Response website later this week.

The outpouring of support since COVID-19 landed in our community has been remarkable and is a true testament to the “can do” attitude of our community. We know many of you have reached out to volunteer your time. This show of compassion and altruism is wonderful. However, solving community problems during a pandemic requires a different type of volunteerism.

We are all being asked to socially distance or isolate ourselves to minimize the spread of the virus. In-person volunteering has the potential to make things worse, so there are not a lot of these types of volunteer opportunities at the moment. However, if you are called to volunteer, here are a few tips to consider, be responsible and educate yourself on the latest public safety guidelines and adhere strictly to them. Also, be respectful and only volunteer if you have the capacity to be patient and compassionate with others and can model a sense of calm whether in person (6 feet away, on the phone or online).

Finally, be resourceful. There are many different ways you can support our community during these times. You can check on your neighbor. Write notes to the people in your neighborhood and drop at their door. Ask them to email or call you for a check in. What are they worried about? How are they doing? Collect these names and numbers and reach out each week.

You can donate. Nonprofit organizations are working hard to respond to the needs emerging from this crisis. Money will not relieve all the pressure but pooling even our small amount of dollars can help to keep our neighbors from real despair.

Most importantly, you can take care of yourself and your family. Wash your hands, stay home, take walks, go virtual, establish a routine that becomes the new normal for the time being.

Keeping healthy and virus-free is the best way to give back to our community during this pandemic crisis.

Tamara Tormohlen is the executive director of Aspen Community Foundation.

Basalt council candidate: Ready to carry sustainability torch, other initiatives

Hello neighbors, fellow Basaltines and friends of Basalt, my name is Elyse Hottel and I am running for a seat on Town Council to bring new perspective and make sure that your voice is heard: A fresh choice for community voice! Do you want to increase vibrancy while preserving small-town character? Balance density over sprawl? Develop affordable housing opportunities? Be good stewards of the natural environment? Unify Basalt both connectively and emotionally? These are the things I will work toward if you “Elect Elyse.”

Why do I want those things? Because I heard you say that you wanted those things through my participation in the public outreach and engagement process of the Basalt master plan. That is what inspired me to run for Town Council. In addition to the conversations I had with many of you at the five open houses, I had the privilege to read and collate the many comments and surveys collected as part of that process through my work. (The engagement appendix is 407 pages long.) I heard encouraging themes like “small-town feel,” “good people,” “embrace the rivers,” but also frustration: “lack of leadership,” “stagnant,” “divided” and I wondered whether the people of Basalt were really being heard.

Thus, I would be privileged to represent you, to give you voice, with no personal agenda, but with a very personal stake in this unique community. I believe the role of elected officials is to represent our constituents. As the town evolves, so will its needs and desires, and the only way to track that evolution is to hear from its people. I would like to see multiple avenues for capturing public comment to ensure community will is translated to council action — particularly online, like the Let’s Talk Basalt website, without the limitations of time and geography. Face to face is best, but not always feasible.

While you may or may not recognize my name, I have been around the valley for over 10 years, serving as the Basalt Community Garden manager for the past two (where I will be playing in the dirt again this year if you care to join), working for the Wilderness Land Trust and in the Climate Action department of the city of Aspen, where I authored the 2011 greenhouse gas inventory report and conceived the Hotel Energy Efficiency Makeover Contest. I also worked for the sustainability division of the city of Boulder, collaborating with the National Renewable Energy Laboratory to calculate and display optimal rooftop solar capacity for every building in the city.

In a recent conversation with a Basalt resident, he expressed that with the departure of council members Katie Schwoerer and Auden Schendler, there is perhaps a sustainability vacuum on council. With the above experience and an MPA in environmental science and policy — a degree created by Columbia University for the express purpose of translating environmental science into policy action — I am prepared and excited to take up that mantle, weighing decisions through an environmental, social and economic lens, advocating for the green economy.

You will not see my name on yard signs or door-hangers — throw-away items are not compatible with my environmental ethic. I had hoped to have the opportunity to meet more of you in person, hosting pop-up events around town and knocking on doors, but fate, or rather a prolific parasitic organism (coronavirus), is conspiring against me, so I am taking the appropriate steps to keep the community safe during this challenging time. Thus, I am communicating my message to you the old-fashioned way — in print.

I’m Elyse Hottel (elyse.hottel@gmail.com) and I approve this message!

Editor’s note: Leading up to the Basalt election April 7, The Aspen Times is publishing one guest commentary from each candidate. Hottel can be reached at elyse.hottel@gmail.com.