The Town of Poncha Springs is on schedule for the election of three new trustees to the Poncha Springs Town Board, with the election set for April 5. Ballots hit the post office on Monday, March 14, and should be in town mailboxes by this weekend.
Four candidates are vying for the three open trustee seats. All four candidates have qualified for the ballot: Evalyn Parks, and Katherine Davis are running for a first term. Darryl Wilson, and Adrian Quintana, are both running for re-election.
While trustees will now be paid $300/month instead of $200/month, the amount of time required to prepare for meetings and do the town’s business makes this basically a volunteer service position.
Poncha Springs does not have established voting districts. All residents vote on all candidates for the town leadership positions up for election. In this year’s election, they will be asked to pick three of the four declared candidates. With everyone voting on all three seats, it becomes important to get to know the candidates running to represent you.
As an introduction to the candidates for Ark Valley Voice (AVV) readers, we spoke with each of the candidates about their qualifications for the role, their reasons for running, the issues they believe need attention, and what a successful term of service would look like.
The candidates for the Poncha Springs Trustee positions, in alphabetical order:
Katherine ‘Katie’ Davis
Davis says she is planning to draw on both her past and present Chaffee County resident experiences should she be elected a Poncha Springs Trustees. She lived in Salida in the early 2000s, working for the City of Salida Recreation Department, as a Realtor in Chaffee County and for Monarch Mountain. She left for employment opportunities. but her love of Chaffee County drew her back in 2020 and she bought a house in Poncha Springs.
Among her civic involvements, Davis currently serves as Secretary on the Chaffee County Community Foundation board and is a founding member of the Salida Circus Outreach Foundation.
Asked about her reasons for seeking a trustee role, Davis said “I’ve spent my career (20 plus years) helping organizations and businesses grow strategically and sustainably.” Now, says Davis, she wants to give back to the place she has considered to be her “home base” over these last two decades.
An obviously well-prepared person, Davis is a strategic planner, fundraiser, certified human resources professional, and facilitator by training, Davis says that she is someone who can hold the larger vision while breaking the processes into steps to achieve that vision. “I’m a pragmatic problem solver with an ear towards consensus-building, always around shared values,” she adds.
Among the most important issues that Davis wants to tackle if elected a trustee, she lists three main goals:
- Address the need for attainable housing to support a more vibrant multi-generational community.
- Broaden business/commerce opportunities in Poncha Springs with a focus on developing a stable, sustainable, year-round economy and revenue sources.
- Ensure Poncha Springs is a livable and vibrant place for us to call home long into the future while giving voice to the people, places, and decisions that carried us here.
Davis says that she recognizes those are big goals; she’s willing to do what she called “Listen, Learn, and Lead. The 3 L’s of my grandfather still influence my life and career today.” To accomplish that, she says, she’s willing to bring other voices to the table who have wisdom, trials, and triumphs.
When asked how she considers her vision for Poncha Springs, and how the trustees could work collaboratively, Davis responded: “I’d like to create a collective vision built around shared values and our ‘home’. I’d like to see transparent and civil dialogue. I want us to be a community that recognizes, supports, and understands Poncha Springs’ bold and thoughtful vision for our future.”
Parks is a long-time Poncha Springs resident; while her growing-up roots were in Leadville, she was born in Salida and graduated from Salida High School. As the Salida School District Transportation Director, she’s been with the school district for 21 years, and calls herself “a logistics person”.
“I’ve been in transportation for 35 years. In that role I’ve had to deal with the budgets, I want to see if we can see a new set of eyes on [the town leadership]. I keep seeing the same people. I ask a lot of questions and I want to know ‘why’ a lot. I know transportation, I know some construction, not a whole lot, so I’m willing to learn.”
Asked about her reasons for running for town trustee, Parks said “I want to challenge myself. and coming from the job I’m at, I see a lot of housing, and the pricing of housing is ridiculous … for so many families there is no way they can afford the housing. We need workforce housing; something for people so they can actually live here. …I’ve been talking to (Mayor Scanga) about how I’m tired of seeing little Vail or Breckenridge running around. We’re growing, but we’re a Heart of the Rockies home town.”
Parks said that last year she got involved in setting up the town’s 4th of July parade, and that can-do attitude defines her. “When no one else was doing anything, I talked to [the mayor], and started doing something to make things happen.”
The biggest issue Parks sees ahead for Poncha Springs is, and continues to be, housing.
“Doing something about housing is my big reason for running. I don’t think a lot of people who’ve been running for these boards actually see the real people — the workforce at McDonalds, a single mom who maybe has a child, and is still trying to live here. A lot of the people leading us need to understand — we’re not a big city and we don’t have a lot of job opportunities. Between the COVID impacts and wages here are barely minimum… prices for housing have to be handled. These days a one-bedroom shack can be $2,500 a month. I’m not sure if I can make a difference, but I’ll make my voice heard.”
Asked to articulate why she is the right person to serve as trustee, Parks said “I’m not politically correct, not speaking like I should, I’m an old miner’s daughter. I believe in giving an honest day’s work, and and I’ve been working hard since I was 14.”
For Parks, a successful term for the Poncha Springs Trustees is all connected to “getting my voice out there, making people understand, getting help to where there needs to be help — actually doing something and make a difference.”
“I want people to understand where everyone is coming from, so the working folks voices get heard. Being me, I open my mouth and say ‘Let’s look at this before we vote, lets make sure its correct before we do this’.” Parks, who as a single mom took law school courses at Colorado Mountain College, says she reads everything. “I took law school courses where we learned about deeds and trusts. I’ve learned to read the fine print. I always start with the fine print – not just at the top. I always make sure we understand things before we vote. I won’t just decide without understanding so we know we’re doing the right thing.” She adds that she attends school board meetings and wants to make sure that people’s questions get answered, maybe not right on the spot, but that people feel heard.
In the end, says Parks, “I want people to vote for the right person. I’m going to do my best to hear them. I may not always be able to answer, but I want to be there FOR them, not just ON the board. I want to see Poncha grow right, not just grow up.”
Running for his third consecutive term, Adrian Quintana says he’s simply not done with what he wants to get done as a Poncha Springs trustee. ” When I first started I had an agenda and we’re about 90 percent done with it. There are a few things I want to see done before I leave. We’re well on our way.”
Quintana, who works for the Colorado Dept. of Transportation, says that taking on a trustee role is service to the community. “You don’t do it for the money. You know the first reason I got on board I had a lot of concerns as a citizen living here. I was told if I wanted to do anything about it I should get on the board and that’s what I did.
He says during his first term, the town made a lot of personnel changes and it revamped the board. “We went back to the basics and started over is what we did. We reran all the positions and reclassified them all. Since doing that our town is in a good position financially and from a morale standpoint.”
Asked about specific examples of the progress that has been made, Quintana said “Our public works dept. has expanded. It’s done a great job. We’ve taken on more tasks and projects that we can do in-house. With the annexations, we’ve put more priority on streets and parks.”
“We’ve increased our water capacity, which we need to grow this town. I was always an advocate for a [town] police force. Now we pay the position for a Chaffee County Sheriff’s Officer. I’d like to see us having our own police force. Now we have a prosecutor. We have a judge. We’ve done all this without a single tax to the people. None.”
Our [Town] Administrator Brian Berger has done a fantastic job applying for and receiving grants. We got DOLA money for the water tower. That was huge. We have raised our water rates slightly, but we’ve kept it to a minimum.”
Asked about upcoming issues, Quintana notes the town needs to plan ahead should Poncha outgrow the current sewer system arrangement with Salida, and continuing to refine the town’s approach to development based on its simplified land-use code, which he considers ahead of the county’s other municipalities. “We’ve learned, and we’ve simplified it. That’s why the developers want to come to Poncha. We’re easy to work with.”
He focuses on the need for housing, and the problems faced by the local workforce finding housing they can afford. “The people we rely on the most can’t afford to live here — even our teachers are underpaid. We need affordability for our workers. Right now I don’t know the answer to that, because these subdivisions are selling out before we can blink an eye. My whole idea of expanding Poncha was to flood the market with affordable lots to where the price comes down and they are affordable.” But, he added, “It’s insane… I can’t wrap my head around this. We tried to plan for the future and the future is all over us right now.”
Focusing on business growth in Poncha Springs, he said “I’d love to see business in Poncha, but we don’t need more art galleries. We set aside [land] for biz and we can’t build them if they are not coming…. the grocery and hardware stores are good. The Colorado Outpost is going to set Precedent.”
“I think we trustees work well together as a team,” he concluded. “We’re all on the same page. Everybody has the same vision. But I do like discussions. The more voices the better.”
Wilson, running for election as a Poncha Springs Trustee, says, that technically this would be his third term; he finished out another term for trustee back in the early 2000’s and then ran for his own term,
He first moved to Poncha Springs in 1998; his job took him away for a couple of years, and he moved back in Jan. 2002. Wilson works for the Colorado Department of Transportation and is responsible for the U.S. 50 Monarch Pass area. Winter is always his busy season he says, but this year its been busier than ever because they are short of help. The job he says, normally allows him time to pursue his interests, including serving his hometown.
“I want to keep Poncha Springs a good place to live. Yes, we’re going to grow, that is going to happen, but we have to have places for people to live. That’s our problem.”
Wilson says that while he wants to keep it “a smallish town” he recognizes that bigger housing projects like Tailwind Apartments and the Quarry Station development, are needed. “The only way to combat housing prices is to make more of them. Everybody wants affordable housing, but no one wants to step up and do it.”
Wilson, who confesses to being a bit of an anti-government type who doesn’t like overreach, says he knows there is a place for government to assist with something as important as housing. “We are tasked as the town board to keep the town running and to make improvements.” Asked about the progress made in the past four years, Wilson points out three important improvements; the sidewalk extension work and the expansion of city services, a dedicated police officer for the town through the county sheriff and a town judge, as well as the new $2.5 Million water system.
“Whenever we put in a new subdivision, we don’t put the lines or the cables in the street; we put them in the alleyways. That saves digging up work that is already done,” said Wilson. “Working for the state, there are times when I say ‘why did we do that?’ If we’re going to repave this street, why can’t we wait to do this, and lay the cable then? So I try not to have the town do that.”
He says that when he returned to Poncha Springs, “the town was spending money like crazy, but how long can you operate with a $450,000 budget of sales tax revenue, and spending $400,000 of that on personnel? That’s why I ran for trustee again….. you need to keep a rainy day fund. The capital improvements – right now we have a 10-year plan to do sidewalks throughout town … this is slow and steady improvements. We did a $2.5 million water system and rates didn’t go up.”
When it comes to local issues, Wilson talks about the right kind of growth. “We get teased about being a bedroom community for Salida. Maybe we can get back to communities where people actually take to each other. We need places to live — the growth is planned. Everybody needs housing, that’s why rents are going up. When [John] Diesslin started Tailwind 2 we asked him to build the apartments first. Two units; 32 apartments, so there will be 64 units.”
Wilson thinks that Poncha is out in front of other municipal areas of the county as far as developing housing. Having spent four painful years reviewing and revising the town’s land-use code, he says they have earned the compliments they get on how easy they are to work with.
“Before, every single thing had to come before the board [of trustees]. We didn’t get it perfect, but we were willing to clean it up as we ran across things and it took almost a full four years,” said Wilson. “Now we have a full planning commission to take the weight off the board.”
Asked about what issues he thinks need attention, Wilson said the town has to do something about improving the U.S. Post Office inadequacies. Poncha Springs has a population of 1,000. “I don’t want Poncha to get blended in with Salida, I want us to cooperate, but not be confused with Salida, to be our own separate entity.”
He pointed out that the trustees operate as a team; “we’ve always had really good discussions and we end up having people from different expertise, I appreciate the different perspectives. I come in prepared, but not set on a direction … the goal overall is when you get to a meeting and nobody is there…. it means they trust you and you’re doing things right.”