Q & A with Charli Hollingshead, candidate for Oak Creek town trustee
Occupation: Cybersecurity manager for Tenet Healthcare; owner of Railtown Gallery in Oak Creek.
Prior political experience: I believe in “by the people, for the people,” not career politicians. I have no prior political experience but I have an interest in doing my part to support my community.
Civic involvement: Member of the Oak Creek Labor Day Committee and the South Routt Economic Development Council.
List your top three priorities as a town council candidate and talk about how you would go about accomplishing them.
I support, as well as contribute to, the revitalization and availability of both commercial and residential properties, which are critical to the vibrant future of Oak Creek. Additional grant opportunities should be investigated and pursued.
Promotion and diversification of economic expansion and our tax revenue base will ensure the vitality of the community. Eat, shop, drink, socialize, repeat. South Routt offers affordability, safety and beautiful surroundings that will continue to bring people to the area.
With the inevitable economic challenges in the short term, improvements to the town infrastructure and utilities should continue, with a focus on the availability and quality of our water supply.
The COVID-19 outbreak has had unprecedented impact on our county. How has it impacted Oak Creek and what role do you believe the town needs to play to navigate those impacts?
The town’s primary responsibility is the health, safety and wellbeing of our citizens through communications and support, including awareness, education and enforcement. There is a biological threat to address; we have a duty to provide guidance to our community, taking all precautions to inhibit the spread of the virus and shorten the length of the outbreak. Longer term, the financial impact of the pandemic has already begun for many of our families and businesses. The town needs to take immediate action to identify and implement provisions for financial assistance, wherever possible, as we move into a recovery mode.
What goals do you have in terms of economic revitalization of some of the empty commercial spaces on Main Street?
Oak Creek also has a responsibility to our citizens to address the derelict and condemned properties that continue to litter the community. South Routt is situated within Colorado’s Northwest Enterprise Zone, which provides various tax credits to businesses, such as hiring local workforce and investing in building improvements. Promotion of our community to bring in new businesses, while also providing opportunities and support for emerging local entrepreneurs will contribute to this revitalization.
Looking ahead, how is Oak Creek preparing for the changes in the coal industry, both in terms of tax revenue and jobs?
I would like to see greater support for new business proposals, addressing diversification, as well as support for our current local establishments. Oak Creek and South Routt are growing and so too are the needs for goods and services. The evaluation of alternative energy solutions to assess how they may be utilized to supplement the existing infrastructure would be advisable. Promotion of outdoor activities, expansion and improvements to parks and trails should also continue to be in our plans for the future.
How do you want to see Oak Creek change, and how do you want to see it maintain its unique small town identity?
Oak Creek does not want or need to mimic Steamboat Springs. Rather, we offer an alternative to Steamboat, a refreshingly authentic and historic getaway from the hustle and bustle of the city. That’s right, I called it “the city,” with rush hour traffic jams and typical 45-minute waits for a table at dinnertime. I love living and working in Oak Creek and South Routt. We have a wonderful community, and I believe we can build upon existing activities and events to bring even greater enjoyment and quality of life to our friends, neighbors and visitors.
There are very few options for early childcare in Oak Creek, what would you do to address this?
I would like to see an open public forum to gather input from the community and move forward with ideas and recommendations. There may well be multiple parts to a childcare solution for Oak Creek. I would also look to the other communities in South Routt to possibly leverage a larger solution for the area.
Many residents in Routt County struggle with affordable housing, both in and out of Oak Creek. How would you address this issue?
Again, we have multiple vacant buildings in need or repair that could otherwise be filling the need for affordable housing. Outreach to owners to discuss ways to move toward productive properties would be a starting point. Additionally, existing development plans should be revisited and perhaps kick-started.
How has your experience and background equipped you to serve Oak Creek as a town council member?
Oak Creek has a very diverse population. Over the course of my career I have worked in many countries and experienced many cultures for months on end, which gives me some valuable perspective on diversity. Politicians can lose touch with the needs of their constituents. I own and run my own store in Oak Creek, and I have the opportunity to meet many locals and listen to their thoughts and ideas. Finally, I am renovating an apartment building in Oak Creek, which was in serious need of repair. I work closely with my tenants to make changes based on their input. As the work is completed, this will provide some additional quality affordable housing for locals.
Editor’s note: The town of Oak Creek will be holding an election Tuesday, April 7. Voters will be able to drop off their ballots from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. at Oak Creek Town Hall, 129 Nancy Crawford Blvd., if they haven’t already mailed them in. There are seven candidates running for four open trustee positions, and two candidates vying for mayor. Trustee candidates include Wendy Gustafson, Charli Hollingshead, Rhonda Crawford, William “Bill” Auer, Kelly McElfish, Lynda Hoskinson and Benjamin Turati. The two mayoral candidates are Bernard Gagne and Nikki Knoebel.
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The National Weather Service in Grand Junction has issued a winter storm warning for much of the West Slope ahead of a major weather system expected in the area starting Thursday.