Q&A with Nikki Knoebel, candidate for Oak Creek mayor
Occupation: Food and beverage director at Catamount Ranch & Club
Prior political experience: One year as an Oak Creek town trustee; eight years as the Oak Creek mayor
Civic involvement: Past United Way board member; Steamboat Ice Rink Advisory Committee; Oak Creek Hockey Association; past board member for LiveWell Northwest Colorado; South Routt Recreation Association: Oak Creek Labor Day Committee
List your top three priorities as a town council or mayoral candidate and talk about how you would go about accomplishing them.
- Downtown businesses/economic development. Continue offerings like our Business Improvement Grants.
2. Strategic planning —community assessment and planning. Continue to engage in a strategic planning process to identify what makes our town special and to cultivate and promote our unique assets.
3. Bringing in new residents. Being able to offer child care, after-school and summer programming is a big part of young families moving to and living in Oak Creek.
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?
Many people will be experiencing a lifestyle change from being at home more to a significant loss of income. At the March 26 board of trustees meeting, we discussed how the town can provide assistance for utility bill payments during this state of emergency. We are working on setting up payment plans for citizens who need assistance. All of the information regarding how the town staff can assist and to contact them is currently on our town’s Facebook page. We have put on hold any projects that are not crucial to our day-to-day operations knowing that our fiscal situation is going to be impacted.
What goals do you have in terms of economic revitalization of some of the empty commercial spaces on Main Street?
In 2017, town board and staff members worked to take steps needed for major infrastructure improvements to downtown Main Street. Securing a $2 million Energy Impact grant and $1 million from State Drinking Water Fund, the town funded a $500,000 match. With the upgrades to water mains, street lights, curb/gutter/sidewalks, storm drainage, the installation of blank conduit (for broadband) and other minor improvements, we set the stage for a vigorous downtown. These improvements provide a basis for town’s downtown revitalization, as well as supporting existing and new businesses infrastructure needs for the next 50 years plus. Town board is currently discussing goals for the post-pandemic world. It’s clear we must first support existing business recovery efforts. Our Business Improvement Grant — BIG — program is evidence of the program’s successes with numerous new storefronts and a reopened laundromat and provides a model to rely upon going forward.
Looking ahead, how is Oak Creek preparing for the changes in the coal industry, both in terms of tax revenue and jobs?
The town must continue to take a leadership role alongside the other Northwest Colorado leaders and elected officials. We know that our local communities are going to experience significant changes with the contraction of the coal industry, and the impacts will be broad and far-reaching throughout our region. We need to work inside and outside the box to replace the jobs our communities will lose. We also need to work with our local districts to make sure they remain whole and are able to continue to provide services to our residents.
How do you want to see Oak Creek change, and how do you want to see it maintain its unique small-town identity?
I would love to see Oak Creek continue to improve our downtown businesses and town’s infrastructure. But that is tough with our current economic situation. Things that we already have and may take for granted are friendly people who know their neighbors, attractive open spaces and beautiful scenery, quaint shops, amazing restaurants, historical buildings, festivities and parades, streets that are safe and free of traffic congestion.
There are very few options for early child care in Oak Creek, what would you do to address this?
In 2013, the town took on developing child care options under my leadership. Child care is basic infrastructure for a community, particularly one as family-centric as Oak Creek. Since we began our school-age programs, we have seen attendance stabilize in our local schools as well. It is also important that the programming remains affordable, broad-based and reliable. We often hear about the need for child care options for younger children and their families. We continue to consider and remove regulatory barriers to the private sector provision of these services and explore including additional facilities where these operations can be housed as we consider public and private construction and development.
Many residents in Routt County struggle with affordable housing, both in and out of Oak Creek. How would you address this issue?
The cost of construction in Routt County has limited the amount of new residential construction we have seen in Oak Creek; however, we have an open door to looking at creative projects from the private sector that could spur more housing being built in Oak Creek.
How has your experience and background equipped you to serve Oak Creek as a town council member?
As Oak Creek’s mayor, I have been a part of making often tough, fiscally responsible decisions that serve to run a municipality on a limited budget. Those same qualities hold true in my position at Catamount. Being held accountable for wise budget decisions is nothing new to me. Some distinguishing attributes I possess that will contribute to my continued success include organizational skills, detail oriented and excellent communication and conflict resolution abilities. I believe in hard work, educated decisions and teamwork. I have been, and will continue to be, an active participant in my community.
Open ended question:
Being elected mayor of the Town of Oak Creek has truly been one of my biggest achievements, as it has given me the ability to be a more effective voice within the community. It has also provided me the opportunity to volunteer for various groups that serve all of Routt County, allowing me to have an even greater impact. I teach tennis, ice skating and cheerleading to South Routt elementary-age kids, and I cherish my involvement in creating the kids after-school programs, summer activities and ice-skating events at the ice rink. I also continue to work with several local philanthropic organizations that assist our local families and communities with basic needs and healthy lifestyle. I will very much appreciate your support and your vote. If you have any questions, please contact me at Nikki@nikki4mayor.com or 970-846-2083.
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. Q&As with candidates for trustee will be published Thursday, April 2.
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