Coleman, Brookhart, VanderVeer take school board seats

About half the voters in the county turned up

By Mark Reaman and Kendra Walker

The great Gunnison County election of 2023 drew just more than 52% of the county’s 13,151 active registered voters to the polls this fall. The county election office counted 6,847 ballots this year and a large chunk of them came in on Tuesday, November 7.

The Gunnison Watershed School District board race was the big draw this year with six candidates running for three seats and taking politically opposing viewpoints on many of the issues. The so-called ‘student success slate’ was overwhelmingly swept into office with Jody Coleman tallying 4,764 votes, incumbent Anne Brookhart garnering 4,504 votes and Mark VanderVeer coming in with 4,500 votes. Finishing in fourth place was Greg Kruthaupt who received just over 10% of the votes with 1,962, followed by Cori Dobson who collected 1,563 votes and Lisa Henry who came in sixth with 8% of the vote and 1,522 votes. 

While proposition HH failed statewide it also lost in Gunnison County with local voters casting 3,527 votes against the measure to 3,193 for it. Proposition II passed in the county 5,205 votes to 1,554.

The Mt. Crested Butte ballot question asking voters to basically extend the number of allowable consecutive terms for councilmembers from two to three was approved 242 to 151 votes.

Another smooth election for the county

According to Gunnison County Clerk Kathy Simillion, the election process went very smooth and final unofficial results were posted before 10 o’clock on Tuesday. She said that Tuesday was busy in both Crested Butte and Gunnison.

“Overall, the election went really well. Of course, I’d love it if more people dropped off their ballots early, but it is great to see so many people participate in the election,” she said noting that North Valley voters are renowned for waiting to drop their ballots on the official Election Day.

Of the 6,847 ballots cast in the county, 2,456 came in on Tuesday. In the last off-year election in 2021, Simillion said about 6,000 votes were cast. She credited the school board election for raising this year’s participation rate.

“Having the drop boxes throughout the county takes some coordination to manage but they work great,” Simillion said. “We just put the one in Mt. Crested Butte and it was well received and used a lot.”

Appreciative winners

Brookhart expressed her gratitude to community members and the support she has received for her reelection. “First, I would like to thank all the candidates; it takes a lot of courage to run for public office. I am grateful so many community members are interested in making our public schools better for children and families–no matter who they voted for. I want to thank every person who supported my campaign. Your support means the world to me. I am looking forward to the work ahead, supporting students and staff, and being part of a team dedicated to the community’s vision for our public schools.”

“I am humbled,” shared Jody Coleman. “I grew up here. The Valley Way (to me) is to roll up our sleeves and solve problems together. My new office is in the Produce section at the local grocery store, (wink wink) so I am here to listen–to every constituent, every one. To those who didn’t vote for me, thank you for voting. I represent you, too, so please call on me so I can listen to your perspective. Thank you, every citizen, for caring for our children and our valley’s future. Thank you.”

Mt. Crested Butte mayor Nicholas Kempin said he is glad town citizens approved a measure to allow councilmembers to stay on the board longer than previously allowed.

“More than ever, people recognize that Mt. Crested Butte is a gem. A diverse mix of leaders and a competition of ideas is sought to guide the changes we are experiencing,” he said Wednesday. “I am pleased that our voters supported this effort to increase participation in our government.”

In Gunnison, there were four candidates for four city council seats and mayor Diego Plata topped the vote tally receiving 1,188 votes. Gunnison city voters also approved a measure to continue a recreation tax that was set to expire in 2032 while taking some of that tax money for maintaining streets.

Simillion said just 13 ballots were pulled for not having a signature or having a signature that did not match the county records. Official certification of the vote will take place before the end of the month. The next county election will take place in March for the presidential primaries.

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