In a recent letter to the editor, a fellow resident wrote:
“Durango has been blessed with forward-thinking leadership over the years, and that has helped make this community a beacon for others all over this great state.”
Written, of course, about city councils past, the words also apply to the present. And with a slate of quality candidates running for three open seats in the upcoming election, they will likely apply going forward.
The incumbent, Dean Brookie, deserves re-election. An integral part of the present council, he provided notable leadership during the Gold King Mine spill, becoming the face of the community while it recovered from shock and struggled to understand the scale of the disaster. We value his leadership and his professional skills just as highly going forward.
Among the candidates vying for a council seat for the first time, Melissa Youssef stands out for her preparation and enthusiasm. A mother of three, she has served ably on both Durango 9-R and Animas High School boards and is eager to bring an MBA, an impressive résumé of community involvement and her energy to city government.
Full of ideas to apply to concerns like Durango’s homeless population and the revitalization of North Main Avenue, she admits she has much to learn but is ready to listen. She is also ready to serve, and we endorse her.
Choosing between Dave McHenry and Chris Bettin is not easy. They are different, yes, but they both care deeply for Durango and share many concerns for its future.
39-year resident McHenry, recently retired, narrowly missed out on a seat in 2015 and remains enthusiastic. A staunch believer in the free market, McHenry still sees a role for local government in guiding growth, as he worries that Durango is “pricing its people out of town.” A former landscape architect, he would bring an experienced eye to city projects both planned and underway.
While a big fan of Durango’s recreation amenities, he wants to work within realistic budget boundaries to focus on basic services and retaining authentic, functioning neighborhoods.
Fort Lewis College graduate Chris Bettin (rhymes with keen) gave up a fast-track career in resort management in the Southeast to follow his heart back to Durango. A Realtor and a father, Bettin is dedicated to preserving the town as a place where our children can afford to stay, should they choose to do so. His is a voice for growth, but “in an intelligent way.”
Bettin favors attracting business and high-quality jobs to the area, as well as incentives to encourage affordable housing solutions that enable families to live and work in the city limits.
Durango would be in capable hands with either candidate, but forced to choose, we find ourselves leaning toward Bettin and the more creative, progressive perspective he provides.
We do not dismiss Tom Eskew lightly, as he brings a markedly different perspective and an offbeat sense of humor to the race. Different philosophically, yes, but also in reality. He is a hardworking owner of a business, Heartwood West Tree Services, and has a view of town from a literally higher perspective. He understands the month-to-month challenges of making a living in Durango, and we hope to hear more from him.
The top three vote-getters will join Sweetie Marbury and Dick White on the council.
Do your part and return your ballot by April 4.
Editor’s note: Because of her relationship to one of the candidates, Editorial Page Editor Ellen Stein was not involved in interviews or discussions concerning the city council election.