Political change is blowing in the spring winds of Dolores.
During Monday’s special board meeting, four new board members and a new mayor were sworn into office in front of 20 onlookers.
The new board also voted to seek letters of interest and resumes for town attorney. And as their last act, the previous board passed an emergency ban on open fires.
Longtime local Chad Wheelus then took over as mayor. He was joined by new board members Tracy Murphy, Jennifer Stark, Melissa Watters and Val Truelsen.
“I’m honored and excited to serve, and will give it my best effort,” Wheelus said of his first elected position. “I ask board members and staff to please be patient as I learn how to do this.”
The board voted to go into executive session to discuss personnel matters before addressing official appointments for municipal judge, town attorney, town clerk/treasurer and interim town manager.
Upon coming out of executive session, the board voted to delay appointments of two official positions.
The board voted 6-0 to seek letters of interest and resumes for a town attorney for board consideration. Mike Green is the current town attorney. They also agreed to delay the appointment of a municipal judge and requested that interim Town Manager David Stahl provide information at the next board meeting regarding the role of the judge and how the position relates to town ordinances.
Regarding the town clerk-treasurer position, the town board voted to appoint Lana Hancock for a one-year appointment. The board also agreed to begin negotiations on a future contract for Stahl. His current town manager contract is for 18-26 weeks.
Also, Biard was appointed to be the board’s Chamber of Commerce representative, Murphy was appointed as a member of the Parks and Playground Advisory Committee, and Stark was appointed board representative to the Colorado Municipal League Policy Committee.
Stahl was appointed as the town building official, zoning administrator and flood plain administrator.
Due to severe fire danger and drought conditions, the town passed an emergency ban on open burning, defined as any fire in an outdoor location where fuel is being burned.
Exceptions to the burn ban include enclosed commercial incinerators, residential charcoal and gas barbecue grills, welding within a 20-foot safe zone free of vegetation and with proper hand tools and fire extinguishers, and burn barrels equipped with a ¼-inch screen if the burn is conducted in a 20-foot radius zone free of vegetation.
To prepare for a potential wildfire that could threaten town, Dolores is repairing two emergency sirens to warn residents. The town contracted to have the units fixed for $3,700, and will test them in the near future.
Residents will be given warning of upcoming tests.
Outgoing Mayor Santiago Lopez and trustee Ginger McClellan-Swope were presented with plaques for their public service and received thanks all around.
Lopez said it was a pleasure to serve, adding that there were “a few bumps in the road,” referring to a heated community debate on whether to remove playground equipment, which was eventually torn down because of safety issues.
“I hope and pray the division among the community members can and will be healed,” he said.
Truelsen said that as mayor, “Santiago put in more work than any of the half dozen mayors who proceeded him, including me.”
McClellan-Swope has served on the town board since 2010. She thanked her fellow board members and staff for their work.
She encouraged Mayor Wheelus to “show up to community events, be a presence in the community.”
Wheelus added that as mayor, he will run board meetings with “respect for one another, and with respect for our citizens because we are here to serve you.”