Candidate forum
Council hopefuls sound off on the burning questions du jour

Candidate forum

bIt’s been a bumper crop of City Council candidates this year, with seven locals throwing their names onto the ballot for the seats of Chris Bettin, Dean Brookie (term-limited) and Melissa Youssef (who is running again.) With candidate Lisa McCorry dropping out last week, the field has dwindled to six vying to serve one of the four-year terms. 

Ballots arrived in local mailboxes this week and must be returned no later than 7 p.m. Tues., April 6. 

Answers appear in the order they were received (and some were edited for length, clarity and ALL CAPS – our nemesis):

 

Jessika Buell

Day job: Running/owning/managing three businesses and over 50 employees (aka choreographing, juggling and playing dodgeball with all the new daily things thrown at me)

My super power is: I am a shape-shifter: Mom, entrepreneur, fitness fanatic, fiercely loyal friend, committed community member that does everything with integrity and passion – every day.

When I’m not working, I am: Raising and running around after my two boys, working out or laughing with my friends.

Favorite thing about Durango: The community. I feel so lucky to be raising my boys and running my businesses in this amazing city. Durango has the best possible combination of features for an outstanding family-oriented community, its character is unparalleled, it is situated in arguably the most beautiful setting in all of the United States, and the support this community gives to each other is astounding. 

Least favorite thing about Durango: The potholes in the Walmart parking lot. I feel like I am dodging mines as I drive past Nayarit. All kidding aside, my least favorite thing about Durango right now is seeing the struggles our local small businesses are going through dealing with attempting to get through the pandemic and the rippling effect it is having on our community (jobs lost, vacant buildings, mental health, etc). 

Why are you running for City Council: I am what Durango is: a parent, a business owner/work-my-tail-off citizen, and a community member who wants the city I fell in love with 19 years ago to remain and continually get better. I will bring diversity to the council representing the 30-somethings, the parents, the working class, and the business owners. But most importantly, I want to regain trust with our community. Everything I do, I do with integrity. I lead with a listening ear and make sure everyone is heard. I have an undeterred commitment to find solutions and make decisions in the best interest of our community. I believe that values are what shape a community and those values are defined by the people who live, work and play here. I am someone who is reasonable, a great leader, I have a positive outlook on life and can see both sides of things. I bring to the table someone that unites, listens and leads with passion; and I have the desire, energy and collaboration skills to serve you.

This is, by far, the most incredible community that I have ever lived in and I don’t want to see this lost over time. I want my kids and future residents to move, live, work and play in Durango for the same reasons I fell in love with this community, built three businesses and am raising two boys here. I will fight for workforce/attainable housing, quality jobs, small businesses and smart growth.

 

Seth Furtney

Day job: Pleasing my wife and our cat

My super power is: MacGyver like talent for unconventional problem solving

When I’m not working, I am: Planning to survive my wife’s next great adventure

Favorite thing about Durango: Going for a hike out my back door

Least favorite thing about Durango: Riding up College Mesa after enjoying pizza & beer at Steamworks Brewing Co.

Why are you running for City Council: I couldn’t sit quietly by with the city planning to spend $4M for a monstrous bridge over 32nd Street without prioritizing better “bang-for-the-buck” efforts such as: performing fuel mitigation throughout the town’s wildland urban interface; delivering commitments made in our Community Forest Plan; and establishing a safe connection between downtown and the Animas River Trail. 

See my platform at www.sethforcouncil.com.  

 

Frank Lockwood

Day job: Currently: running for City Council. Past lives: mediator, mediation trainer, lawyer, lecturer, author (one published book and several peer-reviewed articles, thousands of contracts, leases, bylaws and agreements). 4

My super power is: Understanding others,  empathizing with others, connecting with others, sense of humor, work ethic, energy, positive outlook, creativity, courage, writing ability, thinking on my feet (or sitting down), know every word to every song that made it into the top 40 in the ’60s.

When I’m not working, I am: Sleeping, making food, eating, watching the news, watching movies, reading, hiking, getting in touch with my inner child, interacting with my wife (ahem!), sitting in my hot tub and watching the stars at night; or meeting friends for drinks (remember the old days?).

Favorite thing about Durango: Friendly people (I have made 500 new friends in the last month); hiking trails; smart, genuinely concerned and caring people; location; hiking trails (did I say that?); the many fabulous nonprofits; and Sarah Syversen.

Least favorite thing about Durango: Despite being smart, caring people, the apparent lack of skill in resolving differences. Or put another way, territoriality and desperate efforts to protect theirs.

Why are you running for City Council: Because I care. And because I believe I can help move our community forward in solving some difficult problems, like: workforce housing; homelessness; efforts to support and stimulate local business and local investment in our community; and protecting our environment like our trails, water sources and fire mitigation. I do have a unique set of skills that have developed from 30 years of conflict resolution and lawyering (reading, writing analysis and communication). None of the other candidates have this combination or depth of skills that are so desperately needed on City Council.

 

Melissa Youssef

Day Job: City councilor

My super power is: Being a positive thinker. My live-by mottos, “the glass is half full” and “look on the bright side” have served me well all my life.

When I’m Not Working, I am: I am being active – hiking, biking, skiing, paddle-boarding, exercising – I have always had a lot of energy! I love spending time with my husband, family and friends, and talk often with my extended family. I have held many leadership roles in local nonprofits.

Favorite Things About Durango: Durango residents are active, engaged, informed and care deeply about our community. I have found my heart’s home – Durango offers everything I want in terms of a place to live and there will never be a need for me to look elsewhere. I love the feeling that I belong.

Also, there are many opportunities for of us, to be involved in things that make Durango a better place to live and work and play. More of my favorite things are the Animas River Trail and all the beautiful surrounding mountains. I love the many opportunities to explore arts and culture in our city. I love all the wonderful restaurants and shops. I love how quickly the weather can change - it is never boring.

What do you like least about Durango? There’s not much I don’t like. I’ve lived here for 23 years and the honeymoon is far from over. Here’s a go for the least liked: how hard our dry climate is on my skin, how not fun the driving can be during the bigger storms, getting lost while snow-shoeing, and how quickly the weather can change. You can leave home in the morning and by afternoon discover you’re wearing all the wrong clothes!

Why are you running for City Council? I thought long and hard before agreeing to seek re-election. As I know from serving on City Council and as Mayor during the past four years, it’s a huge commitment. I’m running again because I want to build on the successes of the past four years, during which our city government became more communicative, transparent, responsive and inclusive. We’ve prioritized applying solutions rather than band-aids to some important issues. We’ve identified priorities and are at a launching point to accomplish some great things. I’m running again because this is such a pivotal time. As an incumbent, I have the knowledge and experience to keep the good momentum going. 

The candidates will all agree we have serious issues to address. We all want a healthy and sustainable future. We’re committed to preserving Durango’s unique character, culture and natural resources. But as Durango comes out of the pandemic, I believe the most immediate pressing issue is revitalizing our economy. I have degrees in finance and economics and have been a successful local business owner. I currently serve on the La Plata County Economic Recovery Task Force for Restaurant and Retail Sectors. I’m a City Council liaison on the Strategy and Longterm Finance Committee and the Creative Economy Commission. I’ve served on the La Plata Economic Development Alliance Board. I’m running again because I believe I am uniquely qualified and positioned to support Durango’s post-pandemic economic recovery and future economic revitalization and development.

 

Olivier Bosmans

Day job: International Project Manager and EHS Consultant

My super power is: Optimism.

When I’m not working, I am: Spending quality time with my children, doing sports and recreational activities, gardening.

Favorite thing about Durango: Community and the people. Despite what some imply, we have a great community.

Least favorite thing about Durango: The long commute, just kidding, I feel for people in the big cities.

Why are you running for City Council: We live in a beautiful place, thanks in part to the great people in our community, the various organizations and all the different departments of the City. The new City Manager Jose Madrigal has hit the ground running, and I like the recent organizational changes he made. We have a sharp city attorney Dirk Nelson. And I have heard good things about Cynthia Sneed regarding city finances. Despite the pandemic, I am actually quite positive with where we are and where we are heading, we just need to make better progress on a broad variety of topics. 

I am very committed to Durango, my kids were all born here and this is home. I am an engineer and have an MBA degree, and run my own small business doing project management and environmental health and safety consulting. I successfully collaborate on larger technical projects, financial budgets with many different stakeholders including project developers, local governments, architects, financial experts and attorneys.

When I learned that Mr. Bettin and Mr. Brookie are permanently leaving, and they brought most of the technical and financial skills, I got worried. And after researching about the new candidates running, I noticed that nobody fills those gaps. So I decided to step up. I am the only candidate that brings actual hands-on experience in technical, financial and environmental matters. I enjoy serving on the La Plata County Planning Commission and the Board of Adjustment, and would be honored to continue my service to the community. 

 

Harrison Wendt

Day job: Kids’ Camp Site Coordinator, Durango 9-R

My superpower is: Staying sober (19 months, baby!)

When I’m not working, I am: Cuddling with my two puppies, Rango and Chewy, scooting around town on my 1987 Honda Elite (sometimes in an elf costume) and being an advocate for marginalized folx.

Favorite thing about Durango: My haters. Follow me on Facebook!

Least favorite thing about Durango: The ugly scenery. I just wish this place had more beauty, ya know?

Why are you running for City Council: I am running to fight for bold structural change, and as a working-class citizen of Durango, I understand best what surviving Durango looks like. What the “Durango Tango” really is. Where you spend over 60 percent of your income on rent and some weeks may even struggle to put food on your table. I am running because I believe that we can create a difference in our community regardless of race, gender and socio-economic background. That we can remake racial, economic and environmental justice in our local government. We can make a change that comes from compassion and the voice of Durango and create a bold transformation that is revolutionary for small town local governments, in return spearheading the progressive movement while benefiting the community as a whole. We can be prosperous in economic advancement and opportunities within our small business and working and middle class people. And within the intersectionality of our public transportation, climate change and unhoused neighbors, we can tackle our affordable and attainable housing crisis. Because our community can only successfully create affordable housing if multiple approaches are attempted simultaneously. I believe it is time we start creating and expanding diversity, equity.