Meet the candidates
City Council hopefuls sound off on the issues

The race is on, and four candidates are now vying for two available slots on the Durango City Council. This week, the Durango Telegraph takes readers inside the candidates’ political persuasions, pet peeves and pastimes. Responses are printed in the order they were submitted.

City voters have until April 5 to complete and turn in their mail-in ballots.

1. Name: Connie Matthews Imig

Occupation: Owner/manager of the Spaaah Shop

Hobbies: Hiking/camping/skiing/anything outdoors

Car you drive: Ford Hybrid Escape and slow-moving electric car that looks like a golf cart

Favorite local restaurant: Too many great ones to just pick one

Last book you read: The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

If an album got stuck on your stereo/Ipod, what would it be? Anything by John Denver

Dream vacation: Being in the mountains camping far away from roads

What is the biggest issue facing Durango and how would you tackle it as a councilor?

The biggest issue we face is a full recovery from the harsh economic downturn we’ve experienced the last couple of years and assuring a sustainable, healthy community into our future. As your city councilor, I would tackle it on several fronts.

As a small business owner downtown, I have firsthand knowledge of how to create jobs in our economy and keep my business and personal dollars LOCAL through donations to local charities and marketing with local businesses. I’ve hired 13 new employees since taking over my business last fall, so I know what it feels like to sign their paychecks and be responsible for their continued employment.

I’ve helped build two local nonprofits from budgets of a couple of hundred thousand dollars to well over $1 million, creating jobs and skills for those employed. With Habitat for Humanity, I was able to assist in the building of seven homes for seven families that can now securely call Durango home. With the Southwest Conservation Corps, we have almost 300 employees, many youth and young adults, including a weatherization crew learning job skills to take into their future and ours. Sitting on the state of Arizona Association of Economic Development board, I learned what it takes to nourish current businesses but also how to attract new ones.

In deciding which folks to vote for, I ask you to do a “job interview” taking into consideration “real life” job skills and how personalities would fit into the current Council. You are in the position of “hiring” two new members. As your city councilor, I believe “experience counts,” and I will be willing to DO WHATEVER IT TAKES to keep our city healthy and its environment wonderful. Your opinion will always be heard as YOU are the heart and soul of Durango along with our children and our grandchildren. Let’s make it possible for all of us to stay here. Vote Connie Imig for City Council.

2. Name: Sweetie Marbury. I was named by my father before I was born 64 years ago.

Occupation: School teacher for 36 years

Hobbies: Going to City Council meetings since the 1980s, gardening, hiking, painting furniture, photography

Car you drive: Honda. It saved my life when I was hit by a drunk driver in Farmington while sitting at a red light.

Favorite local restaurant: Olde Tymer’s

Last book you read: The Velveteen Rabbit

If an album got stuck on your stereo/Ipod, what would it be? The Beatles’ “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band”

Dream vacation: Maui on the beach and every beach on Maui

What is the biggest issue facing Durango and how would you tackle it as a councilor?

The issue that faces Durango is affordable housing and the fair share ordinance. I support the Regional Housing Authority as a city councilor with funding from the budget. I would vote to keep the Fair Share Ordinance from 2009. In years past I would go to City Council and ask that new development include 10 percent for affordable and attainable housing. Now, with the Fair Share, 16 percent is included. Our work force, policemen and young families have an opportunity to be the core of Durango.

Home ownership impacts every level in Durango, from community involvement to small businesses. I believe in diversity for our community. Durango should not be an Aspen. Home ownership means putting down roots and making an investment of self, time and energy. 4

3. Name: Emil Wanatka

Occupation: Homebuilder

Hobbies: Cooking (vegetarian), golf, reading, skiing, motorcycling, bicycling

Car you drive: 2005 Cadillac SRX. (Best snow car).

Favorite local restaurant: Ariano’s (This is the only possible answer that won’t get me in trouble with many of our great restaurateurs).

Last book you read: At Home, by Bill Bryson

If an album got stuck on your stereo/Ipod, what would it be? “Soul Searchin,” by Ronnie Earl and the Broadcasters.

Dream vacation: Traveling through Europe with my wife, by boat, bike, foot or train.

What is the biggest issue facing Durango and how would you tackle it as a councilor?

In my opinion, and from talking with city residents, the largest issue facing Durango is the state of the economy. Because Durango collects most of its general fund revenues from sales tax, the downturn in the economy has had a profound effect on our quality of life, and ultimately affects almost every decision the Council makes.

Some specific things we could do as City Council to improve the economy would be to: Enhance the City’s website; focus on our assets, not on things we’re not; build and foster existing partnerships; provide incentives for, as well as remove barriers to, businesses wanting to locate

here; bridge tech and tourism; encourage entrepreneurship; develop a younger culture; further embrace social networking; launch a marketing/PR campaign to attract new business; hire a business recruiter; and continue to improve our infrastructure, especially digital bandwidth.

Beyond trying to repair the immediate problems of the economy, it’s my opinion that we must fundamentally change the way we govern, and that City Council should adopt a more strategic and visionary approach in how to do this. Historically, Durango has experienced numerous boom and bust cycles just as we have over the past decade. By focusing more on the day to day (means) instead of long-term planning (the ends), Council and City Staff have often been forced to react to issues instead of considering multiple scenarios and proactively plan for the future. The problem this creates is that long-term policy is established in hurried response to a short-term problem, often creating unintended consequences.

Specifically, I would advocate for Council to take more of a leadership role in City governance and encourage: proactivity rather than reactivity; outward vision vs. internal preoccupation; strategic leadership more than administrative detail; diversity in viewpoints; a clear distinction between staff and Council roles; collective rather than individual decisions; and focus on the future rather than the past or present. Besides the above-mentioned tenets, I would advocate for a holistic approach to governance that considers issues such as the economy, livability and the environment collectively instead of separately.

4.Name: Dick White

Occupation: Sustainability advocate; retired astronomy professor

Hobbies: Golf, basketball, bird-watching

Car you drive: Toyota Prius

Favorite local restaurant: Cyprus Cafe

Last book you read: The Protector’s War by S. M. Stirling

If an album got stuck on your stereo/Ipod, what would it be? Branford Marsalis, “Romances for Saxophone”

Dream vacation: New Zealand

What is the biggest issue facing Durango and how would you tackle it as a councilor?

The biggest issue facing Durango is the revision of the Land Use and Development Code (LUDC).

The code has not been updated for some 20 years and, as the LUDC consultant has stated, it has “400 band aids.” The revised LUDC will guide decision-making for many years and will dictate the shape of Durango’s future. I will work to ensure that the new code embodies the essential results of community process over many years, such as Established Neighborhood Design Standards, as well as the vision articulated in the 2007 Comprehensive Plan.

The code revision also will incorporate community input from public meetings during the last 18 months, plus additional public hearings on the draft LUDC. It will include guidelines for issues such as:

• Accessory dwelling units – How many in which neighborhoods?

• Parking – How many spaces? Where? At what cost?

• Established and historical neighborhood design guidelines – How big? With what setbacks or restrictions? – and, perhaps most importantly,

• Approval processes – How complicated? How expensive?

I will work to ensure that the LUDC makes it easier and less expensive for homeowners and business owners to be innovative with their property and, at the same time, preserve the character of our neighborhoods and our distinctive downtown. I will work to foster the Durango that we want to see, not cast in stone the Durango that once was.

Charting a course to our future through the diverse opinions of Durango residents and business owners will not be easy. As a city councilor, I will address this task with openness, with respect for all opinions and for Durango’s historic past, seeking win-win outcomes.

My goal will be to preserve Durango’s sense of place, so that the evolving community of the future will still hold for our children and theirs the unique value that we experience today. •



In this week's issue...

January 25, 2024
Bagging it

State plastic bag ban is in full effect, but enforcement varies

January 26, 2024
Paper chase

The Sneer is back – and no we’re not talking about Billy Idol’s comeback tour.

January 11, 2024
High and dry

New state climate report projects continued warming, declining streamflows