Four people are competing for three seats on the Bayfield Town Board. The election is April 1, with voting at town hall.
Candidates are incumbent Michelle Nelson and newcomers Matthew Salka, J.J. Sanders, and John Turgeon. Incumbent Tom Au is term-limited. Incumbent Debbi Renfro filed a candidate petition but has withdrawn because of time commitments with a new job.
Michelle Nelson was appointed to the board in July 2012. Before that, she served on the town planning commission for three years and was chairman for the last year. She grew up in Bayfield and went to school here. She then studied architecture at California Poly Technical Institute in San Luis Obispo.
She returned to Bayfield and has worked in the Sower family businesses since then. She managed the hardware store when it was in what is now called Aspen Plaza. When the hardware moved to its current location almost 11 years ago, she bought the Mini Merc business, adding A&W a year later. She has a daughter in fourth grade.
She is running for the board "because I care about the future of Bayfield. I think it's an exciting time that we can pick a good direction for our town to go. I've enjoyed serving on the board for the last year."
The main issues she sees for the town are infrastructure and economic development.
"We need to take care of our water, sewer, streets. I think the board and town staff have taken some pretty strong steps to do that. I think we need to take care of our existing infrastructure and plan for future growth."
Nelson said economic development has been a weak point for the town. She noted new efforts to address that with help from the Region 9 Economic Development District. A community meeting has been scheduled for April 29.
"I think it's important to start planning for economic development so the town can grow to what we want it to be as citizens," she said. "As a board member, I'll study the issues and make the best decisions I can for the whole of the community."
Matthew Salka attended Fort Lewis College and has lived in Bayfield since 2000. He is married and has a son at Bayfield Elementary School. He coaches soccer with the town parks and recreation program. He operates two local businesses - Absolute Rodent Control and Absolute Computer Solutions.
He is running for the board because, "I am 34, I want to bring in some young blood, new ideas, be more involved in the community. People complain, but they never get involved. I can't make a huge change, but I can get involved and bring a bit of a business aspect to the town."
Salka didn't single out any town issues that need to be addressed. "I just started," he said. "I can at least be there to make sure things are done correctly."
He said that when he was growing up, his father was in the Navy, "so I moved every three years. This is finally a place I can call home."
John Turgeon, 45, has lived in Bayfield since the early 1980s. He and his wife now live in Sunrise Estates. He is on the subdivision HOA board. He grew up in Bayfield and went to Bayfield High School. A sister and brother live here too.
Turgeon works for the County Road and Bridge Department for the Bayfield area. He's had that job for about eight years.
He said he is running for the board "because I need to get more involved. Being on the HOA, I know we're one of the major subdivisions. I'd like to have some input in what goes on in the community," including development in general.
On town issues, Turgeon said, "I'd like to see more things for the children, be more proactive with them, give them a safe place to go; more of a rec center, where they can be watched over and have adult supervision."
He continued, "The streets are definitely an issue. I'd like more quality into the streets. Since I'm on the Road and Bridge asphalt crew, I definitely see where improvements could be made. It costs less in the long run to keep better maintenance of them."
He added, "I'd like more money for the Marshal's Office to keep the community safe and drug-free," and for deputy training.
J.J. Sanders, who just turned 70, has lived in Bayfield since 1988 and is retired from working for Lucent Technology in Oklahoma City. He serves on the town planning commission and has been chairman since Michelle Nelson was appointed to the town board. He has been one of the few regular attendees at town board meetings.
He is running for the board "because I'm frustrated with the (town board) thinking about all their financials, the amount of expenditures for this small town. I want to try to change that thinking. I'm going to be very active and very vocal."
Sanders cited town board budget discussions last fall, "all these PR gestures, handouts, thousands of dollars, and we can't give $1,000 to the Family Center. What was going on?"
He continued, "I've looked at the budget. I'm just bewildered of what's going on, if there's any kind of influence that I don't know about. ... The main issue is the thinking. I'm sitting out there (at board meetings), I'll hear one of them complain, and then when it comes time to vote, they're all in favor."
He said if other trustees want his vote, they'll need to change his mind. "I'm going to change theirs," he said.
He urged residents to vote, calling it a moral issue for the town.
Next week: profiles of candidates for Ignacio Town Board.