Breck educates candidates
BRECKENRIDGE – Breckenridge Town Council candidates Monday got a crash course on issues facing the town so they’ll be better prepared for a public forum later this month – and four years of public service if they’re elected April 6.Many of the candidates have never even attended a council meeting, so the briefing will be beneficial for them to learn the basics about town operations and challenges, said town manager Tim Gagen.”We’ve done this before every election,” he said. “It’s better to have well-informed people running for office so when they’re out talking to the community, they have good information. A better educated candidate is a better candidate.”Among the issues facing the town are transit, parking, the B&B Mines land purchase, child care, affordable housing and quality of life issues.Gagen admits it’s a lot to learn.”It’s always been a huge learning curve for someone not involved or not exposed to the issues,” he said. “But even if they’re unsuccessful as a candidate, hopefully they’ll become more interested in the community and stay up on things. And most elected officials will tell you it’s a lot of information, a lot of things going on, and it’s important to stay on top of that.”Councilmember Greg Abernathy, who was elected in 1994, didn’t run again in 1998 and was appointed to fill the rest of Dave Hinton’s term in 2003, said it was a lot of learning.”The first time, it seemed like a breeze until I realized the depth of everything we do,” he said. “It keeps you busy. And coming back, the only different thing I had to deal with was the history of ordinances and the issues we were dealing with. There are still things going on that are coming back up and I have to ask more questions.”And that’s from a man who has lived here 32 years.Ernie Blake, a council member who is running for the mayoral seat, sat through four years of town work sessions and council meetings, and he said despite all that time studying town operations and issues, he still had a lot more to learn once he was seated on the council.Gagen said that while there was a lot of information to disseminate, it isn’t the intent of town officials to scare away candidates.”I’ve heard people before say, “What have I gotten myself into?'” he said. “You have to be prepared. It’s lot of work and a lot of time.”Gagen estimates each council member spends between 20 and 40 hours a month attending work sessions and council, committee and board meetings.In his first stint on council, Abernathy also served on the Breckenridge Resort Chamber board, the Summit County Chamber and the Countywide Planning Commission.Once the election is over, the town will hold a retreat to set goals, further outline issues and give new council members a chance to meet each other.Gagen said that town officials usually expect people to rise to the council level after having served on other committees or after involvement in various issues.”Getting involved in the political process is a little foreign to most people,” he said. “We want to make it as easy as possible. We’re here to help them.”- Jane Stebbins
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