The Leadville Connection: Where’s (Senator) Cory?
By Kathy Bedell © Leadville Today
Tonight, the political spotlight will be on Washington DC, as President Donald J. Trump gives his first State of the Union address at 7 p.m. Leadville time. This evening’s televised speech is also a time for political grandstanding, so expect to see Colorado’s delegation of representatives posturing for a bit of national attention, including Senator Cory Gardner (CO-R).
One of the coolest things about living in Leadville Today -no matter where you stand politically – is that because the city was established in 1878, its connections are far-reaching. In fact, chances are good that those on the national stage that have a Colorado tie, also have a Leadville Connection, a story about some time they spent in America’s Highest City.
Point in case, was the recently seated US Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsch, whose family certainly has The Leadville Connection. You can read that story HERE if you didn’t catch it last April.
And so it goes for Senator Cory Gardner. Now this story might not be as news-weighty as the Gorsch story, but it is humorous, in a Leadville-sorta-way. So if you plan to grin-and-bear-it through tonight’s speech, you should at least have a little something to make you smile. Or perhaps the sixth ranking Republican Senator will even inspire a new drinking game: Where’s Cory?
Senator Gardner’s Leadville Connection is a story about how the “main street” guy helped out a future Washington big-shot, and as a result, could very well could have saved a political career!
It was 2009 when Cory told me his story. I was at the annual Colorado Press Association’s media and legislation luncheon at the historic Brown Palace Hotel in downtown Denver. I was there to pick up an award for a column I wrote for The Leadville Chronicle, and decided to arrive early, to take in the lunch beforehand which allowed the media and the Colorado General Assembly to break bread peaceably over lunch, rather than embattled on the editorial pages.
That year was of particular interest because the luncheon’s guest speaker was former Colorado Senator Gary Hart, whose defiled presidential bid in 1988 was still the reigning jewel in his Wikipedia crown. But nearly ten years later, folks had become more interested in what he had to say about present-day politics, rather than any of the other “Monkey Business” that had left his political future shipwrecked.
And that list included me, which was the reason I choose to stake out one of the only empty tables at the front of the ballroom, while the rest of my colleagues networked with other news-types from across the state. I wanted a front row seat for Hart’s speech. However, I was somewhat surprised that I was still alone at the table by the time the banquet servers arrived with the first course. Suddenly, the side doors to the ballroom sprang open and there was an immediate flurry of white-men-in-suits heading straight towards my table.
“Are these seats taken?” asked then State Representative Cory Gardner as his band-of-brothers filed in like clockwork around the table.
“No, please,” I responded waving my spinach laden fork in a circular fashion. Boom! Some of the top state legislators from Colorado’s Golden Dome had just settled in, with a journalist from Leadville.
“Ohhhh, Leadville!” they all said, nearly in unison. Keep in mind, this was February 2009 and a little thing called the Leadville Mine Drainage Tunnel (Remember the LMDT!?) was making its own national headlines. It seemed every Senator or Representative at that table had a Cloud City story to share, which made for perfect table conversation, as far as I was concerned. It was during this time that Senator Gardner who was seated next to me, told me about his Leadville Connection.
Years ago, when he was a political-science major at Colorado State University, Cory interned for then-State Senator Bill Owens who later went on to serve two terms as Governor of Colorado. Owens’ team was on one of those criss-cross, statewide stump-and-pump events, generating support for whatever hot-button issue of the day.
“We were having a coffee meeting in that place, right there on main street. It’s like on old diner,” the Senator recanted. I knew immediately that he was speaking of the old J-Mar Café which later became Mom’s Restaurant, and then the Columbine Café, and is now home to the High and Tight Barbershop at 612 Harrison Avenue.
It seems that as the meeting got underway with all of the Lake County political animals-of-the-day, Senator Owens realized that he had left some handouts in the car. His faithful intern and chauffer-of-the-day Cory leapt into action and went to retrieve them from the car, which was parked on the corner of Harrison and E. 7th Street, just a couple spots down from the eatery.
“I ran outside,” Cory continued, reiterating his need to make a good impression on his boss. “I got to the car and reached into my pockets, realizing that I had locked the keys in the car!” he exclaimed. “Oh no,” I heard myself say as I pictured exactly where he was parked: directly in front of The Manhattan Bar, one of Leadville’s most notorious saloons.
I must have looked pretty freaked out, Cory continued with his story, because when I looked up there was a red-headed guy standing on the sidewalk, asking if I needed help. “I locked my keys in the car,” the future Senator explained. The guy mumbled something and walked into the bar. Right then, I knew exactly who Cory was talking about, and I smiled because it was one of my favorite main street guys.
Cory continued, I was standing there trying to figure out how I was going to explain this to Owens, when that guy showed back up, not more than 30 seconds later with a coat hanger. He had that lock, popped and open within 10 seconds, I swear. I never saw anything like it – so fast! I grabbed the papers and got back to the meeting before anyone ever knew what had happened.
“And he mighta just saved my political career.” Okay, I added that last part. But I can’t help it. Because that red-headed guy was none other than Dave Cerise (RIP) owner of “The Hat,” a main street watering hole with a rather dubious reputation. In fact, on any given Saturday more than a dozen motorcycles would be parked in front of it, with the hard-leather, weathered riders to go with them, inside slamming long-neck buds and shots of Crown Royal, pumping money into Dave’s cash register. This time, the story was about a main street business guy who helped out a future DC big-shot!
Just then, as if on cue from Cory wrapping up his Leadville Connection story, Senator Gary Hart took center stage as the featured speaker. But, by then, I’d already heard what I came for – another story, one more Leadville Connection. Cory Gardner, I thought, you’re going places!
So if you’re tuning in to tonight’s State of The Union address, keep an eye out for Senator Cory Gardner. As the sixth ranking Republican Senator, he’s usually not far off from center stage. And should you be watching the State of the Union from a Leadville bar, feel free to strike up your own “Where’s Cory?” drinking game, with a shot of Crown for every appearance the Senator makes! Alas, there’s no guarantee that even a strong elixir will take the sting out of today’s political climate – but it’s a good start!
Cheers to you, Senator Cory Gardner! Remember well your Leadville friends, especially those working hard, just running a business or a bar on Leadville’s main street types; you never know when you might need them!
City Council Up for Grabs in November
If city politics has you thinking about throwing your hat into the ring. If last winter’s street conditions are a not-so-distant memory. If cutting through the back streets after the “reconfiguration” of Harrison Avenue has you thinking you could do a better job, then there’s good news.
Every single seat on Leadville City Council – except for one – will be up for grabs on the November 7 ballot. In addition, the position of Leadville City Clerk and Treasurer will also be up for election.
With several controversial decisions coming out of City Hall in the past few months, Leadville Today has been getting inquiries from people who are contemplating a run for city office. So here’s what you need to know about getting your name on the ballot, according to Lake County Clerk and Recorder Patty Berger whose office will be conducting the November 7 election.
Also a note to readers, city positions will not be the only issues on the upcoming ballot, other district elections are listed at the end of the city election report.
Leadville City Council
For those who might be new to the community or unfamiliar with Leadville city representation, this municipality is divided into three Wards. Each Ward is represented by two seats on council. So for those interested in running for local office, the first step is determining which Ward you live in. Since all three sections have seats open, if you live within the city limits and can fulfill the following requirements, then you can continue on your journey of representing the people that live in the highest city in North America.
It’s important to note that city elections are not partisan. In other words, there is no party affiliation, you don’t have to be registered as a Democrat or Republican. But you DO have to be a registered city voter and meet the following requirements:
- Must be 18 years of age and a registered voter.
- To be eligible, a candidate must have resided in their Ward for a period of at least twelve (12) consecutive months.
If you can meet those requirements then it’s time to pick up your petition from the Lake County Clerk and Recorder’s office, located in the courthouse on Harrison Avenue.
- Petitions for city offices can be picked up NO EARLIER than August 8.
- Each representative must get 25 valid signatures from registered voters in the Ward they will be representing.
- Petitions must be turned back into the Clerk’s office no later than August 28.
From there, petitions are verified by the county clerk’s office, a group of helpful individuals committed to assuring an open election process. If you have questions, they are all very welcoming and informed.
Ward One – There will be one seat on the November ballot for Ward One, currently occupied by Jane Gowing. No word yet on whether Gowing will be throwing her hat back into the ring this fall for re-election. Gowing was recently appointed to the seat after it had become vacant following the death Council Member Mike Canty.
Ward Two – Both seats in Ward Two are up for grabs as Council Member Gwen Shepherd is up for re-election. The other seat was recently vacated with the resignation of former Council Member Jake Mohrmann. Since he resigned before his term was complete, City Council will entertain applications immediately to appoint someone to fill that seat – hopefully by next month – until the November Election.
Ward Three – The same situation exists in Ward Three, where Council Member Max Duarte is up for re-election this fall. In addition, the other Ward Three seat was recently vacated with the resignation of Council Member David Chimovitz. Since he also resigned before his term was complete, City Council will entertain applications immediately to appoint someone to fill that seat until the November Election.
Last month’s reconfiguration of historic Harrison Avenue is one of several recent city deicisons that has prompted residents to consider a run for office. Here is the Leadville Today video of the city’s main street with the new traffic flow.
Leadville City Clerk and Treasurer
While once a stream-lined, Constitutional position with clearly outlined duties and responsibilities, both the positions of Leadville City Clerk and Treasurer have become muddied in recent years. Through a series of misguided appointment/hiring decisions and flat out “restructuring” of city government, Leadville recently added a Deputy City Clerk to the payroll, and under the last city administration, a Finance Director. Both of these new positions now report to the Mayor and City Council.
Probably the most glaring concern city residents have regarding this re-model, is that the Finance Director makes upwards of $40,000/annually, while the elected position of Treasurer can anticipate a monthly stipend of $200. The former reports to the Mayor and City Council, the latter to the citizens at the polls, elected or rejected based on performance.
City Treasurer – The following information was provided by the Leadville city administrator for the elected office of City Treasurer: LINK. In addition, this is the information Leadville Today received regarding the position of Finance Director (circa 2013).
City Clerk and Recorder – The following information was provided by the Leadville city administrator for the elected position of City Clerk and Recorder. In addition here is the offical description of the recently added Deputy City Clerk.
There’s no doubt that in light of recent city issues fresh in the minds of voters, as well as the city’s ongoing and growing list of “executive sessions” closed to the public, this fall’s election could prove to set a different tone at City Hall, from a stronger, more representative council to a City Clerk and Treasurer, who can possibly retrieve their elected powers, and ultimately restore these offices to being accountable to the people they represent.
So if you’re ready to do your part for open and transparent democracy and represent the people of Leadville, pick up your petition and rally the troops – Leadville City Election season has begun!
School Board Seats Open
In addition to the city positions, the November 7 ballot will also include two seats on the Lake County School District Board of Education, as Amy Frykholm, who is anticpated to run for re-election and Harmony Jump, who according to school officials will not be seeking another 4-year term, are up for re-election. Deadlines for those petitions, while close to the city deadlines are notably a day off as follows: no EARLIER than August 9 to pick up a petition, to be turned in no later than August 29.
Colorado Mountain College Trustee Board also will see three seats up for re-election as follows. Trustee terms are for four years. Seats for the other four districts (including Lake County) were last up for election in 2015, so they are not up for election this year.
- District 1 (Pitkin County)
- District 7 (Eagle County)
- District 3 (West Garfield County)
Lake County Clerk Berger also reported that, to date, there have been no inquiries about putting an initiative on the ballot (i.e. a sales tax increase question), either by the city or the county, but there’s still time for that, so stay tuned. Since 2017 is considered an “off” election year, there are also no county offices up for re-election, so Lake County voters will get a break on that until 2018.
Berger reported that once the ballot is certified by the September 8 deadline, mail-in ballots will be distributed. Or residents can vote in person and be one of the first to cast their ballot on the new voting equipment that the county will have in place for the November 7 Election.
These are challenging and defining times for democary, from the White House to Leadville’s City Hall. Make sure your voice is heard! Register to vote, throw your hat into the ring, or get behind a candidiate that represents your interests! Then stay tuned for all of the 2017 Election coverage from Leadville Today.