13 April 2011: Georgetown ready for change, McHugh

Georgetown ready for change, McHugh

April 5th was a different sort of day in Georgetown, seemingly, due to the lack of I-70 traffic drone. It was still. Unearthly still, reminiscent of the scene in the classic sci-fi film, “The Day the Earth Stood Still,” in which the alien Klaatu arranged to have every power source on Earth shut down…no electricity, no motors, no nuclear power.

The sounds of silence first echoed off the canyon walls. It wasn’t, though, “a winter’s day in a deep and dark December,” but a brilliant spring one, warming, sunny, and relatively calm wind-wise by Georgetown standards. It seemed to be incongruent, however, with the pallor that overlay the town, or at least the SOS district, given the unthinkable having happened.

History was made, but not in accordance with the pre-written script.

The tectonic plate underpinning the town had shifted. It would’ve been fitting for the CDOT electronic message board, in lieu of cautioning drivers about the rock mitigation work closure, to have proclaimed, “Kerry Ann McHugh elected. Georgetown is open for business.”

Some thought the electoral process messy, but it was democracy in action, a bit of Americana in which citizens act as arbiters and make a call. In this case, while the final tally showed a mere six-vote differential, less than 2 percent of the total, the call was resoundingly affirmative: Time for change!

Stunningly, or perhaps not so, cracks appeared in the Ward I voting bloc, the bastion of HGI-ism. Matt Skeen pulled only 56 percent where one would’ve thought a 75 to 80 percent juggernaut likely to occur. That left him vulnerable, and with Kerry Ann taking Ward II by 4 votes, Ward III, where she won 61 percent, put her over the top.

The ramifications cannot be underestimated. Not since Marcus Aurelius in second-century Rome has there been a successful philosopher king. With Skeen being chair of the Historic District Public Lands Commission—HDPLC—and top officer of Historical Georgetown, Inc., his election would have subverted the democratic notion of separation of power with it being consolidated in one individual.

That was not to be.

“Serendipitous,” said herzzoner when I asked how it felt as she tended to her customers at Ed’s Place. Somehow, that setting seemed most fitting for a small town mayor. Running a business or a town, after all, draws on a similar skill set.

“I’m hitting the floor running,” she continued, an act that will be literal as well given her places of work—Town Hall and Ed’s Place—being separated only by the art store.

“The round-about,” she said in regard to priority #1. “With the layout and signage so critical, the promotions board working with [town administrator] Tom Hale might be best to oversee the plans.”

Becoming more knowledgeable about all of the town’s projects, especially roads, is important for her and the three new selectmen.

“We’ll meet with Craig Abrahamson and his committee, but with the Ride the Rockies coming in June, we need to look quickly at the frontage road to see what can be done.”

In addition to roads, looking at ways to monetize recreational activities will be on the front burner.

As we spoke, Joe Sysel of Shadow’s Ranch arrived with a planning document for the Sonic Boom festival scheduled for the last weekend of June. It was eye-opening to hear them talk not only about that but also ways to connect with the Loveland Ski Area. Already, ideas for renewal were percolating.

“This is the first business-oriented board we’ve had since the mining days,” said McHugh, which is great news for the town’s businesses that have been in survival mode for way too long.

That business-oriented board will also focus on cleaning up the town itself.

“The appearance of the town impacts potential growth,” former mayor and now Ward II Selectman Bob Smith told me. “We need to put our best foot forward if we are going to attract more people to visit or invest.”

Accordingly, Smith will spearhead a review of the town’s ordinances to ascertain which are too cumbersome and difficult to understand. The goal will be to make them simpler and, thus, more easily enforceable. In addition, ordinances that make little sense or serve no real purpose are to be repealed.

“The same thing that got me elected is the same thing that is going to make me a great Mayor for Georgetown,” McHugh said after taking the oath of office. “Keeping it positive and moving forward!”

Georgetown has a new lease on life, and in conjunction with movement related to Governor Hickenlooper’s Bottom Up Initiative, great things can happen.

Leaving Ed’s Place, I strained to hear the words “Klaatu barada nikto,” but to no avail. I did see Gort, however, taking a stroll down Sixth St. to check out the new scene. Ever see a ten-foot, one-ton robot do cartwheels?

To be continued.

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