Home-rule candidates share bios: Part 1

The Citizen asked Home Rule Charter Commission candidates who they are, why they are running for a seat and why we should vote for them. The following candidates wrote their own bios, which are listed in the order received. In our Part 1 list, please meet candidates Cheryl Brown-Kovacic, Deb Juchem, Christine Sturgeon, Bill Smith, Merrell Bergin, Monika Griesenbeck and P.T. Wood.

Watch for Part 2, with info on the remaining candidates. The League of Women Voters Home Rule Candidate and Issue Forum is on Wed., Dec. 12, 7 to 9 p.m., in Council Chambers in the Touber Building. The forum will allow candidates to speak on the pros and cons of Salida as a home rule or statutory municipality. The forum will be live on Optimum Channel 10. In the meantime Councilman Steve Stewart will have coffee at the River’s Edge on Fri., Dec 7, 9 to 10:30 a.m., where he’ll be available to discuss statutory or home rule. http://cityofsalida.com/projects/home-rule/

Cheryl Brown-Kovacic, Ph.D.

I became interested in Home Rule because of its process. It is great example of a public process, with city residents determining whether or not to start the process, selecting interested citizens to write the charter, providing input and, finally, voting on the charter itself. Residents often give input, but they usually don’t get to make the final decisions, as generally public and elected officials determine the outcome. In this case city residents determine whether or not to accept the charter written by the Commission.

I learned a lot in my efforts to obtain signatures to run for the Commission. I was impressed by the questions and thoughtfulness of residents and learned about some of their concerns. It is obviously very important that the selected commissioners be willing to listen to issues raised and to address those issues. I would like to see the Commission gather a good deal of information as well as ideas from the public and to contact other municipalities with similar characteristics to learn what has worked well and what they wish they had done differently with each of their own charters. Many people view the State as providing a sort of “checks and balances” system under statutory status and think that some kind of local check may be desirable under Home Rule.

It is critical that the elected commissioners be committed to writing the best charter possible and addressing all areas of concern expressed by city residents. Commissioners should be open to ideas, committed to cooperation and respectfulness, creative in their solutions, and able to work in a complementary fashion, especially since there is such a short time period to write the charter.

I have a background in technical writing, having been responsible for grant proposals and progress reports on district, state, and federal levels in my position as Director of Assessment for the State of New Mexico and also as a senior associate with a federal Comprehensive Center for Educational Improvement. I have a Ph.D. in Educational Measurement, Assessment and Evaluation, having started my career as a high school mathematics teacher. I have also reviewed grant proposals and associated reports.

Since moving to Salida, I have been active in the League of Women Voters of Chaffee County, serving as president as well as in several other capacities. My interest in historic preservation led me to become chair of the Chaffee County Heritage Area Advisory Board for five years and to participate as a docent for the Hutchinson Homestead. For almost five years I served on the Land Use Roundtable and the Land Use Citizen Advisory Committee for the revision of the County Land Use Code, a task which has many similarities to that of the Home Rule Commission. I serve on the Salida Planning Commission and am a member of the Salida Parks, Open-space and Trails (SPOT) Board, coordinating the Adopt-A-Trail Program for trails in and close to the city. I am a member of Monarch and Smoking Needles Quilters, as well as a hiking group and book clubs. I enjoy bike riding, skiing and hiking and love living in a rural community in a gorgeous setting with a friendly, home-town atmosphere.


Deb Juchem

As an Art Conservator I have worked for numerous museums across the country, including the New York Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Philadelphia Museum of Art, the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston and the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum in Sante Fe. I have lived in Salida since 1994, the proud mother of two Salida-born boys, ages 10 and 14. I am very active in my children’s school and academic lives. Currently, I am working as an Art Conservator for the Hutchinson Homestead Museum and Cultural Center in Chaffee County.

I have a long and extensive volunteering history in Salida:

- I served on the Board of S.P.O.T. (Salida-area Parks Open space & Trails) for three years, including two as President. During that period, S.P.O.T. leveraged local park funds into tens of thousands of dollars worth of Chaffee County park projects (including the Alpine Park playground where outdated, unsafe, and non-handicapped-accessible playground equipment was replaced with a new playground complex designed for children of all ages and abilities), the Monarch Spur Park – Salida’s demonstration garden for native plant landscaping and water conservation, the first pocket park on the Salida Trail system and the Poncha disc golf course.

- In addition to providing logistical support, I was a founding Board member and first Development Director of Salida’s very successful nonprofit community radio station KHEN. I was responsible for increasing the station’s grant revenue from $2,000 to $38,000 in one year.

- I was a founding and very active Board member of the Central Colorado Humanists and was responsible for bringing to Salida speakers such as NPR personality Clay Jenkinson, one of the most sought after Humanities scholars in the United States, the editor of The Progressive magazine (a leading voice for peace and social justice in this country), Ward Churchill, the firebrand CU professor whose academic legal battles have reached the Supreme Court, Alternative Radio founder and journalist David Barsamian to speak on the anniversary of the beginning of the war in Afghanistan.

- I was also a founding and active member in the Central Colorado Coalition for Peace, a grassroots movement that promotes peace. The Coalition promoted a municipal resolution against the war in Iraq, prompting significant local discussion before being denied by the Salida City Council.

I am running for a seat on the Home Rule Charter Commission because I think Home Rule will enhance citizen control, interest and involvement. I believe Home Rule is the embodiment of the principle that the best government is the one that is closest to the people. Home Rule municipalities are not required to follow state statutes in matters of local concern and, therefore, enjoy self-regulation from state matters. I think people should vote for me because I have a proven track record of not only defining critical issues in the community but addressing and solving them.




Christine Sturgeon RN, MSN, NP-C

As a resident of Salida since 1976, my involvement in the community has been diverse. I’m a Nurse Practitioner working for the State of Colorado, and graduated with my Master’s Degree in 2011 from the University of Colorado, Colorado Springs. I’ve worked over the years as an RN. My employers include Heart of the Rockies Regional Medical Center, Angel of Shavano Hospice, Columbine Manor and Chaffee County Public Health. I had a successful Salida business for several years selling window coverings before becoming a Nurse Practitioner. My community involvement includes Heart of the Rockies Hospital Auxiliary Scholarship Committee, American Cancer Society Relay for Life Chair, Salida City Finance Committee, Salida City Home Rule Task Force, Shavano Academic Booster Club and Chaffee County Crime Stoppers. Elected positions include Salida City Treasurer. I’m a member of the certifying body of the American Academy of Nurse Practitioners.

I love Salida and the small-town charm, friendliness and family atmosphere. I have one daughter, Eva Marie, who lives on the East coast. I live with my partner, Dave; dog, Ally; and cat, Sky Bear. I enjoy local events in the park, the arts at the SteamPlant, shopping and restaurants. I BUY Local and support business growth and development in Salida. Life is good.

I’m in favor of Salida adopting Home Rule. As a former elected city Treasurer, I understand the fiscal challenges we face. We must be able to secure funds in a timely way that supports infrastructure maintenance, citizen safety and business progress. Drafting a Charter for the city, which provides transparency, community participation and holds the city’s elected officials and employees to high ethical standards, are my goals for the best City Charter. Keeping and preserving the character of the community, voice of the citizens and maintaining financial stability in local government is a basis for Home Rule. Please Vote for ME!!! Check out these links to better understand Home Rule.




Bill Smith

Bill Smith loves Salida because a river runs through it. It helps that the people are wonderful, and they seem to like him. Bill moved to Salida in 2005 and not earlier because it took a number of years to persuade his wife that it was acceptable to live three hours from a commercial airport. Still not totally convinced, she agreed to try it and now she loves every bit of it (he always has).

Bill is by all accounts the average person. He is medium height, a bit overweight, brown hair, brown eyes, (hopefully) of average intelligence, and 48 years old. If you line everyone up, by whatever measure, he is somewhere near the middle. He was even born in Ohio. When not agonizing over what to include in his bio, he volunteers with a number of organizations in the area, and for money he practices law in downtown Salida, representing clients in real estate and small business matters. He has represented a number of clients before the city and county for land use and regulatory matters. He would love to bore you endlessly with those details, but they are secret.

Bill is the proud father of two children who strive endlessly to make his life both wonderful and miserable, frequently at the same time. Recently Bill visited his father with his son, Wiley, and after watching the two interact for a while, Bill’s father smiled and said, “He reminds me of you – and you so deserve that.” His children are, as all children are, significantly above average in every way, and a joy to be around sometimes. They are both better than he is and the reason he has hope for the future.

As for the Home Rule Committee, first and foremost Bill would like to see them write a Charter that is easily understood by a majority of folks and supported by them as well. He generally thinks that the city, like all government entities, should not overreach beyond its core responsibilities, and that it can’t be too transparent, too accountable or take itself too seriously.


Merrell Bergin

Merrell Bergin is an eight-year, full-time resident of Salida. Living in Colorado since 1970, he is a business applications consultant for a major software firm, specializing in the healthcare industry. Together with his wife, PJ, a fiber artist, Merrell rehabilitated the classic downtown Salida building where they now live. PJ and Merrell are actively involved in the arts, Salida’s Historic and Creative Districts and advocates for neighborhood issues for many years. He has contributed to the community as a writer, volunteer for Colorado Farm To Table and, in a former life, as a broadcaster for what is now Colorado Public Radio.

Bergin said: “As a coach of high-performance teams, the most important part of my work is not just implementing new software – that’s a given. Rather, it is how I help people adapt and feel more comfortable with changes to their long-held work habits and daily processes. his is also a time-constrained and budget-driven effort – the project must deliver specific results, often based on compromise and what is best for the enterprise as a whole – not just one department or another. I have been doing this work for more than 15 years and feel that my professional experience will add value to the goal of improving how the city does its business.

“Another key aspect of my work is listening to diverse opinions. While I am expected to suggest ‘best practices,’ if they are not practical or acceptable to the client’s values and day-to-day challenges, my recommendations mean little. Compromise is key to helping move steadily toward an improved process. I focus on logic and facts but I also have to pay attention to deeply held beliefs, cultures and values. Understanding these factors helps me provide guidance that is more credible.

“I do not know all the answers, by any means, but I am a lifelong student of new technology and progressive-business thinking. The city should conduct its affairs as any well-run business or nonprofit organization does. That means that voters, as stakeholders, must insist on transparency, accountability and focusing on long-term strategy as opposed to short term, crisis-driven reactions. We deserve no less and I believe that a well-crafted Home Rule Charter will help Salida move along a path of continuous self-improvement for the benefit of us all. I am open-minded and committed primarily to making the process of a Home Rule Charter Commission work as it is intended.”



Monika Griesenbeck


Office: Home Rule Charter Commission Member

Qualification: Salida registered voter, Salida 35-year resident, owned and operated S corporation 10 years, served two years on Salida City Council, layman’s familiarity with Colorado Revised Statutes concerning local governments and a few charters of various Colorado municipalities, BFA University of Texas at Austin, 1976.

Shifting more authority from the state to Salida’s local government may not serve the common good at this time. However, should the measure pass, I would attempt to influence fellow charter writers to limit our local government and preserve or enhance citizen’s rights.


P.T. Wood

I moved Salida in the early ’90s to be a river guide. Since then I have managed Headwaters Outdoor, been a Kayak sales rep, owned Moonlight Pizza, built homes and now own Wood’s High Mountain Distillery.

Over the past 20 or so years, I have also been on the AHRA Citizen Task Force, the board of the Arkansas River Trust, the FIBArk board, and the Salida Planning and Zoning Commission.

I believe that the home rule process is a great opportunity at pure grassroots democracy. I want to have a seat at the table for what should prove to be a very lively and exciting debate about the form, scope and direction of local government.

The Citizen is happy to provide a forum for comments and discussion. Please be civil, truthful, and relevant. Please suggest removal of comments that violate these standards. Real names are appreciated.

One Response to “Home-rule candidates share bios: Part 1”

  1. Paige Judd

    Thanks to all the candidates for stepping up to participate in this process. Being a candidate will necessitate that you spend time away from the people and things that you love, and I appreciate your commitment to making our town a better community in which to live. That sentiment goes for those who are for Home Rule, against Home Rule, and those on the fence.

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