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Voters will elect four members to the Highlands Ranch Metro District Board of Directors, a seven-member board that acts as the local government for the unincorporated area. Duties of the board include budget preparation, maintenance of roadway landscaping and parks and open space, provision of fire protection and construction of storm drainage facilities and major roadways, according to the metro district's website.
Ballots must be received at one of the five polling places in Highlands Ranch by 7 p.m. on May 8. An absentee ballot application, available on the metro district's website, may be filed with the metro district's designated election official at the metro district office during regular business hours until Tuesday, May 1. All absentee ballots must be returned by 7 p.m. on May 8.
Three of the candidates are running uncontested. In the district serving the West Central Region, three candidates are vying for the seat.
The following is a look at the candidates. Their responses were submitted via email.
Jim Worley, incumbent
Nearly 33 years ago, Worley, his wife and two children moved from Dallas to Highlands Ranch. Worley has a bachelor's in business administration from the University of Texas at Dallas. For more than 30 years, he has managed various special districts in Colorado. He spent nine years as general manager of the Highlands Ranch Metro District.
What are your top three priorities?
My top priority is to support and promote the unification of the fire services with South Metro Fire and Rescue Authority. For the past 37 years, the metro district worked under an intergovernmental agreement with the City of Littleton and the Littleton Fire Protection District to provide fire and emergency services to Highlands Ranch. For many reasons, that IGA no longer works. All three IGA partners are pursuing services from South Metro.
My next priority is to provide appropriate services to the seniors in our community. Always near the top of my priorities is to make sure that the metro district continues to provide services as efficiently as possible.
How will you improve the metro district's spending?
I believe that the metro district has, currently does and will continue to spend tax dollars very wisely.
What amenities in the community could be improved?
Approval of unification with South Metro will provide a new fire station that will be constructed by South Metro and decrease response times to our community.
Allen Dreher, incumbent
Dreher has lived in Highlands Ranch since 1998 and served on the metro district board of directors since 2000. He is an owner and broker with Preferred Professionals Real Estate Inc. Dreher followed his grandchildren to the community and enjoys watching them play sports.
To see that the transition, upon passing, into the South Metro Fire and Rescue is smooth, working with our community partners to see that we have permanent seniors programming and eventually a facility or wing dedicated to their use, and dealing with potential budget restraints while still maintaining the high level and standards of our parks and open space. I would also like to see a new ice venue constructed in either Highlands Ranch or very close to our borders.
We have one of the highest rated staffs in the country. Our job is to give direction and oversight. They are always looking for ways to make our organization and community more viable, efficient and all around better. There will be challenges and opportunities to make us even better.
I think that we can make all of our parks and trails better. I also think there is an opportunity to look at community wide high-speed internet.
South Central Region
Carolyn Schierholz, incumbent
Schierholz grew up in St. Louis and graduated from Washington University. She worked in the information technology field. Schierholz moved to Highlands Ranch in 2001 with her husband and daughter. She enjoys walking the open space trails with her dog and spending time with friends.
A smooth transition of fire and emergency services to our new provider and follow through to ensure that an improved level of service is achieved, improve and add facilities for seniors in our community and update and maintain metro district assets to improve our property values.
We have been managing the residents' money well — our bond rating has been AA+ since 2015. To keep our bond rating high, I always evaluate potential projects by asking whether the end result would maintain or improve our amenities without over extending our resources.
As we approach build-out of Highlands Ranch, we need to make sure that our amenities stay current and in good repair.
West Central Region
Dunn was born, raised and got his undergraduate degree in Kansas. His family vacationed nearly every year in Colorado, so he attended law school in Boulder. He and his wife, Nita, raised their son in Highlands Ranch.
Dunn has spent 34 years practicing law in Colorado include forming and advising various types of business entities and assisting in transactions involving bank financing, acquisition and management of commercial properties and negotiation and enforcement of contracts.
I believe the current staff of the metro district does a good job in managing the expenditures of the district. However, with a budget in excess of $70 million, the projected expenditures and actual expenditures should be constantly and diligently scrutinized for ways that costs can be reduced.
While the bi-monthly water billings are recurring reminders of the costs of some of the metro district's services to families and homeowners in Highlands Ranch, the annual mill levy paid with our property taxes is a recurring obligation that I believe the board of directors has a duty to use efficiently and as good stewards of our community.
My family and I have enjoyed the amenities and activities available to us in Highlands Ranch over the years. My goal would be to work to keep those activities available at minimal or no cost to the participants.
What makes you the best candidate for the position?
During my legal career, I have been counsel to several corporations and special districts, advising the corporate and district officers and boards of directors regarding legal matters. I have also advised my clients' boards of directors regarding the individual board members' duties of loyalty and care to the organization they serve. I have served as legal counsel to my clients in several business and property acquisitions, with some matters exceeding $60 million in bank financing.
Having lived in Highlands Ranch for so long and raised our son here, I have a true understanding of and appreciation for the quality of life for families in Highlands Ranch, and I want to do my part to make sure that quality of life continues.
Mark Dickerson, incumbent
Dickerson, a Colorado native, graduated from the University of Southern California and received his law degree at the University of Kansas. He practiced law in San Francisco for 20 years, where his biggest clients where the State of California, the City and County of San Francisco, along with several major corporations like Levi Strauss and UPS. In 2002, he and his wife, along with their two young daughters, relocated to Highlands Ranch.
In the last 11 years, Dickerson has been involved in the Highlands Ranch Community Association as a district delegate and member of the Architectural Review Committee, the Hearing Tribunal and the Community Affairs Committee. Last year, Dickerson was appointed to the metro district board to fill a vacant seat.
I believe metro district has done a good job in managing our budget. We are constantly reviewing the services we provide with comparable districts and municipalities in the Denver metro area and we provide more and often better services at a lower cost than our comparables. My philosophy is that we are stewards of the tax moneys entrusted to metro district, and we are obligated to be sure that every cent spent will help to enhance Highlands Ranch as the best place to live.
The metro district is at an important fork in the road on spending depending on the result of the fire-service ballot measure. Fire and rescue services are the largest single expenditure that the metro district has, and its cost has been rising much faster than either inflation or tax revenues. If the measure is successful, we will improve services and cap the cost. If the ballot measure is not successful, then we are faced with serious choices. Since the City of Littleton is now seeking to merge their fire department with South Metro, our only alternative for fire services will be to contract with South Metro, which will be for a lower level of service that will cost significantly more.
The biggest issue has to be providing greater amenities for seniors. As a community, we need to address the changing needs of our population as the proportion of school age children declines and the proportion of seniors grows.
The metro district is about to take control of its 26th park when Central Park is completed. Maintaining our parks and supporting the attendant recreation and cultural programs are a core function of the metro district. Our staff has embarked on a program to bring all of these parks up to the newest standards for compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act, an issue that has been a priority for me.
I have worked hard to maintain and enhance our community through active community involvement, both through the HRCA and the metro district board. I am not one to be a passive member who looks to others to do the work — I am fully engaged. I also believe my background as an attorney representing various units of government gives me an understanding of what can be done and how the metro district can mobilize other units of government to address the needs of Highlands Ranch.
Tompkins' father was in the U.S. Air Force, so her family traveled often. She lived in western New York until she moved to Colorado in 2000 to attend law school at the University of Colorado Boulder. She and her husband, along with their two young daughters, moved to Highlands Ranch in 2016. She is currently a principal at White Bear Ankele Tanaka & Waldron in Centennial. She was in general practice for a short time and practiced HOA law until 2006, when she started representing special districts exclusively. Her firm represents hundreds of metro districts across the state.
I have over 10 years of experience working with metro districts, including operations and maintenance, legal compliance, budgeting and negotiating contracts. I think I can use my experience to help identify areas needing improvement.
I would like to see expanded playground equipment at Civic Green Park. I would also like to see better restroom management at the parks, especially the pit facilities.
I believe I'm the best candidate given my years of experience working with metro districts. I already have the fundamental knowledge of the duties and responsibilities of the board of directors and the district. I'm excited to be able to use my experience to serve our community.
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