Election 2021: Two running for Idaho Springs mayor

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Growing responsibly and providing more services for residents are among the bigger topics in the Idaho Springs mayoral race.

With current Mayor Mike Hillman term-limited, Chuck Harmon and Mike Kowalewski are the two candidates running on the Nov. 2 ballot. Harmon is currently on City Council while Kowalewski challenged Hillman in the spring 2020 recall election.

Both have lived in Idaho Springs for more than 20 years and described economic growth and residents’ quality of life as major issues.

Harmon said Idaho Springs is at a crossroads and emphasized the need for “responsible and limited growth.”

“(The city needs) better communication and better community outreach,” he continued. “… Folks should feel like they’re well-informed and it’s unquestionable that they control what happens in the town.”

Kowalewski stressed a need to balance the old with the new, saying, “We need to figure out a way to thrive off the financial mechanism that is tourism and still be a good community to live in, raise a family, and be affordable to do so.”

Why they’re running

Kowalewski, who’s married with four school-age daughters, has lived in Idaho Springs for all 34 years of his life. He grew up on Ninth Street and now lives along Colorado Boulevard. His parents and brother still live in town.

Kowalewski has worked in the trades and currently owns Mountain View Woodworking, which he said is looking to relocate from downtown to a more commercial area.

He’s served as leader of the Elks Lodge and done other behind-the-scenes work with the organization, and now he says he wants to lead Idaho Springs because he loves the city.

“A ton of people keep asking me to do it,” he said. “I’m willing to put my name out there, and take the risks and hassles associated with it.”

Harmon moved to Idaho Springs in 1997 with his wife and two daughters, who are now grown. While he previously worked in aerospace as a parts manufacturer, Harmon continues working on local rental properties he’s owned since 1994.

Along with joining City Council in 2019, Harmon has been involved with local historical societies and the city’s Historic Preservation Review Commission.

Idaho Springs is one of the best-kept secrets as far as quality of life goes, Harmon said, and he wants to be mayor to ensure it’s an even better place to live.

“I don’t think anybody moved here because they want to be part of the next Highlands Ranch or Aurora,” he continued.

Goals as mayor

Along with improving communication, Harmon said he wants Idaho Springs to be competitive for grants, particularly infrastructure-focused ones from the federal government. It’s imperative that the city replace its old water and sewer lines, especially before any street projects, he commented.

He’s also excited to see Virginia Canyon Mountain Park completed and wants to ensure it’s properly maintained.

Overall, he wants the city’s small businesses to thrive. He suggested hosting festivals, farmers’ markets and other events to promote citizen participation and ensure Idaho Springs’ economic prosperity continues.

For Kowalewski, he wants the city to spend more money on services and less on administration.

Kowalewski specifically mentioned snow removal, saying that he wants to ensure the new Colorado Boulevard sidewalks are safe and intact. However, it should be in a way that helps people rather than penalizing them, he described.

Another way the city could do that, Kowalewski commented, is hosting more clean-up days.

“Things like that are so easy to do,” he continued. “They involve the people instead of giving them a hard time.”

Final thoughts

Kowalewski felt that much of what the city does is driven by money and not by the greater good. As mayor, he wants to change that, and spend Idaho Springs’ funds in ways that are efficient and benefit community members rather than the tourists.

Kowalewski felt that a vote for Harmon would a vote for “more of the same,” regarding the city’s current administration.

Over the years, Harmon said he’s been astounded by how much businesses and individuals love their community and feel a need to give back. It’s why he loves Idaho Springs and wants to be mayor.

“That’s exactly why I’ve enjoyed being on (City Council),” he said. “ … We don’t agree on everything, but we have the love of our town in common.”

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