For this article, information was taken from Colorado Tracer (the state’s campaign finance disclosure website), Little Sis (a free database that tracks key relationships between politicians, business leaders, lobbyists, financiers, and their affiliated institutions), the subscription background check site Truthfinder.com, Zillow.com, the archives of the Grand Junction Daily Sentinel, the subscription newspaper archive Newspapers.com, the candidates’ own social media accounts and campaign websites if they have them, and the social media pages of other people and groups in Mesa County where the candidates might have posted, or where they might have been mentioned.
I would urge readers to particularly look at which candidates have hired professional agents and campaign consultants, who they’ve hired to do these jobs, and which candidates are serving as their own registered agents and managing their own campaigns.
The candidates running for the two open seats on District 51 School Board in 2023 are:
District A: José Luis Chavéz, CynDee Skalla and Jessica Hearn
District B: Barbara Evanson and Cindy Enos Martinez
Candidates for District A School Board seat:
José Luis Chavéz
José Luis Chavéz has a candidate website at JoseForD51.com. He was born and raised in Mesa County, has a B.A. degree in Human Services specializing in psychology and sociology, and a minor in Business from Mesa State College, now Colorado Mesa University. He lives in a neat 3 bedroom, 2 bathroom 1,660 sq ft. home in Fruita.
Chavéz has worked with juveniles in various professional capacities for over 34 years and is now retired. He was a Juvenile Probation Officer for Colorado’s 18th and 21st Judicial Districts, is a certified speaker for the Office of Criminal Justice and a certified gang expert. He received the Youth Outstanding Service Award issued by Colorado Department of Human Services Division of Youth Corrections in May of 2014, and received the Award For Making a Difference for the Over Representation of Minority Youth in Mesa County from Partners in 2008, 2009 and 2010. He also was given the Juvenile Parole Board Award of Excellence in 2005. Chavéz provided the local history to assist the construction and development of the Las Colonias area.
Chavéz is the registered agent for his own campaign. He has not hired a campaign consultant. Donors of note to his campaign include former Director of Mesa County Partners Joe Higgins (an organization that mentors youth), Sarah Shrader of Bonsai Design, physical therapist Britt Smith, Mesa County Assistant District Attorney Trish Mahre (who won a second guilty verdict in the 2018 murder retrial of Michael Blagg), current Grand Junction City Council member Randall Reitz and local attorney Damon Davis. Among the campaign expenses Chavéz reported in the month period ending 10/3/23 was a $30 consulting fee to retired CMU instructor Thomas Acker to translate his materials into Spanish. For the campaign finance reporting period ending on 10/3/23, Chavéz had $12,113.69 on hand.
Chavez has been endorsed by the Mesa Valley Education Association.
District A School Board candidate Jessica Hearns has a candidate website at ElectJessicaHearns.com
She was a math instructor at several community colleges in Florida and at Colorado Northwestern Community College. She got good ratings from her students. She has a Masters degree in Educational Leadership and attended graduate school for approximately 10 years, taking classes “from zoology to statistics,” according to her website. She lives in a modest townhouse in Fruita.
Jessica Hearns is her own registered agent for her campaign and has not hired a campaign consultant.
She has worked for the U.S. Census Bureau, and is a strong believer in the importance of the U.S. Census. Hearns has personally gone to extreme lengths to knock on thousands of doors in cities and towns in states across the country, sometimes braving extreme weather conditions, to help accurately complete the U.S. Census. She also appreciates the value of the Census from a statistics standpoint. She is a volunteer on the City of Fruita Planning Commission and says on her website that while she was teaching she attended many student events, games, and practices. She hand-writes thank you notes to her campaign donors. On July 25, 2023 on Facebook, she announced her candidacy for D-51 School Board and wrote,
“Can you donate $3 (or more!) so I can launch my website and get shit done?!”
Hearns thinks the current School Board doesn’t do enough to make their meetings accessible to people in Mesa County who don’t have cars to attend in person, and don’t have internet access to stream their meetings on Facebook. She does not, however, state how she would make it easier for people in these situations to participate in meetings.
At the end of the 10/3/23 campaign finance reporting period Hearns had $1,752.43 on hand. This last month Hearns reported just two donations, one for $25 from an environmental services company employee in Decatur, Georgia, and another for $20 from a teacher in the Orange County, Florida school system. Her biggest expense in the last month was $9.00 for maintenance of a WordPress campaign website. The rest of her expenses consisted of a number of charges for under $3 each for credit card processing fees.
Hearns believes in academic freedom, and says
“We must allow teachers the space to find age-appropriate ways to tell hard truths about our country’s past and present in order to prepare our kids for a better future.”
She also believes in a parent’s right to opt their child out of any controversial curricula, but only as allowed by law.
District A candidate CynDee Skalla’s real first name is “Cynthia,” according to her filing of intent to run for school board. Her real full name is “Cynthia Dee Skalla.” She lives in a 2,645 sq. ft., 4 bed, 2 1/2 bath single-family home in Fruita. She is a retired District 51 teacher with 34 years experience and she still substitute teaches in the District. She has 8 children, all of whom attended District 51 schools, and 16 grandchildren, 3 of whom attend D-51 schools. Skalla has a Bachelors degree from Colorado Mesa University (1984) and a Masters degree from University of Northern Colorado.
A 2023 candidate survey on Ballotpedia asked Skalla what her favorite book was. Skalla answered, “the Bible.”
Skalla has a campaign website at CynDee4Kids.com.
The registered agent for Skalla’s campaign is Marge Klein of Ft. Lupton, who serves as a registered agent for well-known Colorado Republicans and right wing conservative groups. Klein is a 2000 graduate of the right wing training course Leadership Program of the Rockies, back when it was called the “Republican Leadership Program.” Klein is also the registered agent for the Weld County Republicans, the Energy Council of East Weld County and she was the registered agent for Republican Bob Beauprez, who ran unsuccessfully for governor in 2006 with Janet Rowland as his lieutenant governor candidate. Beauprez lost that year to Democrat Bill Ritter. Klein was also the registered agent for former County Commissioner Rose Pugliese and served as the single registered agent for all four members of the highly political anti-public school bloc of conservative candidates who seized control of the Douglas County School Board in 2017.
As of the month ending on 10/3/2023, Skalla had $4,582.40 on hand. Her biggest donations were $1,000 from Janet Elliott of New Horizons real estate development company in Grand Junction, who specializes in new construction and is the sole listing agent for the new Emerald Ridge development in north G.J. between First and Seventh Streets; $1,000 from Arvan “Jeff” Leany, a former conservative school board member and owner of Starvin’ Arvins’ restaurants, $200 from another realtor and $100 from LuAnn Harrah of Harrah’s Hair Company. Like Barbara Evanson, Skalla is using Cutter Consulting of Arlington, Virginia, as her campaign consultant. Cutter Consulting managed the campaigns of the conservative bloc of candidates who won in the last election: Andrea Haitz, Angela Lema and Will Jones.
Cutter Consulting brags on its website that:
“In 2021, a victorious Jack Cutter flipped the Mesa County School Board…”
The Board Cutter helped create is the current one that last spring voted down a grant-funded free student health clinic in the new Grand Junction High School that would have been like the one that already exists at Central High School. Months later, the same board members reversed course and voted to reinstate the clinic. The same conservative bloc Cutter helped create has also been accused of violating Colorado Open Meetings laws.
Skalla paid Cutter $750 in the last month for campaign consulting.
On Skalla’s campaign website, big capital lettering at the top of the first page says “PARENTAL RIGHTS.” At a Chamber of Commerce candidate luncheon she said she wants to “amplify” the voices of parents in the school district. She also wants the school district to listen to “businesses and their concerns.” She believes all her years of teaching in the District is a big asset to her candidacy.
Candidates for District B School Board seat:
Barbara Evanson is running for the District B School Board seat. She doesn’t list a campaign website on her “Notice of Intent to be a Candidate” for D-51 School Board.
Evanson is currently a stay-at-home-mom who has lived on Glade Park since 2020. She lives in a 5,200+ sq. ft. home on a 35 acre parcel with 5 bedrooms and 3 bathrooms and views of the mountains. Before that, she lived in North Carolina. On August 25, 2022, she sought home-schooling advice from the Glade Park community on Facebook. She has an LLC registered business in Glade Park on Miller Canyon Ranch called Whiskey, Wine and Wild Wood Works that makes home decor and furniture out of reclaimed wine and whiskey barrels. She previously worked as as security guard for District 51 for two years. Before that she was a law enforcement officer for 16 years with the Jacksonville, North Carolina Department of Public Safety, and before that she spent 4 years in the Marine Corps. She lists herself as “semi-retired” on LinkedIn.
Evanson doesn’t discuss her education or degrees anywhere so it is unknown if she has any advanced degrees. Her stated main concern is about school security and she says she believes the job of a school board member is to represent parents.
The registered agent for Evanson’s campaign is Katie Kennedy, who, according to Little Sis, is the current or former registered agent for more than 100 right-wing extractive industry front groups or committees including “527 Political Organizations, Candidate Committees, Independent Expenditure Committees, Issue Committees, Political Committees and Small Donor Committees.” As of October 3, 2023, Evanson’s campaign had raised $5,036, with the most notable donation being $1,000 from former school board member Arvan “Jeff” Leany, owner of Starvin’ Arvin’s restaurants. A notable expense was a single payment of $1,203 to Cutter Consulting of Alexandria, Virginia for “campaign consulting,” which seems to be a preferred campaign consultant for Colorado’s right wing conservatives.
In response to the question posed by BallotPedia in a survey, “What qualities do you possess that you believe would make you a successful officeholder?,” Evanson answered,
“I possess an absolute truth that has helped me develop my morals, ethics, values, integrity and most of all my love for mankind.”
In a September 1, 2023 interview with KJCT-TV, Evanson opposed the health clinic in the new Grand Junction High School. Gabriel Gonzalez of KJCT wrote at the time, “As far as the clinic at the new Grand Junction High School, she [Barbara Evanson] has some concerns. ‘I think without having further conversation and ensuring that the parents are going to be involved, I would have said no at that time,'” Evanson told KJCT.
Evanson does not say anything about her educational background on her campaign’s website or Facebook page. The only place any information about her educational background could be found was under the “Education” heading on her LinkedIn page, where she wrote only “MCCS Okinawa.”
MCCS stands for “Marine Corps Community Services.” An inquiry sent directly to MCCS Okinawa to inquire about her educational background there got a response back that “MCCS (Marine Corps Community Services) is not a school. It’s a multi-faceted community services platform for the USMC. MCCS offers “education and career services and programs for USMC and Department of Defense members.” Basically, MCCS connects members of the Marine Corps and DOD with educational opportunities at a limited number of higher education schools in the U.S. When I asked Barbara Evanson via her campaign Facebook page if she could please provide some information about her educational background, she apologized for not having information about that available answered, “I attended the University of Maryland University College in Okinawa Japan and Coastal Carolina Community College. I did not obtain a degree.”
However, after I inquired with her directly about her educational background, Evanson’s LinkedIn page disappeared, and she did not immediately add any information about her educational background to either her campaign website or her campaign Facebook page.
Cindy Enos Martinez
Cindy Enos Martinez is a long time public servant and a known quantity in Mesa County. She previously served on the D-51 School Board in the District B seat from 2009-2012. She also served on Grand Junction City Council and was mayor for two years. She worked for Mesa County for 20 years as a Benefits Specialist. She lives in a modest multi-family home in the Riverside neighborhood, near the Dual Immersion Academy.
Enos Martinez does not have a campaign website. She is the registered agent for her own campaign and has not hired a campaign consultant.
Enos Martinez attended Grand Junction High School, raised two children who attended D-51 schools and now has grandchildren attending school in the District.
Enos Martinez was a member of the public who commented at the Grand Junction City Council hearing in June, 2020, when citizens were calling for action on racial issues and telling Council their experiences with racism in town. After Councilman Phil Pe’a said he thought he might need to bring a gun to city council meetings out of fear, Enos Martinez stood up and commented that she understood what it is like being in the council’s position, but that council members need to be prepared to be confronted by residents because it’s part of the job. She also said she knew the process for change in town would be difficult, but that it was necessary to move forward. At a Chamber candidate luncheon, Enos Martinez stated, “I believe that schools should be accepting all students and making them feel comfortable in the position that they’re in.” She is concerned about hiring and retaining qualified teachers and about “losing our children to homeschooling and charter schools.” She supports the District providing housing for teachers. She would like to see more vocational training made available to District 51 students.
Enos Martinez has been endorsed by the Mesa Valley Education Association.
As of the October 3 campaign filing deadline, Enos Martinez had $1,954.58 on hand. She got a $400 donation from the Mesa Valley Education Association and a $100 donation from a private citizen. The previous month she got a $250 donation from Bernie Buescher, a Grand Junction resident who was formerly Colorado Secretary of State. Her sole expenditure in the most recent month was $301 for yard signs.