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Citizen Advisory Committee makes recommendations for at-large Mayor election

The Citizen Advisory Committee created by Town Council to help implement the at-large Mayor structure approved by voters, met Tuesday night to discuss their recommendations.

Town Council authorized the Committee in December 2017 to advise Council on certain necessary changes to the Town Charter and a transition plan for Castle Rock’s new Town Council structure.

Specifically, the Committee was asked to advise Council on: qualifications for Mayor, date the Mayor will first be elected, and the timing to complete the necessary re-districting to six Council districts.

Tuesday night, the Committee discussed and determined its recommendations:

Recommended qualifications for at-large Mayor
• Registered elector
• Castle Rock resident for one year
• Citizen of United States

Recommended at-large Mayor Election Date: Nov. 6, 2018

Recommended redistricting: The Town will move to complete redistricting from seven districts to six districts in 2018.

To become official, these proposed Mayor qualifications and redistricting changes would have to be reflected in the Town’s Charter. Because any changes to the Charter require voter approval, the Committee is also recommending Council set a special election to ask voters to consider these changes.

In addition to the Mayor’s qualifications, the Committee also discussed:

Recommended signature requirements: The Committee also recommended changing Town Code to require Mayoral candidates to gather 10 signatures from each of the six districts in order to get on the ballot. It’s important to note, these changes to Town Code do not require voter approval.

Council will consider all of the Committee’s recommendations during its next regular meeting Tuesday, Jan. 16.

Town Council meetings begin at 6 p.m. in Council Chambers at Town Hall, 100 N. Wilcox St. Meetings are open to the public, and there will be time for public comment on this and other agenda items. Agendas are posted the Thursday prior to the meeting at CRgov.com/Agendas.

Town Council welcomes questions about this and any other Town topic at TownCouncil@CRgov.com. Keep up with the process, or sign up for email updates, at CRgov.com/CitizenCommittee.

The Town Charter is the Town’s foundational document. It defined the organization, powers, functions and essential procedures of the Town. Any changes require voter approval. Council is expected to plan a special election in the spring to finalize these elected mayor details.

Learn more about the Citizen Advisory Committee at CRgov.com/CitizenCommittee.

Get Town news straight to your inbox. Sign up online at CRgov.com/notifyme, or follow the Town on Facebook (facebook.com/CRgov), Twitter (@CRgov), Instagram (CRGOV) and LinkedIn (search Town of Castle Rock.)

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Interim superintendent will apply for permanent position

Douglas County School District interim Superintendent Erin Kane has announced that she will apply for the permanent superintendent position.

“Many of you have asked me if I intend to apply,” Kane wrote in a Jan. 8 email to parents. “My family and I have been carefully considering that question for the past couple of months — and I have decided to apply for the permanent position.”

The school board has decided to do a national search for the position. In late December, board members selected Ray and Associates, a firm that specializes in national school executive searches, for the task. A permanent superintendent is expected to be selected by the first week of April, according to school board President David Ray.

Kane was hired in 2016 after Elizabeth Fagen resigned to take a position in the Humble Independent School District in Texas. Many teachers and parents blamed Fagen, who was hired in 2010 by a school board majority of reform-minded members, for policies that led to an exodus of teachers and administrators over the past several years. During her tenure, the school board severed ties with the teachers’ union.

In January 2016, the Douglas County School Board extended Kane’s contract through the 2017-18 school year.

Hiring a permanent superintendent was a hot topic during last year’s election. Four anti-reform candidates who supported a national superintendent search were elected to the school board. The outcome marked a shift in power after eight years of an often-controversial majority board.

On Dec. 4, the new school board voted 7-0 to hire a firm to conduct a national search for a new superintendent. In the decision process, the school board considered two other options: conducting a regional search in-house or hiring Kane as permanent superintendent.

“I do see that it is an investment,” board member Wendy Vogel said of a national search at the Dec. 4 meeting. “And it is something that will pay off in the long run for us and specifically for our students.”

After interviewing three national search firms at length, Ray and fellow board member Kevin Leung at a Dec. 30 special meeting recommended the school board select Ray and Associates, a search firm based in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. The school board unanimously approved the firm. Ray noted the firm’s experience in Colorado — last year, Ray and Associates conducted a superintendent search for Jeffco Public Schools and it is currently leading a superintendent search for Boulder Valley School District.

“I really think as we were looking at who they actually assisted, they had more experience with larger school districts like ours,” Ray said at the meeting.

He also commented on the firm’s selection process. Ray and Associates uses research-based tools and videotapes candidate interviews, expediting and making the process more efficient, as well as saving money on travel expenses, said Ray.

The cost of the firm, excluding travel expenses, is $40,000. The money will come from the school board’s budget, which is used for costs such as legal expenses and conferences. To fund the search, the board reprioritized its budget and discontinued contracting with a lobbyist to save money, Ray said.

“This is certainly a big decision that impacts the learning of 68,000 kids and we are taking it very seriously,” said Ray. “We have a very rigorous process in place.”

Ray and Associates, which has conducted roughly 2,000 searches in 42 years, will recruit candidates based on a profile created by the Douglas County School Board, with input from the community. Forums will be held across Douglas County on Jan. 23 and 24 to allow community members to voice the qualities they want in a superintendent. Locations have not been determined, but will be listed on DCSD’s website soon.

“It’s also going to be a conversation around what are the things in our district that we want to preserve and what are things that we want a leader to help us with to move us forward,” Ray said. “It will really be those types of questions that people can weigh in on.”

Ray and Associates will spend an agreed-upon amount of time recruiting and then will spend 10 days conducting “thorough” background investigations of each candidate, explained Bill Newman, a representative of Ray and Associates, at the special meeting.

When the search is narrowed down to three candidates, there will be more opportunities for public input. Information about special meetings and the search process will be updated on DCSD’s website.

“I think engaging the public on the front end is a good idea because it gives them buy-in,” Newman said. “And we encourage them to attend meetings where it’s open to the public relating to the search.”

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Douglas County: Standout Performers

Tim DeBord, Valor Christian

The senior wing had a hat trick and added an assist in a 10-0 hockey triumph over Mullen on Jan. 3.

Courtney Humbarger, Highlands Ranch

The senior scored 20 points, helping secure a 69-54 girls basketball win over Denver East on Jan. 3.

Connor Staib, Mountain Vista

He finished with 28 points as the senior helped the boys basketball team outlast Fountain Fort Carson, 79-77, in overtime on Jan. 4.

Kendall Graham, Chaparral

There were 11 players that scored in the boys basketball game, led by the senior’s 12 points in a 71-27 triumph over Hinkley on Jan. 6.

Kindyll Wetta, Valor Christian

The freshman was the standout in the 67-29 win over Littleton on Jan. 4 with 16 points, 12 rebounds, four assists and seven steals.

Sam Masten, Rock Canyon

The senior missed just five of his 15 shots, scoring 24 points and pulling down 10 rebounds in a 74-44 win over Rangeview on Jan. 5.

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Hotel standoff ends peacefully in Lone Tree, suspect arrested

The TownePlace Suites by Marriott on Cabela’s Drive was evacuated the evening of Jan. 9 after a man barricaded himself in his hotel room, telling Lone Tree police officers he was armed and suicidal, according to a news release.

Employees of the hotel called police about 4:45 p.m., reporting a suspicious man in the hotel. When police arrived, the man locked himself in his room. The Douglas County Regional SWAT team was called in to negotiate with the suspect. Officers determined the suspect had multiple warrants for his arrest.

Joseph Daniel Howland, 32, surrendered peacefully around 8 p.m., and no injuries were reported during the incident. Howland was the only suspect, and had three outstanding warrants in Arapahoe County and one in Arvada. Warrants included auto theft, forgery criminal impersonation and violation of bail bond conditions. No weapons were found in his possession, police said.

New charges filed against Howland include possession of less than four grams of methamphetamine, aggravated motor vehicle theft, refusal to leave the premises, obstruction and possession of drug paraphernalia. He was being held at the Douglas County jail on $86,000 bond.

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Gunman used four firearms, surveillance cameras during standoff with deputies

Four Douglas County Sheriff’s Office deputies and a sergeant move single file into a Highlands Ranch apartment, shoving their way through a barricade.

The first deputy in line, Taylor Davis, holds up a shield as they call numerous times to Matthew Riehl, who’s holed up in his bedroom.

“Matthew, come out,” Davis implored as the team entered Riehl’s home with a key his roommate provided.

Earlier the morning of Dec. 31, deputies determined Riehl, 37, was going through a “manic episode.” Their last encounter ended with him slamming a door in their face. Now, they were attempting to place him on a mental health hold.

Deputies went inside believing there were guns in the apartment, and in fact, Riehl had multiple firearms and had set up two surveillance cameras, enabling him to track officers’ movements. Douglas County Sheriff Tony Spurlock would later say he believed Riehl had planned this, that it was a setup.

Body camera video shows the deputies calling to Riehl five times, asking him to come out. Riehl is heard yelling to them from inside his room, but his words are inaudible.

Deputies kick his door four times, and then, a flurry of gunshots burst from Riehl’s bedroom. A gaping hole appears in the door almost instantly.

The officers scream. Those who can, run.

Deputies Michael Doyle and Jeff Pelle take a few steps outside the apartment when they realize two of their comrades, Davis and Deputy Zackari Parrish, are trapped inside. They immediately turn back.

“He’s down,” one deputy says of Parrish. The deputy calls for cover as he drops to the ground. Between him and Parrish is Riehl’s bedroom.

He begins to crawl forward when another round of bullets rain down on them. Doyle and Pelle cry out as they’re hit, and are forced to retreat, leaving Parrish and Davis behind.

In the chaos, however, Pelle and Doyle had not seen Davis run to another bedroom. There, she smashed the window and jumped from the second story to escape the ambush, although she too was shot.

Only Parrish remained inside, where he stayed with the gunman for nearly 90 minutes before SWAT officers could reach him.

Hours of footage released

That was one of numerous scenes from newly released body camera footage filmed during the New Year’s Eve shooting where Deputy Zackari Parrish, a husband and father of two, was killed and four officers and two civilians were injured.

The standoff with law enforcement ended when Riehl was also shot to death by a regional SWAT team.

The eight videos piece together the events which unfolded that morning. The standoff itself lasted approximately two hours but the videos, each from a different officer, are a combined 7.5 hours of footage.

The footage shows deputies’ repeated attempts to communicate with Riehl before deciding to detain him on a mental health hold.

It follows deputies as they enter Riehl’s cluttered apartment, and captures the moment Riehl opens fire on them through his closed bedroom door.

In the hours that followed, the videos show the wounded deputies running for cover, law enforcement swarming to the scene, evacuating residents, scaling balconies, strategizing and conducting the raid that ended Riehl’s life.

In the most sobering moment of the videos, officers are seen carrying Parrish away from the apartment, loading his body into a truck bed and driving away.

In speaking with Colorado Community Media the day of the Jan. 9 release of the footage, Spurlock said authorities later found 15 weapons in Riehl’s apartment, 11 of which were functional.

Riehl used four firearms — a shotgun, an M4 rifle, an M16 rifle and a .45-caliber handgun — during the confrontation with law enforcement, the sheriff said. A joint investigation with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives determined all Riehl’s weapons were legally purchased between 2010 and 2016.

Riehl also used two surveillance cameras, one posted outside his apartment and the other inside, to observe law enforcement before and during the shooting, Spurlock said.

“They didn’t have the advantage of knowing that he had a video camera on them at all times,” Spurlock said of his deputies. “We do know that he used those cameras in the attack on us based on how he was laying down gunfire.”

Riehl had a lengthy history — but no formal criminal record — with law enforcement in both Colorado and Wyoming and was subject to welfare checks by authorities in recent weeks. The four deputies and their sergeant were aware of that past when they responded to two 9-1-1 calls from Riehl’s apartment the morning of the shooting.

“That’s why there were four deputies and a supervisor. Otherwise that call would have been two deputies. Any other mental health call doesn’t get the attention that this individual got,” Spurlock said.

The first call came at 3 a.m. about a noise complaint. The second call, made by Riehl, came at 5:14 a.m. for an alleged domestic assault. The first deputy arrived on scene at 5:17 a.m. and the last by 5:35 a.m.

At 5:57 a.m., Riehl fired the first shots at officers.

Two investigations into the shooting are ongoing. One is a homicide investigation and the other a review of law enforcement’s use of deadly force.

Planned attack

Spurlock said he believes Riehl’s 911 call was a strategic and calculated move.

“I do believe that he lured them back on that second call based upon the type of call it was and what he was saying and what he was doing,” Spurlock said, adding Riehl was “essentially setting them up to come in and get him where he had the advantage.”

When directly asked if the shooting may have been premeditated or planned, Spurlock said:

“We’re working on the assumption that it was planned. That homicide investigation is still ongoing and the use of force is,” he said. “When those two come together I think we will have a definitive. They will be able to say yeah, this took place, this took place, which led us to here, which would lead us to believe that this was an ambush.”

The shooting has changed him, Spurlock said, especially when he thinks of the Parrish family’s pain.

“Emotionally, this is pretty draining and it’s sad. I’m responsible for the 615 members of my office. I’m responsible for what happens to them so it has impacted me significantly,” he said. “I think it’s going to change me. I was profoundly struck by Zack and the way Zack lived his life.”

Moving forward, Spurlock said those who knew Parrish will honor him by trying to live life the way he did. Parrish has been described as a passionate law enforcement officer who loved his job and loved serving people.

The body camera footage released Jan. 9 provides video from eight different officers — both before, during and after Riehl began shooting at deputies.

Colorado Community Media is still reviewing the footage. The following are additional descriptions of what is shown in the videos.

Parrish’s view

The 35-minute portion of Parrish’s body camera footage released Jan. 9 illustrates what happened after the first 9-1-1 call came in Dec. 31.

Parrish appears to be the first deputy on scene and waits until others arrive before approaching Riehl’s apartment at the Copper Canyon complex off County Line Road. He tells a deputy, who is not visible in the footage, “There’s a camera” under Riehl’s apartment door. The two then approach the second-story apartment and knock.

Riehl opens the door and greets officers.

“My roommate freaked out on me and came at me,” he tells them as his roommate enters the room.

Deputies separate the two men — Riehl is taken outside and Parrish remains inside with Riehl’s roommate.

Over the next 30 minutes, at least three deputies interview both Riehl and the roommate about an argument between the two that night. They learn the two met while working at Walmart and have lived together for several months. Only the roommate’s name is on the lease.

The roommate tells Parrish the argument began when he confronted Riehl around 1:25 a.m. for yelling out their door. He was concerned because the two received a noise complaint the day before, he said. The roommate remains calm but confused as he talks with deputies about Riehl’s behavior.

Meanwhile, Riehl claims he called authorities after becoming concerned with his roommate for allegedly not knowing what year it was and because he felt unsafe in the earlier confrontation. Riehl also claims he called out of concern for his roommate’s health after he shined a light in his eyes.

At one point, while Parrish interviews the roommate in the apartment, Riehl is heard loudly yelling “assault, assault, rape, rape, rape” outside as he’s interviewed by another deputy.

Parrish walks down the stairs to them where Riehl is being held against a wall by the deputy. The two are arguing about Riehl providing identification. The situation de-escalates and Parrish returns to speak with the roommate upstairs.

“It sounds like he might have some mental issues,” Parrish later tells the roommate, who says he hopes Riehl will be moving out soon but that he’s not aware if Riehl uses drugs or has diagnosed mental health conditions.

Deputies cleared the call at 3:44 a.m. As they leave, Riehl is heard shouting, “Happy new year.”

Deputy Doyle

Approximately 40 minutes of body camera footage from Deputy Michael Doyle during the second 911 call shows deputies, led by Parrish, spending several minutes attempting to speak with Riehl before deciding to place him on a mental health hold.

When Parrish first knocks on the door Riehl can be heard from inside the apartment repeatedly asking Parrish to identify himself. Davis stands just to Parrish’s right on the top few steps and Doyle positions himself midway up the stairwell for most the encounter.

Parrish complies with Riehl’s insistent requests, often saying, “It’s Zack. Matt, open the door.” He identifies himself nearly 10 times before Riehl agrees to speak with them face-to-face.

“Are you OK,” Parrish asks once he does. Davis, who’d stood prepared with her gun drawn, quietly holsters her weapon. Spurlock said deputies knew Riehl had guns.

Riehl is extremely agitated. He’s upset about their earlier visit where he says they did not help him after he reported Thompson assaulted him. Parrish confirms with Riehl there was no physical assault and offers to give Riehl a number to the county’s civil division. Riehl insists on filing a restraining order immediately and claims he’s already called the civil division.

“Did you not get that message,” he says before slamming the door.

For several minutes, Riehl can be heard shouting and ranting from inside the apartment. Parrish resumes calling to him through the closed door. By now, deputies have decided to detain him on an “M-1” mental health hold. An M-1 is a mental health hold approved by the Colorado Department of Human Services for people who need to be hospitalized due to risky behavior.

“Let’s back off this door in case he does get a gun,” Parrish tells Davis, and the two take a few steps away.

Doyle is heard saying into his radio, “He’s very manic and very upset right now.”

Riehl resumes repeatedly demanding for Parrish to identify himself, which he does. The deputies leave a few minutes later when Riehl does not come to the door. The body camera footage goes silent sometime between 5:35 a.m. and the 5:57 a.m. shooting but they can be seen talking among each other on the apartment grounds.

Spurlock said in a video statement released Jan. 8 the deputies spent that time forming a plan to get Riehl help.

Sgt. Beyer

Body camera footage from a “Sgt. Beyer” shows the four deputies entering Riehl’s apartment before he opens fire on them.

“Sheriff’s office,” a deputy yelled into the apartment before they unlocked the door with a key provided by the roommate.

The four deputies walk single file into the apartment, tailed by Beyer, and begin calling for Riehl to come out of his bedroom. Large items not there during their first visit have been thrown in the hallway entrance. Beyer begins removing the obstacles comprising the apparent barricade — a chair, a fan, an ironing board — by pulling them outside the apartment.

Deputies continue calling for Riehl to come out, making their way closer to his bedroom door, when he begins shooting at 5:57 a.m., the sheriff’s office said.

A fire alarm sounds off.

“Get out, get out, get out,” shouts one officer.

“I’m hit,” says another, running down the stairs.

Beyer calls for SWAT and medical assistance as deputies Pelle and Doyle take cover.

While they wait for backup, the officers quickly administer aid to one another. Beyer ties a tourniquet around Doyle’s left arm. Blood can be seen running down his hand. All the while Doyle is hunched over Pelle, who’s lying on the ground with a chest wound, apparently just above the neckline of his vest. Each of the deputies was wearing a bulletproof vest, Spurlock said at a Dec. 31 news conference.

A shot rings out. They realize Riehl is shooting from his window. They run again for cover. Minutes later, Davis emerges a few buildings away. She runs toward them, yells that she too is shot, and begins helping Pelle. She yells at him to stay away, to keep talking, before the deputies can load him into Beyer’s car.

Beyer dashes Doyle and Pelle away from the scene in his vehicle when they’re met by Littleton fire and paramedic crews. Davis remains to cover the scene. Beyer drops his injured officers off and joins other officers heading back toward the scene.

“I don’t have a good feeling about Parrish,” he says in the route back.

Once arriving at Riehl’s apartment, multiple armed officers can be seen at the base of Riehl’s apartment. Amid gunfire, one officer explains with Parrish still inside, Riehl can hear his radio.

“Parrish, can you hear me,” an officer yells. There are a few moments of silence before more explosions of gunfire.

“Parrish,” he calls out once the shooting ceases.

Still, silence.

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Law enforcement wanted to charge gunman before shooting

Law enforcement officers were actively searching for ways to criminally charge Matthew Riehl, the suspect in a New Year’s Eve shooting that left Douglas County Deputy Zackari Parrish dead, for his behavior in the weeks before the shooting because local police considered it harassment, documents show.

A deputy also visited Riehl to determine if he needed “some sort of intervention.”

On Dec. 31, Riehl was shot to death by a SWAT team after killing Parrish and wounding four other officers and two civilians. Authorities say he fired more than 100 rounds at officers.

Investigative reports and email exchanges obtained by Colorado Community Media show law enforcement grappling with how to respond to Riehl’s behavior toward law enforcement. Ultimately, a lawyer with the district attorney’s office said it would not be appropriate to charge Riehl and doing so would potentially violate his First Amendment rights.

A Douglas County Sheriff’s Office detective began investigating information provided by the Lone Tree Police Department concerning Riehl in late November. The police department reported Riehl was harassing a specific officer and the city’s municipal court.

The alleged harassment began after the Lone Tree police officer issued Riehl a speeding ticket on Nov. 10. The detective’s reports show Riehl was initially uncooperative with the officer, and although he eventually became compliant, remained on scene after the ticket was issued to watch officers in his rearview mirror.

Riehl then “embarked on an email campaign,” according to the detective’s report, seeking to get the officer fired and have his ticket dismissed. Riehl also posted numerous YouTube videos about the incident, including a slew of insults directed at the officer.

On Dec. 2, Riehl sent three emails to the Lone Tree police officer. He sent 15 emails to the City of Lone Tree Municipal Court between Nov. 15 and Dec. 5. In one of the emails, Riehl wrote the officer’s personal address, which he later shared on Twitter.

He also compared Lone Tree police officers to Nazis and refused to attend a court appearance that resulted from his speeding ticket, saying the court was run by corrupt officers.

The reports also show that as recently as Dec. 5, a deputy accompanied by a clinician visited Riehl to determine if he was “in need of some sort of intervention.” Riehl asked if the deputy had a warrant, and after learning they did not, the report says Riehl “replied that they had interrupted his movie and proceeded to slam the door.”

Emails sent between the sheriff’s office detective, Phil Domenico, and an attorney with the 18th Judicial District Attorney’s Office, Senior Deputy District Attorney Doug Bechtel, show officials debating if and how they could bring criminal charges against Riehl.

The detective considered charges for harassment, posting the personal information of a law enforcement officer online, attempting to influence a public servant and intimidating a witness.

Throughout his investigation, however, Domenico said he did not find evidence Riehl made direct threats toward anyone or their property — only that his emails contained “a lot of rambling and rhetoric” and that Riehl spoke “very ill” of the Lone Tree police officer.

Domenico provided his reports to the 18th Judicial District Attorney’s Office and asked if an email Riehl wrote to the Lone Tree police officer mentioning the officer’s wife and commenting on Riehl’s skills as a marksman finally warranted criminal charges.

“I should have your job. I’m smarter than you. I’m better qualified. I have combat proven medical training and I’ve practiced in Federal court. You are a fumbling lying perjuring buffoon,” Riehl wrote to the police officer, according to Domenico’s report.

Riehl went on to say he wanted the officer’s house and pension but told the officer, “you can keep your wife and the dog if you have one.”

The quote ends with Riehl saying, “I could drive circles around you and if it ever came down to it, you know I’m a more disciplined marksman than your shaking pathetic lying (expletive).”

In an email dated Dec. 14, Bechtel said the office did not believe charges were appropriate, stating Riehl was likely protected by the First Amendment, “especially given the wide latitude since we are public officials.”

Bechtel suggested telling Riehl to stop his communications could create grounds for harassment charges if Riehl were to ignore that request.

“We have an argument that when a suspect continues to communicate after a clear `Do not contact me’ communication, that it is for the purpose of annoying, harassing or alarming. In this case, the defendant’s intent seems to be to get the ticket dismissed,” Bechtel said after explaining pursuing the case in court as it stood then would likely be unsuccessful.

“We do not believe,” Bechtel wrote, “there is a likelihood of success at trial.”

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Forming healthy financial habits at Young Americans Center

Every great financial empire had to start with just a few dollars going into a bank account somewhere. Which means 14-year-old Katelyn Osborne, who lives in Denver, is ahead of the curve when it comes to finances, thanks to the Young Americans Center for Financial Education.

“I entered the world of finance at age 8 with $20 my parents supplied me with,” Osborne, who was around 8 years old at the time, said. “My parents knew about the bank from living in Denver, and they had taken my two brothers to get an account before me.”

Founded by Bill Daniels in 1987, the nonprofit has not only provided banking services exclusively to children, 21 years old and younger, but teaching financial literacy and management through seminars and classes, as well as the Young AmeriTowne program.

“Young AmeriTowne is probably we’re most known for — the program which allows fifth graders the opportunity to get a hands-on taste of business and economics,” said Rich Martinez, president and CEO of Young Americans. “About 63 percent of metro area fifth graders have gone through the program and about 49 percent of the state’s fifth graders take part.”

Young AmeriTown is located in Lakewood’s Belmar area, and has worked closely with the Alameda Gateway and the Alameda Corridor Business Improvement District over the years.

“The Young Americans program helps build life skills, work skills, and financial self-sufficiency in elementary school students,” said Tom Quinn, executive director of the community association and business improvement district. “We know about the importance of building financial literacy at an early age. Skills learned in the safe experiential environment at Young Americans help to build the business and community leaders of tomorrow.”

But while Young AmeriTowne is a single opportunity to learn about financial responsibility, it’s the classes and banking services — savings and checking accounts, loans, debit and credit cards and CDs — that provide the best learning for children.

“The first and most consistent service I use is the savings account, and in elementary school, I participated in two summer camps, including Running Your Own Biz,” Osborne said. “In the coming weeks of 2018, I plan to get a debit card and go through whatever processes that it will require.”

The bank has three FDIC-insured, state insured locations — two in Denver, and one in Lakewood, which function just like any other bank. But the staff there cater to children, and treat them like intelligent adults, Osborne said.

“By having the location within Lakewood it brings exposure to Lakewood and Belmar area since schools from Colorado have the opportunity to visit the Center,” said Nanette Neelan, Lakewood’s deputy city manager. “As these kids and teachers reflect back on the learning experience either immediately or in future years, Lakewood will be associated with Young AmeriTowne.”

People often wonder what kinds of things young adults could possibly need a loan for, Martinez said, but it’s almost always for practical, entrepreneurial purposes.

“A lot of our loans help our customers pay for used cars, school supplies, and computers,” he explained. “But we also loan money for customers who want to start their own small businesses.”

The center partnered with YouthBiz, an organization that offers the chance for more than 5,600 students to receive entrepreneurial skills, make money and have real-life learning experiences, in 2014 to provide top of the line entrepreneurial resources to members. And it’s not the only way children can get involved.

“I’m a part of the 2018-2019 Youth Advisory Board, which means that I have had the opportunity this year to learn about the financial world and to offer my youth perspective to both the bank and the programs,” Osborne said. “My favorite thing about the experience is that I am always treated like I matter, and like I can handle `adult’ concepts.”

It’s important to teach children important concepts like budgeting, saving money, and developing credit at a young age, Martinez explained, because that’s when their habits are being developed.

“It’s so important to be diligent, and keep track of what you’re doing with your money, and what you’re spending it on,” he said. “We want to provide a basis for our customers’ future financial stability.”

As a long time customer with the center, Osborne is well-aware of the skills she’s learning at such a young age.

“I have learned so much about finances that I am often told most adults still do not know,” she said. “I think that it is important for people to understand that Young Americans is not just a bank that only cares about money, but a combination of a bank and so many programs that care about the kids. Kids like me.”

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To make the greatest investments, focus on your people and yourself

Throughout the year the community is always so responsive to this column, and I really do appreciate you all so much and I am also grateful for all of the emails and questions that come in each week. As I have shared before, many of those emails and questions become the inspiration for this column, so thank you all and please keep those emails and questions coming.

One of the questions that comes in frequently, especially around this time of year as people prepare to make changes or improve personally or professionally, is this: “I am looking to possibly make some changes and take my company to the next level. What is the best investment I can make to help grow my business?”

There are so many possible ways to answer this question. And in each situation, I would ask more questions to uncover more about the business, research the industry, and ask about available resources, priorities, initiatives, products, services, the overall strategy, marketing and advertising campaigns, and the goals and objectives as well as what is driving those goals and objectives.

But the one area that I find more often than any other, and the place where significant gains can be made in any company, is the people. The greatest investment that anybody or any business can make to see improvements in performance is an investment in themselves and in their people.

Whether you are trying to grow a business, get yourself in shape, break a bad habit, elevate morale, eliminate complacency, improve employee retention, expand market share, increase profitability, change the culture, or anything else that you are hoping to expand, improve, or increase, anything else at all where you are trying to move the needle in a positive direction, the very best investment that you can make is an investment in yourself and in your people.

Many of the questions have come from entrepreneurs who have built a great business on their passion but never really knew how to manage or lead others. An investment in management training or some level of executive coaching for themselves would go such a long way. The salesperson who has done well but is not making the numbers they or their company really need them to make — without a doubt an investment in a personal development program or sales training program is an investment they can make for themselves or the company should make for them.

The emails I receive come from people in human resources or company administrators too. Many times, investments in people or staff seem to go toward the salespeople or revenue generating personnel. What about the customer care teams, the product teams, accounting, operations, and everyone else? Every team member deserves an investment in training and an opportunity to participate in the success of the company and improve the morale and attitude as well. And investments aren’t just about money, are they?

Investments in people include gratitude and appreciation, communication, collaboration, and making everyone feel like they are a part of the team and the success of the organization.

An investment in ourselves is not just about business either. We need to take care of ourselves before we can take care of anyone else. Too often people miss this opportunity. Instead of investing in themselves they let stress, work, to-do lists, and being on the go dictate their schedules. If this is you, stop it. Stop and take the time for you. What is it you really want to be, do, or have? An investment in ourselves is the ultimate productivity vehicle.

What does an investment in ourselves look like? Well it could be a gym membership or a membership in a massage program. Could be a personal coach — many times people think coaches are only for athletes or business people, but personal coaches are a great place to start. Enrolling in a seminar or training program. Time, an investment in time for ourselves to read, write, think, meditate, pray, or just walk. But scheduled and focused “me” time is essential to true growth. An investment in a college class, a cooking class, or a dance class or in any other hobby or passion that we might have also inspires growth and creativity.

Do you want to grow personally or professionally? Do you want to see your company grow? I have a very simple solution for you, a personal recommendation for you … invest in yourself and in your people.

So how about you? Are you right where you want to be, or do you wrestle with the same question about where to make the best investment to grow yourself or your business? Either way I would love to hear your questions and your story at gotonorton@gmail.com. And when we remember to make the right investments in both our personal and our professional life, it really will be a better than good week.

Michael Norton is a resident of Castle Rock, the former president of the Zig Ziglar Corporation, a strategic consultant and a business and personal coach.

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Amid gun glut, ‘This is Colorado’ says too much and too little

Douglas County Sheriff Tony Spurlock said, “This is Colorado. Everybody has a gun.”

Seven words that create a mural. Should they be added to our license plates and the signs that welcome motorists entering the state?

You could hear it on the trains at the airport.

I would prefer almost anything else, but maybe Spurlock nailed it in the sad aftermath of the horrific, sad and depressing incident at the Copper Canyon Apartments in Highlands Ranch on Dec. 31.

One news agency reported, “Another mass shooting in Colorado.”

Of course, everybody doesn’t have a gun. I don’t.

We all make choices. I make my own, and generally I am the odd man out. I am neither better or smarter. I just don’t want a gun in the house.

That old Second Amendment doesn’t keep me feeling safe and warm at night. Luck does.

Bullets came through a common wall at Copper Canyon, and wounded neighbors who were minding their own business.

“He was in the wrong place at the wrong time.”

I hear that over and over.

Jennifer and I talked about the shooting and about the sheriff.

The national spotlight was turned on and it was aimed at him.

He did a commendable job of sorting through the known facts, acknowledging all of the fallen officers, while showing both objectivity and compassion.

And in the middle of it, he said, “This is Colorado,” and the rest.

The reality is more guns than people.

Someone else, maybe my next-door neighbors, make up for me. My arsenal is made up of words.

I wish Spurlock could have said, “This is Colorado. Everybody has a dictionary.”

Or, “This is Colorado. Everybody owns an original work of art.”

I am not living in a dream world. I am trying to survive in a country that has a state (Michigan), that has a town, that has a bank, that offers a rifle if you open an account.

I have never been to Nucla, Colorado. I have been tempted because of its name. Take away the “N” and what do you have? My alma mater.

It has something else: a law that requires everyone in town to own a gun.

(Except for those who can’t afford them, conscientious objectors, felons, and those with mental or physical disabilities.)

Wouldn’t it be better if everyone in town were required to own a copy of Mozart’s “Jupiter Symphony”?

Save your exasperations with me over this. I’ve heard it.

“Freedom of” and “freedom from” are two different things, and we have both in Colorado. For now.

I had a cap gun when I was a kid. I liked the smell after I shot a cap.

(Do they still sell cap guns?)

Replica guns are sold, and they are supposed to have distinguishing orange tips. But they have been used during criminal activities. If you use a toy gun or a replica gun during a crime in Chicago, you are treated just like you would be if you had used a real gun.

There’s a new makeshift memorial every day. It’s an industry. It’s a reality.

I know someone who knows someone who was the first person shot in Las Vegas. She survived.

Was it fate? God? I think it was luck.

Orson Welles said, “Nobody gets justice. People only get good luck or bad luck.”

Craig Marshall Smith is an artist, educator and Highlands Ranch resident. He can be reached at craigmarshallsmith@comcast.net.

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Law enforcement, schools have strong partnership

There is a drumbeat in Douglas County. It is a rhythm that is present in all of us — many days, it is background noise that blends in with the other sounds of our lives. There are days, though, when the drumbeat reaches full volume.

The drumbeat is what ties us all together — the partnerships and friendships that make a county of 850 square miles seem small, warm and comfortable. Recent events involving our local law enforcement partners have raised the drumbeat to a level that is nearly impossible to ignore. In times like these, we all put our differences and disagreements aside to come together as a community and family.

The support and love shown by our county in recent days is the reason I live and work in Douglas County. Here in the Douglas County School District, we partner with four different law enforcement jurisdictions: the Castle Rock, Lone Tree and Parker police departments, as well as the Douglas County Sheriff’s Office.

Did you know your school district is in contact with our law enforcement partners every day? The deputies and officers in Douglas County work around the clock to ensure our students and staff are safe at school. It truly is a community effort. At our high schools, you will find our School Resource Officers. They are law enforcement employees who are assigned to one high school to provide security and support. At our elementary and middle schools, our School Marshal Officers make multiple unannounced visits to the schools each day. They are also law enforcement employees who visit and patrol our schools.

If there is a concern in one of our 89 schools, students can send a text from their cell phone. The Text-A-Tip program is completely secure and anonymous. We also utilize the Safe2Tell program in DCSD. Anyone can call and submit an anonymous report about anything that concerns or threatens you, your friends, your family or your community.

DCSD works closely with our police and sheriff’s teams to ensure we have the best possible protection for our children. While they may assist with a law enforcement issue at our schools, they are also building relationships. It is incredibly heartwarming to see our deputies and officers interact with our kids, and even go the extra mile to make sure they are successful in school!

I am incredibly proud of DCSD’s relationship with our four law enforcement partners. It is a strong relationship that typically goes unnoticed.

The drumbeat is loud and strong these days in Douglas County as we continue to support and pray for the family and friends of Zackari Parrish, as well as all of the deputies, officers and civilians so greatly impacted by this recent tragedy.

On behalf of the Douglas County School District, I want to thank each and every one of our law enforcement partners. Every day, you put yourselves in harm’s way to serve and protect all of us. I also want to thank the families of our men and women in blue — I can only imagine the waiting and the worrying you experience, knowing that your loved one may be in danger. You all have our deep appreciation and respect for your service to our students and our community.

Douglas County, thank you for hearing the loud drumbeat and supporting one another during this time.

Together, we are stronger.

Erin Kane is the interim superintendent of the Douglas County School District.

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