Former Loveland Councilman Walt Skowron was suffering from an advanced form of liver cancer last year and knew his days were numbered. Regardless, he attended the Republican Assembly in Ft. Collins last March to mix it up with fellow political junkies; the publisher of this website had the rare delight of speaking with Walt Skowron at some length.
The former Loveland Councilman explained there are a number of Skowron families in Loveland with whom his is sometimes confused. He explained his parents were Polish immigrants while the other Loveland Skowrons come from Russian heritage - so, he said, "there is no relation." It was at that moment a younger gentleman interrupted our conversation to say he spoke Polish and Walt began speaking in a Polish fluency that made English appear to be his second language.
Skowron was often accused of being a crotchety pessimist during his two terms on Loveland’s City Council from 2001 to 2009. In fact, his cautionary tone came often from his generation that survived the deepest depression in our nation’s history, lost parents who fought in WWII and created the economic miracle of the 1950’s with technology innovations that have made the United States a super power. Walt Skowron contributed to the economic and technical miracles of the mid-century period through work he performed for Martin Marietta and later HP in Loveland.
Councilman Skowron rarely talked about himself so his military service during the Korean war was never mentioned from the dais that we recall during his eight years on Loveland's City Council. Unapologetic and unconcerned for the political correctness of the later baby boomer generation on Loveland’s City Council, Walt raised eyebrows when he suggested solving the homeless problem downtown by sending the homeless to Ft. Collins.
Walt Skowron adhered to the belief that virtue is for its own sake. He was not phased by peer pressure when it came to doing the right thing. He stood his ground on the city’s foolish land speculation when then Loveland City Manager Don Williams pressed for a unanimous vote to divert money into his secret deal to acquire 98 acres at Highway 402 and I-25. During that same meeting, Skowron refused to be bullied by colleague Heckel into not asking questions. The exchange followed the back-room deal where Colorado’s open government laws were trampled by arrogant insiders who believed open meeting laws were not important enough to be followed. The land deal had been decided on an illegal phone conference organized by Williams that did not include Skowron.
In another vote on February 6, 2007, Skowron refused to support the proposal of a private developer to deny public access over the streets of his development which are maintained by Loveland taxpayers. Skowron stated public streets are for the public but lost on a 4-2 vote with Mayor Larry Walsh siding with Skowron.
Predicting the 2008 Economic Crises
As reported by LovelandPolitics in October of 2007, Councilman Skowron pleaded with colleagues to wait until the end of 2007 before deciding their budget for 2008. He pointed to a number of signs the housing bubble might burst and revenue the city's budget was relying on may not be forthcoming in 2008. Indeed, his prediction came true and the city scrambled in later years to further cut services and increase fees on residents to remedy their error. Skowron was rudely scolded by the highly leveraged contractor and fellow Councilman Larry Heckel who responded, "You need to stop discouraging the community with your comments, we are an island."
Perhaps Skowron’s greatest folly on Loveland’s City Council was his intermittent support for McWhinney’s fraudulent declaration of “slum and blight” for agricultural areas in east Loveland. It was during his run for Mayor of Loveland that he encountered stiff resistance from fellow Republicans. BJ Nikkel had assembled the questions to ask the mayoral candidates for a Monday morning Republican breakfast meeting largely from LovelandPolitics information.
Democrat then Councilman Cecil Gutierrez, once an outspoken critic of crony capitalism, won the most applause as his Republican opponents struggled to explain why they voted for phony blight designation and gave away 25 years of tax revenue in exchange for some campaign contributions. Walt was conspicuously at a loss for words to explain his role and instead tried to draw attention towards the 402 property acquisition to demonstrate his conservative credentials.
Not Always On The Losing Side
While Skowron was not afraid to lose a vote on the council, which he did frequently, there were rare moments when his protests shamed enough colleagues into doing the right thing. This was the case on July 15, 2008 when then Loveland City Manager Don Williams attempted to pass a new special benefit that was narrowly defined to benefit him uniquely. Calling a spade a spade, Councilman Skowron asked his many questions while pointing out to his colleagues (many of whom already agreed with the city manager in private to support his self-constructed employee benefit) to answer embarrassing questions. Skowron succeeded in persuading enough colleagues to not support the proposal ending in a tie vote thus defeating the city manager's nest feathering.
As rated for his votes by LovelandPolitics, Skowron received a thumbs up for voting to return council’s authority to decide where sculptures can be placed, against a special property tax for a private development, and against a private developer who requested permission to deny public access to his development with gates across the streets city taxpayers are expected to maintain.
In summary, the contemporaneous LovelandPolitics description of Walt Skowron’s public service back in 2005 best describes his time in office still today after he has left us,
“Walt Skowron draws the most fire from his colleagues at times for his outspoken manner but tops the charts with residents of Loveland who describe him as ‘the lone wolf of reason’ in a crowd of accommodators.”
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