Creek Week kicked off Sept. 25, when 91 Air Force Academy cadets volunteered to clean out debris in Williams Canyon below Cave of the Winds.
Annie Schmitt was raised a Republican in El Paso County, but seeing an interview with Barack Obama started her on a different path. That was 2005, while she was briefly living in Iowa and the future president was an up-and-coming Democratic senator from Illinois.
“I was really interested in what he was saying, and I made an actual note to pay attention to what was going on,” Schmitt said. “And from that, I had to pay attention to the Republicans as well. Within that year, I realized that the Republican party did not represent me anymore.”
Since then, she’s bought a house in Manitou Springs, volunteered for the El Paso County Democratic Party and worked her way up through the ranks of the “Peak Dems.” She was named executive director in early September, replacing longtime leader Christy Le Lait.
Schmitt started her new duties on a part-time basis Oct. 1 and will go full-time in January. Her myriad responsibilities boil down to a few basics: to get voters engaged and educated, and to elect Democrats.
“I think the GOP is harming themselves with what even many Republicans are calling a circus,” she said. “Unfortunately, many people think it’s funny, until a clown actually does get elected.”
Schmitt is passionate about the need for everyone to take an interest in politics, whether red, blue or purple.
“Politics affect just about every aspect of our lives, from what we eat to potholes in our roads,” she said. “I don’t ask anyone to think the way that I do. I just ask that people think.”
That being said, however, she’s concerned about the direction — or lack thereof — the nation has taken in recent years under the Republican-dominated Congress.
“We are on the edge of a slippery slope, in danger of losing all that so many people before us have fought for,” Schmitt said. “It scares me that we may fall back into an antiquated way of thinking. The fact that we are still even ‘discussing’ civil rights, women’s rights, LGBT rights, affordable education, climate change ... the list goes on and on.
“Instead of sitting on the sidelines complaining, I want to be in a position that will help effect the change I would like to see for our country.”
Her short-term goals include:
Long-term goals include:
- Getting voters out for the 2016 caucuses on March 1;
- Meeting and getting to know the volunteers who are the backbone of the organization;
- Hosting the Peak Dems’ annual gala in February;
- Meeting with local Democratic elected officials and candidates to get their input on what she and the party can do to better support them.
- Doubling the number of “sustaining members” who contribute to the Peak Dems every month;
- Fundraising to put Democrats in a strong position for the upcoming election cycle;
- Reaching out to the “youth” vote to get them involved, with the Peak Dems’ second vice chair starting a Young Democrats Club;
- Registering more people to vote.
Another major goal: inspiring more Manitou residents to actively participate.
“I do have a very strong relationship with a lot of the Democrats in Manitou and we are a great group of volunteers,” Schmitt said. “I’d love to get them more involved in activities that we have in ‘Downtown COS’ to introduce them to all the other great volunteers we have. I have already been contacted by many of my ‘core’ Manitou list, and they are ready to participate again.”
Schmitt also wants to change the common perception of El Paso County as an enclave of conservatism.
“It’s hard to build the economy when companies and the people who would move here to work for them view us as a somewhat ‘whack-a-doodle’ area,” she said. “When I go to statewide meetings and tell people that I’m from El Paso County, they say, ‘Oh, I’m sorry.’
“I would like to see that response change.”