What you need to know about the Health District of Northern Larimer County election


Election Day for the Health District of Northern Larimer County Board of Directors is May 5. Two seats on the five-member board are up for election to three-year terms. 

While in-person voting will be available, voters are encouraged to vote by mail using an absentee ballot. Applications for absentee ballots may be downloaded from the district’s election website, healthdistrict.org/2020-board-election.

The Health District is a special district and operates under its own election rules. Voters will not automatically receive ballots in the mail for this election even if they have voted by mail in other elections. Ballot applications are due April 28.

The lone polling location will be at the Drake Centre, 802 W. Drake Road, in Fort Collins. The location will be open 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. May 5.

The district covers the northern two-thirds of Larimer County, including Fort Collins, Timnath, Wellington, Laporte, Livermore and Red Feather Lakes.

The Health District provides dental, mental health, preventive health and advance care planning services as well as connections to options for health insurance and prescriptions.

Information about the candidates presented below was provided by the Health District and the League of Women Voters of Larimer County. The League’s comparison of candidates made be found at bit.ly/3bujvdz.

Christy Bush

Age: 47

Occupation: Business manager for a custom design-build firm in Fort Collins; formerly worked in public health field in Colorado (including five years with Larimer County), Maine, and Washington, D.C.

Education: Master of Health Science degree in health policy, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health; bachelor’s degree in psychology, Colorado State University

Family: Married; mother of two teenage boys

Why are you running for the Health District board of directors?

Our community is fortunate to have a special tax district to address unmet community health needs. I want to serve as a connector between our community and our government by engaging in conversations about health-related issues and translating that, in conjunction with data, into organizational strategy for the Health District.

What role should the Health District play in health policy development and advocacy?

The Health District should prioritize data collection efforts that provide insight into community issues and potential policy-based solutions. This includes leading robust data collection efforts, using methodologies that assure that the voices, concerns and proposed solutions of minority populations are represented, and disseminating findings broadly. In order to receive meaningful community input, the Health District must take an inclusive approach by regularly providing opportunities for authentic engagement, not only during data collection periods, that demonstrates that our differences are valued in the policymaking process.

The Health District should provide leadership in health policy development and advocacy by 1) sharing information that will help community members understand issues; 2) using its expertise to educate voters and voter representatives about issues that have a potential policy solutions; and 3) issuing statements of support or opposition for proposed policies.

Johanna Ulloa Girón

Age: 40

Occupation: Community services manager at Poudre River Public Library District, adjunct faculty in the School of Social Work at Colorado State University

Education: Master’s degree in social work

Family: Married to Carlos; children, Esteban and Sofia 

Why are you running for the Health District board of directors?

As an immigrant to this country, a proud woman of color, a Latinx and a mother of children of color in Fort Collins, I have been committed to promoting health and wellness in our community. This position will allow me the possibility to use my experience and connect to traditionally marginalized constituents to advance the mission and vision of the Health District.

What role should the Health District play in health policy development and advocacy?

The Health District should be an integral part of the community, to the point that their in-depth knowledge of the barriers to health is deeply vowed in the way they advocate and help craft policy. The Health District, more than a catalyst or amplifier of voices, should be an active, intentional participant in the life of those affected by policy. Their active participation in advancing social determinants of health should be grounded in the desire to promote wellness from the bottom up.

Albeit, for that to happen, those oppressed and marginalized should be at the center of policy development and advocacy. There needs to be a shift in focus from treating diseases, addiction, trauma, etc. with a medical model. We need to develop a model that also focuses on the provision of basic needs, community strengths, protective factors, and health in the early years of human life.

Erin Hottenstein

Age: 46

Occupation: Communications corporate trainer and coach

Education: Bachelor’s degree from Goucher College, plus various certifications

Family: Married; son, daughter, stepdaughter

Why are you running for the Health District board of directors?

I learned about the many wonderful services of the Health District while serving for two years on the Compass newsletter advisory committee. By running for the board of directors, I would be able to continue my public service, promote the Health District and share my expertise in communications and community outreach.

What role should the Health District play in health policy development and advocacy?

The Health District is well-positioned to develop health policy and do advocacy. Over the years, it has established a strong research team. Not only does it conduct a triennial community health assessment, but it conducts other research as well. A legislative analyst keeps the board up-to-date on bills at the Colorado General Assembly. When you hear any of the staff speak at meetings, you can tell that they are thoroughly knowledgeable. With these strengths, the Health District should continue to weigh in on community health issues. It should be assisting not only our state lawmakers, but also Larimer County, Fort Collins, Windsor, Timnath, Wellington and people in outlying communities such as Laporte, Bellvue and Red Feather Lakes.

I would also like to see board members take on a greater role in reaching out to elected officials of other jurisdictions. It seems like this may not be happening, and yet it could be very beneficial for all to nurture these connections.

Celeste Holder Kling

Incumbent board member

Age: 62

Occupation: Attorney/mediator

Education: J.D., University of Kansas Law School; Bachelor’s degree in economics, Davidson College

Family: Husband, Bob Kling; two adult children and partners; one grandchild

Why are you running for the Health District board of directors?

Our Health District is one of the most impactful and best-run entities in our community and state. I am passionate about improving public health, including mental health, by focusing our human and financial resources effectively and collaborating with community partners to leverage our efforts to maximize healthy outcomes for all.

What role should the Health District play in health policy development and advocacy?

Health policy development and advocacy are an “upstream” activities that can yield broad, dramatic impacts to improve individual lives and community health. Well-researched, articulate analyses from Health District staff are respected by decision-makers (locally and at the state level) as a reliable source. Focused advocacy subsequent to a vote and majority board position is often quite persuasive to decision-makers on both the local and state level.

The Health District should continue its history of engagement on issues that impact local policy and community health, as well as statewide issues that are intertwined with local health. I would welcome more robust sharing of our successful, evidence-based programs, practices and policy research analyses so that others can share from the district’s investments of time, research, experience, perspective, program development and community collaboration.

H. Faraz Naqvi

Incumbent board member

Age: 54

Occupation: Physician, businessperson

Education: M.D., Harvard Medical School; Master’s degree, Massachusetts Institute of Technology; Master’s degree in economics, Trinity College, University of Cambridge; Bachelor’s degree, Colorado College

Family: Married; two children

Why are you running for the Health District board of directors?

I am currently a board member for the Health District. Having served nearly four years, I would be honored to serve another term to accomplish the goals I set forth at the beginning of my service to the organization: Broadening the reach of the Health District to all members of the county and addressing missing components in the current health-care continuum.

What role should the Health District play in health policy development and advocacy?

The Health District occupies a unique position in our community. With its mission of improving health, the district has its hand on the pulse of not only how policy plays out in the community, but how it affects its most vulnerable. As such, the experiences and opinions fed back to policymakers helps nurture a continued dialog and molds policies that are not only are good in principle, but actually impact peoples’ lives. It is therefore fair to say that influencing health policy is not only a role the district should undertake, but an obligation. While the district has set in place processes and personnel to analyze local, state and federal policy, advocacy with our informed opinions and experiences is critical to honing that policy toward maximum benefit to health and to the people of our community. Advocacy by the district should not only be continued, but expanded.

Lisa Poppaw

Age: 51

Occupation: Executive director of Crossroads Safehouse

Education: Bachelor’s degree in English, University of Northern Colorado

Family: Married, Tom Ehlers; son, Alex Poppaw; daughter, Halle Marascola; son-in-law, Gary Marascola

Why are you running for the Health District board of directors?

As an executive director who’s also served as an elected board member, I have experience maximizing organizational effectiveness and will work with fellow board members to set a clear and achievable strategic direction for the Health District that addresses the needs of the constituents we represent.

What role should the Health District play in health policy development and advocacy?

Health policy development and advocacy should be based on a view of health in the broadest sense and consider factors such as race, access to affordable child care and housing, transportation limitations and income levels, to name a few. We need to create a strategic vision and advocate for policies that incorporate all aspects of health which requires adoption of a more holistic definition of health that includes not only physical considerations, but also mental, emotional, and spiritual.

As a Fort Collins City Council member, I served on the Legislative Review Committee, and will bring my experience to help craft and advocate for policy that will benefit the constituents we represent.

Daniel L. Sapienza

Age: 39

Occupation: Law clerk

Education: Bachelor’s degree, Colorado State University; J.D., George Mason University School of Law

Family: Wife, Vanessa Fewell; son, Emmett, 13 months

Why are you running for the Health District board of directors?

For more than a decade, I have worked in public health and health policy and it is truly a passion of mine. As I transition into a career in private legal practice, I want to stay involved in the health community and continue to contribute my knowledge and experience.

What role should the Health District play in health policy development and advocacy?

The Health District should foster and advocate for data-driven health policy. The Health District has the most comprehensive data and research available on the health of members of our community, on the availability and cost of health services, and on the barriers that lie between patients and the care they need. The Health District should ensure that its data and research is readily available to policymakers and policy advocates at all levels so that health policy decisions are based on accurate local information.

I advised the Health District Board of Directors on policy advocacy and policy development for more than six years. I know the Health District and its strengths relating to health policy. I’ve also taught health policy advocacy to graduate students in the Colorado School of Public Health, so I can help encourage effective use of the district’s limited resources.

Carol Wittmer

Age: 63

Occupation: Retired medical practice administrator, Eye Center of Northern Colorado

Education: Bachelor’s degree in business management, University of Northern Colorado

Family: Husband, Mike; Children, Marty and Nancy

Why are you running for the Health District board of directors?

I want to give back to the community where I’ve lived, worked, and raised my children over the past 40 years. I want to apply my years of experience working in health care administration to improving access and affordability of health care in Larimer County.

What role should the Health District play in health policy development and advocacy?

Community and individual health outcomes depend not only on care providers but on local, state and national health policy. The district should serve as both an educator and advocate for policies that improve equity in access to our health care system. The education role is extremely important because there is such complexity in health care, as well as misinformation.

In my experience, I’ve found that at most levels of interaction with the health care system, there is little knowledge and understanding of health care policy and law. Education regarding changing behaviors, such as texting while driving, smoking, or vaping, are important but impactful changes in the broader population happen at the policy level. The Health District could make the board’s positions on proposed policies and laws more broadly shared with the community. The Health District also needs to advocate with the community to counter the powerful organizations that reduce affordable access to care.

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