Parker mayor tries to put focus on future

Jeff Toborg stays mum on some issues after rocky start in new position

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Jeff Toborg has only been mayor of Parker for about two months, but already, his tenure has been marked by controversy.

Toborg’s personal views came under scrutiny from some members of the community just weeks after his Dec. 14 swearing-in, following revelations of his activity on the social-media app Parler.

One of his posts included a photo of an American flag and the caption “WWG1WGA,” a popular slogan among supporters of the far-right conspiracy theory QAnon that means “Where We Go One, We Go All.”

Toborg also “echoed” — a feature on Parler that’s similar to a retweet — a post that implied that the majority of those who stormed the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6 were not supporters of former President Donald Trump, a baseless theory voiced by many supporters of the former president following the insurrection. Another post of Toborg’s expressed skepticism in the COVID-19 vaccine.

Toborg was largely quiet in response to the criticisms aimed at him — many of which came on a popular community Facebook page that shared screenshots of his Parler activity — but eventually said in an interview with Colorado Politics that he made a mistake with his social-media activity and apologized for doing so. In a 9News interview, he said he doesn’t support any violence and that he accidentally posted the item using QAnon language, adding that he would “never believe in stuff like that.”

QAnon is a false theory that claims Trump was on a quest to squash a cabal of Satan-worshiping, cannibalistic pedophiles.

After coming under fire for his social-media activity, which sparked responses that included a possible recall effort on Facebook, Toborg released a Feb. 2 statement on his official mayoral Facebook page. In that post, he said he would “be more careful to clarify my position on organizations or individuals whose goals I support or oppose,” and said “it is my responsibility to provide clear and concise answers” when journalists ask “tough questions.”

But just three days later, he declined to answer several questions about his controversial posts and his positions on those topics in an interview with Colorado Community Media.

In that Feb. 5 interview with CCM, he would not answer questions about his social-media post on QAnon or his echoing of another baseless theory that widespread election fraud caused Joe Biden to be elected president. In response to many questions about the controversial posts, he said he had already explained himself to other media outlets and that he would rather talk about the good things happening in Parker.

Here are some of the questions he responded to in the Feb. 5 interview conducted via video chat, with answers edited for clarity, length and grammar:

How would you characterize your term so far?

My first month in office has been a big learning curve, a lot of lessons learned. There has been some activity going on, above and beyond planning for our new council to be onboarded, to plan for the retreat that we’re going to do, to start the path of motion for the grocery tax that we want to try and repeal this year. Obviously (we are) bringing on the new economic development director.

There’s been a ton of positives. There’s been a couple of opportunities to learn. I’m learning from them. I’ve gone on record with that.

What has been the most difficult part so far?

I think for me the most difficult part of my transition is there’s no book, there’s no orientation to become mayor ... David Casiano — he was the mayor, he left office I think eight years ago — he has come alongside me to act as a trusted adviser because again, there’s no playbook for what you do.

What’s been the most rewarding?

Everything is rewarding about this job. You get to work with fantastic people in communications, like Elise (Penington, spokeswoman for the town) and with the police. I think getting the chance to be a part of the Metro Mayors Caucus has been really, really outstanding. Not only mayors from my local (area) Castle Rock and Lone Tree, but from Aurora, from Denver, interacting with those folks on a metro scale has been really rewarding.

Earlier this year, you “echoed” posts on Parler, some of those causing controversy. You’ve said you felt like there were lessons learned from that. What were those lessons?

Really, it’s to be mindful of what I post, it’s mindful of that and how it affects people.

One of those posts was indicating support for a belief that the Jan. 6 Capitol insurrection was carried out by left-wing operatives. Is that something you believe now?

So, no, is the answer. But ... I’ve gone on with Colorado Politics, with Kyle Clark, with the letter (the wording that was posted on the mayoral Facebook page). I’m really ready to move on from that conversation and really talk about the great things that we’re doing in Parker. We’re going to expand on our economic development, we’ve got $20 million in capital improvement projects that we’re doing all over town. Those are the things I’m passionate (about) and those are the things I think the people of Parker want me focused on.

Can you clarify if you support some of the ideas you shared, such as doubt in the COVID-19 vaccine and the idea that the presidential election was fraudulent?

I would like to note that I spent two and a half hours with a pharmacist last week … a resident of Parker, who really talked me through and walked through the vaccination process, the history and stuff, and I really appreciated it. That’s the one thing I love about Parker, is people are willing to have those conversations with you (and) explain their point of view. What I would encourage everyone to do in any issues is do their own research. Come to their own conclusion.

Do you have any specific goals in mind for this year?

Bo Martinez (the new deputy town administrator and economic development director) has a lofty goal … he’s got a (plan) of 100 meetings in 100 days to form economic development around him. For me, I really want to make some good progress on the grocery tax, on the repeal of that.

That is the most regressive tax we have on things that people can’t do without. These are necessities, this is bread, milk, eggs, and I really want to make good headway on that. Obviously one of my major goals is to make sure we get a new full council brought on board after the April 20 election … And that we get about the town’s business. Right now we need, with four members, to pass any ordinance, we need all four rowing in line.

Is there a set agenda item to talk about the grocery tax sometime soon or will you have to wait for that full council?

We’re going to talk about that on our retreat on Feb. 26. Our finance department is going to bring some data, a couple of other departments are going to bring data for us to start the initial look ... The grocery tax is going to be something that we’re going to have to have community involvement with. This is taking away a revenue source … We also need to find out what the community thinks about this and what their recommendations are and then ultimately get it to a vote … I don’t know if we’ll get it to a vote this November, but certainly planning for November of ‘22.

Tell us about the new deputy town administrator and economic development director.

Our charge to him is to really get into the chamber, which is an organization here in town, the Chamber of Commerce, the Downtown Business Alliance and also the private development companies and working obviously with one of our biggest employers, the (Parker Adventist Hospital), and trying to figure out what it is that we offer here to businesses, how do we entice them to come. We need all these organizations together to entice good, strong, productive business here to Parker ... You can’t ask government to be the engine for new business, you need the business community as the engine for new business.

One affiliation of yours that has been brought up is with FEC United. Are you still on the group’s board? Where do you stand with the organization? (FEC United is a conservative political group. According to its website: “FEC United is a movement of bold men and women who will restore and secure the blessings of liberty guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution.”)

No, I left that board to run for mayor. There’s a video of me out at the candidates night as I was running for mayor, but I left it to run for mayor. (Toborg added that he is not affiliated with FEC United anymore.)

Any clarity you can provide the town with about your relationship with Joe Oltmann, a controversial character in the community? (Oltmann is a Douglas County resident and the founder of FEC United.)

No, I think it stands. Joe obviously is a businessman here in Parker. He’s invested in several businesses. Back 12 years ago I think he was really actively involved in the chamber. I’ll let Joe’s actions speak for Joe … I haven’t talked to him in a while so I don’t know that I would categorize (our relationship).

A lot of controversy has come from your social media posts. How do you plan to use social media going forward?

For the first time, the town actually has the official Town of Parker’s Mayor page, which is run by the communications department. I really want to utilize that as the information-gathering place on things that are initiatives that we’re working on, important facts, but also those really good stories that are happening in Parker.

Is there any other message you want to give to the town?

I am honored to be the mayor. I’m working hard every day for the Town of Parker to be the absolute best mayor. That’s the message that I’m getting from the folks that are reaching out to me ... is go be the best mayor for our town.

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