Money doesn't grow
on trees, mayors do
The story of Milan Karspeck growing into mayor
Posted with permission of The Berthoud Recorder, originally published 10/25/07
Mayor Milan Karspeck
Photo by Juliette Fardulis
by Juliette Fardulis
The Berthoud Recorder

Former Cub Scout den leader, chair of the local tree board, wrestling coach, and mayor are titles Mayor Milan Karspeck has held in his years of contribution to Berthoud.

Born just outside Loveland, Karspeck graduated from Loveland High School where he was active in wrestling in 1966. He was raised in a family of hardworking parents - his mother owned a beauty shop and his father was a railway agent on Western Railway.

In 1971, Karspeck graduated from Caltech in Pasadena, Calif. with a physics degree and worked at Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena. In 1978 he earned a masters in computer science degree from University of Southern California.

Karspeck married and had children and moved back to Loveland in 1981, where he worked at Platte River Power Authority in Fort Collins for three years.
He moved to Berthoud in 1988 and worked for Vexcel Corporation for seven years until he started his own firm, Telesis Corporation, which he still operates. It is an image processing, remote sensing, and photogrammetric company, making precise measurements from photographs to use in contour maps, for example.

Currently, in addition to his duties as mayor, Karspeck is an employee at DigitalGlobe, working with high-resolution satellite images that the company sells to the marketplace.

Karspeck and his wife Pat together raised seven children as a result of their blended marriage. Tragically, in 2004, his son David's life was taken at the age of 23 in a recreation center accident.

Karspeck's foray into civic government germinated in an unlikely place. While money doesn't grow on trees, in his case, mayors do. As soon as Karspeck moved to Berthoud, he joined the Berthoud Tree Board. I was intrigued and impressed by the tree board conference. Pat and I became really involved in the tree board and I became Chair. It's an advisory board to the town council regarding trees in Berthoud, said Karspeck.

It was his first involvement to local government. The tree board had contact with town administration and the arborist. It is my passion to maintain a healthy urban forest. In the early '90s, there were problems with the trees, with a number of dead and dying trees, aging and getting more hazardous, said Karspeck.
He helped put together a program that eliminated trees dangerous to public health on the street, encouraging the owner to remove it in exchange for a free tree planted in its place. The program is still in place and works well, Karspeck said. Many plantings at schools and on the Nielson greenway have resulted from the efforts of the board.

In 1994, Karspeck ran for the town board and was elected as a trustee. In 1998, he ran again and was reelected for another four years. In 2000, he ran for mayor against Richard Strachan who had served 24 years as mayor and four more as a trustee. Karspeck was elected and reelected in 2004. I'm term limited - I am nearing the end of my term, said Karspeck.

Karspeck strives to make a difference in not only local government but in individual lives. In 1996, in a partnership with several other fathers, he co-founded the Berthoud Wrestling Club for kids from 3-14 years old. Wrestling offers something fun for kids to do that is positive and builds confidence and strength, said Karspeck.

The program they implemented was very successful right from the get-go. We have lots of kids from other communities come because they love the coaches and the program, said Karspeck.

Karspeck coached wrestling at Turner Middle School for five years. He saw the benefits of sports in his children and those he helped. Sports are good. When you are on the mat, you're on your own. You learn a lot about preparation, discipline, and gain self-confidence, said Karspeck.

Karspeck took pride in having all three of his boys in Cub Scouts, Boy Scouts and Eagle Scouts.
Milan Karspeck, Mayor of Berthoud, pictured near Town Hall. Mayor Karspeck is renowned for many years of civic contributions in town government. Karspeck also pioneered and coached youth wrestling activities.

As mayor for nearly eight years, Karspeck has a long list of kudos due him. It is hard to talk about so many changes the town has gone through, said Karspeck. A few of the major issues to highlight include the Interstate 25 and Highway 56 interchange, one of the few still undeveloped in the area.

No one looked at it for development at first, until Loveland did it with malls. We realized as a board that although it is a long way out there, we only have one exit; and if we don't reserve that opportunity now, some other community will annex it, said Karspeck.

Sure enough, just as the board was discussing it at a retreat in 1996, Johnstown was annexing the quadrant at the SW corner of the Berthoud exit. There were lots of eyebrows raised because it sounded way out there to think of activity at that intersection. But we realized we had to fight for that intersection or it will be gone, with no chance for our town to benefit from it or develop retail sales tax dollars or good jobs, said Karspeck.

Karspeck mentioned many positives, such as the major developer McWhinney's negotiation to develop 1600 acres in the SE corner of the interchange, Wilson Ranch, which will be started soon. AIMS Community College campus is coming into the I25 area on the NE corner and hopes to open the campus in 2010.
Though Berthoud unsuccessfully fought Johnstown for annexing the SW corner of I25 and Highway 56, he hopes it will not remain in effect permanently. Johnstown has been aggressive with their annexation policy, he remarked.

Karspeck wants farmers to continue to farm and keep agriculture alive and thriving in Berthoud. We don't want endless lights and slow traffic - think of College Ave. in Fort Collins, or Highway 34 through Greeley, or Eisenhower Blvd. in Loveland. Adding a future lane is a tremendous cost. We want to keep the rural flavor by clustering our commercial rather than strip development. Clustering is easier for utilities and to keep transportation flowing, said Karspeck.

Karspeck explained other pertinent issues, such as the Larimer County quarter-cent sales tax for open space. It was a citizen's initiative, with money for open space used for willing buyers and sellers. It alleviated people's fears that land would be acquired through condemnation, he said.

He served on the Larimer County Open Lands Advisory Board which recommends land preservation options to the county commissioners. It is very important to me to preserve strategic open lands and to keep areas rural, he said.

Quality-of-life issues, such as open space, a recreation center, library, and the BATS program and street improvements are other hot topics for the mayor. Density transfer fees, conservation easements, Parks, Open Space, Recreation, and Trails (PORT), the Waggener Farm Park, the wastewater treatment plant, and a recreation center are other areas of intense interest to the mayor that he is actively involved with through his duties.

The wastewater treatment plant was a major project but it puts us in a good position for wastewater treatment in years to come. We needed redundancy in case one part went down. Unfortunately we had to raise rates - and I know it has been painful to townspeople - until the first bonds are paid off in around 2017, Karspeck said.

The topic of transportation through the North Front Range Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO) is a monumental one for Karspeck. He served as an alternate for the group; and after he became mayor, he was the Berthoud representative for the MPO. I am very interested in rail or bus options for residents in the area. We don't have many transit options, but as we grow we will need to consider it, he said, citing transit through rail or bus as good options, making it more attractive for people to live near downtown.

Keeping the historic values of Berthoud while seeing the downtown lineup of shops become more vibrant is one of my top goals and biggest hopes, said Karspeck.