ASPEN - Two-term Aspen City Councilman Steve Skadron has fired the first official volley in the 2013 mayor's race, announcing Tuesday that he will run.
In a statement emailed to local media, he said his focus will be on strong oversight of city fiscal affairs, encouraging a vibrant downtown core and bringing civility back to the local government process.
"It's been an honor to serve the community on City Council since 2007, and I'm grateful for the opportunity. If the citizens of Aspen allow it, I'd like to continue as their mayor," he said in the prepared statement.
Skadron, 50, is a native of St. Paul, Minn., and owner of the advertising agency Spooner Skadron. He moved to Aspen in 1995.
He was first elected to the council in 2007 after serving four years on the city Planning and Zoning Commission. He easily won re-election to the council in 2011. His current council term doesn't expire until 2015 - which means that if his bid for mayor is unsuccessful, he'll still have two years left in his council seat.
"I got involved in local government to have some say in the direction my community was going, and here I am," he said in a phone interview Tuesday evening.
Aspen's three other councilmen - Torre, Derek Johnson and Adam Frisch - also are strongly considering a mayoral bid. Torre has told many in the community that he will definitely run, although he has yet to make a formal announcement.
Skadron said he told fellow council members of his plans to seek the mayoral post following a work session at City Hall late Tuesday afternoon.
Mayor Mick Ireland is barred from seeking re-election because of term limits. He is serving his third term, which ends in June. Skadron often sides with Ireland on council votes, particularly those that deal with land-use issues.
However, Skadron pointed out that a few of his votes on high-profile topics in recent years dissented from the council majority. In particular, he brought up the council's 2010 decision to approve the controversial Aspen Art Museum project, a plan many in the community felt was too grandiose.
"It was a 4-1 vote," Skadron said. "I wasn't opposed to the idea of an art museum downtown - I was opposed quite vehemently to negotiating this under the threat of a lawsuit."
He also said he disagreed with other councilmen regarding plans for the second phase of the Burlingame Ranch affordable-housing development. A controversy arose during his first term over plans to expand the size of the project.
Skadron said he felt it wasn't fair to the residents of Burlingame's first phase for the city to renege on an agreement to keep the second phase at a certain size. Construction on the second phase is set to start this year.
"Promises were made to Phase I homeowners that Phase II would be a certain size," Skadron said. "Then more units were added to Phase II. I was against that."
Skadron recently joined with Ireland, Torre and Frisch in approving a land-use ordinance that limits building heights for new projects or renovated structures to 28 feet, or two stories. The exception to the restriction, allowing a third floor, would be for lodging projects.
Skadron's statement says he has become known for his thorough preparation and thoughtful approach to community matters.
"That experience has helped prepare me to be mayor," he said.
In that same statement, Skadron listed three goals that would define his mayorship.
• "For Aspen to be the best run small town in America by exercising strong fiscal oversight and creating a more efficient decision-making process."
• "To keep the downtown core one of the world's great urban spaces, by honoring the vision (Aspen's first woman mayor) Eve Homeyer set forth which helped to define Aspen's small town character."
• "To preside over focused meetings, with impartiality, because minority or dissenting opinions should inform the public debate."
That debate, he said, "starts with the mayor and council acting as policymakers, not the day-to-day administrators." Aspen operates under a weak-council, strong-city-manager form of government "that the charter defines and elected officials must respect," Skadron said.
"I take very seriously the impact of the mayor's leadership and a council member's vote," he said. "Single decisions touch many lives. I never forget that."
As for the civility issue, Skadron said that as mayor he would work hard to create an atmosphere of trust and respect in City Hall.
"I can only hope to lead by example," he said in the phone interview. "I think one of my strengths over the last five years is that my demeanor on the council table has been respectful, for the most part calm and thoughtful. I would hope to bring the same set of characteristics when chairing the council meetings as mayor and setting a tone for civility."
The election will take place May 7; a runoff, if necessary, would be June 4. Petitions to qualify for council or mayor can be picked up in the City Clerk's Office starting March 18. Mayoral candidates must record at least 25 valid voter signatures under the process. The deadline to turn them in is 5 p.m. April 5.