Basalt voters favored tried and tested candidates in the races for three Town Council seats Tuesday night.
Incumbent Mark Kittle, current chairman of the Basalt Planning and Zoning Commission Bernie Grauer and former councilman Gary Tennenbaum received the most votes and won four-year terms.
Jeff Orsulak and Richard Duddy, two newcomers to town politics, missed office but placed well in a tight race. “The town has spoken,” Orsulak said.
Kittle gathered the most votes with 341, according to the unofficial returns from the town government. Grauer was next with 247 votes.
Tennenbaum nosed Orsulak by a vote of 238 to 230. Duddy came in fifth in a solid showing with 200 votes.
Voters also approved an adjustment to the town’s term limits. A ballot question which makes it clear that the mayor’s seat and the council positions are separate regarding terms limits passed by a vote of 329 in favor and 144 against. The approval of the ballot question means a person can hold a council position for two terms and hold the mayor’s position for two terms, serving up to 16 consecutive years.
There were 473 ballots cast or only about 18 percent of the town’s 2,610 active and inactive voters.
Kittle, 55, who has lived in Basalt most of his life, attributed his large margin of victory to the desire of voters to elect “somebody with common sense.”
His campaign featured yard signs that included an image of Abraham Lincoln and the phrase, “The Voice of Reason.”
“I try to look at both sides. I never have an agenda, really,” said Kittle.
His top priority is to clear a path for something to be built at the Pan and Fork Mobile Home Park site, which will help boost business downtown, he said. “The hotel at Willits is well on its way,” he said.
Grauer, 69, said the election outcome was “a very pleasant surprise.”
“The campaign was enjoyable but it’s really hard to gauge how you’re doing,” he said.
He relied on Internet connections, yard signs and “accosting people in dog parks” to make personal connections, he quipped.
Grauer put out specific ideas for priming Basalt’s economic pump, such as looking into the possibility of selling Lions Park and the Town Hall site to enable the town to preserve the entire Pan and Fork site. He acknowledged that offering specific ideas can be risky, but felt it was worth it because civic discussion is important.
Grauer said his top immediate goal is to get a proposed 2 percent lodging tax increase passed in November. Existing and proposed hotels will be able to use the revenues generated by their specific properties to defray costs of development or remodeling, he said. That benefits the developers as well as the town, Grauer said. He also wants to avoid using any subsidy for hotels from the town’s general fund since reserves are so small.
Grauer said the separation of the second-, third- and fourth-place getters in the election reflects the quality of candidates.
“I think it was a strong field and everybody was qualified for the position,” he said. Grauer said he will resign from the planning commission.
Tennenbaum, 43, said he feels he benefitted from the connections he has made with other parents of school-aged kids in Basalt. He and his wife have a son who attends Basalt Elementary School. Coordinating efforts and improving communication between the schools and the town is his top priority.
“I honestly believe we need to connect our schools to our town,” he said.
Another of his top goals is to have the town help early childhood care providers secure permanent places of business.
Tennenbaum also wants to use his expertise as assistant director of Pitkin County Open Space and Trails to help Basalt in those areas. A kayak park has strong potential in Basalt, he said, and he wants to explore a trail alongside Two Rivers Road and trails connecting downtown Basalt and West Basalt.
“There’s a lot of work that needs to be done to bridge the gap between the two ends of Basalt,” he said.
Tennenbaum was elected to the council in 2006 but he didn’t seek reelection in 2010.
Orsulak said he enjoyed the campaign and clearly outlined his goals and objectives to voters. “I guess I just wasn’t what the town wanted,” he said. “All I can do is put my ideas out there.”
Kittle, Grauer and Tennenbaum will be sworn in Tuesday. Incumbents Glenn Rappaport and Karin Teague are leaving the board.