Richards a councilwoman no more | AspenTimes.com

Richards a councilwoman no more

Abigail Eagye

County Commisioner-elect Rachel Richards listens intently Monday during her final Aspen City Council meeting. Richards first served as a councilwoman between 1991 and 1999, then as mayor of Aspen from 1999 to 2001, then as councilwoman again from 2003 until Monday. (Paul Conrad/The Aspen Times)

Aspen, CO Colorado

ASPEN ” Departing Aspen Councilwoman Rachel Richards received a standing ovation Monday after Mayor Helen Klanderud read a proclamation commending her for nearly 14 years of service on the council.

Richards first served as councilwoman between 1991 and 1999, then as mayor of Aspen from 1999 to 2001, then as councilwoman again from 2003 until Monday. She will be sworn in as a Pitkin County commissioner today.

Richards told the rest of the council and the public in attendance it was a bittersweet goodbye for her, as she sat at the table in City Hall for the last time. She said it was an honor to serve, and she praised all the city departments for their “unparalleled” teamwork, commitment and caring.

Jasmine Tygre will step down as chairwoman of the city’s Planning and Zoning Commission to take Richards’ seat until a newly elected council member takes office in June. She was appointed by the council to fill the vacated seat.

“I think she will serve ably and do good work for the community,” Richards said.

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Richards said the community as a whole, not just the current City Council, is facing some big issues.

“I think the greatest challenge is probably the Entrance to Aspen, being able to create the consensus, the support for some sort of plan to finally end the dilemma,” she said. “The biggest social issue is the dynamic of change and the pressure that the community is under from development interests and from economic interests.”

With the average price of homes now in the multimillion-dollar range, Richards said the gap between the workers and the “new” second-home owners is growing, and it’s important “to create some sort of context with them about the past.”

The face of the community is changing, she said, as people age and time simply passes, and it’s important to be able to answer questions like why it’s important to have a Red Onion, a movie theater or affordable housing.

The challenge in the future will be “to be true to our Aspen roots and our spirit of community and not just a resort name,” she said. “We all can look very easily to our Victorian roots. It’s harder to discern now our early ski area roots.”

The outcomes of the city’s current two moratoria will be “very important,” she said.

“I think it’s really important to look around, all of us ” elected, staff, workers, citizens ” and really appreciate what we have, how good we have it here,” she said. “That hasn’t happened by mistake.

“I think the moratorium work is related to those things,” she said, casting an eye toward the effects in the distant future, not just the short term. “It’s important to look at what happens over 20 years and not just nine months.”

After almost 14 years as an elected official representing the people of Aspen, Richards’ legacy includes strong support for preserving open space, tackling transportation issues, and supporting health and human services.

She’s also been a staunch advocate for ensuring that the city’s work force has ample affordable housing and contributed significantly to making the Truscott Place and Burlingame Ranch developments a reality, as well as earning voter reauthorization for the real estate transfer tax that supports the city’s share of the affordable housing program.

Richards will have the chance to continue her dedication to many of the same issues as a county commissioner.

“It’s really just a new beginning, because there really are so many issues where the city and county work together,” she said.

Richards will be sworn in at the county courthouse steps at noon today.

Abigail Eagye’s e-mail address is abby@aspentimes.com

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