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Holy Cross Energy mails out ballots for upcoming board election; numerous ways to vote

Member households of Holy Cross Energy will find ballots in their mailboxes this week as the cooperative corporation gears up to elect two members to the Board of Directors. 

Consumer-members will choose from a pool of three candidates for the Western District and a pool of five candidates to represent the Northern District. Each consumer will cast one vote per district. The winners will serve four-year terms, and directors are not term-limited.

Historically, participation in Holy Cross board elections is quite low — averaging about 7% —  so the co-op is offering four ways to vote: by mail, online, through a consumer account, or in person. 

“We have 45,000 members,” said Member and Community Relations Vice President Jenna Weatherred. “I think that ends up around 3,000 folks that vote, but we would love to have more. We’re a cooperative, which means we’re democratically-led and we really encourage folks to vote.”

Holy Cross is unique among the landscape of energy providers. It is a private, not-for-profit co-op that reinvests any revenue into services, infrastructure, rate stability, or patronage capital to member-owners.

Local ranchers and farmers banded together to get a government grant to bring electricity to the region when private companies failed to do so. In 1939, Holy Cross Electric Association Inc. was born. 

“It’s a special thing to rural areas where there wasn’t money to be made from bringing electricity,” Weatherred said. “Because we are not-for-profit, we truly are doing our best to serve the members. And our mission is to bring a responsible transition to the clean energy future.”

The board of directors of Holy Cross is responsible for setting the strategic vision for the co-op. That vision currently has directed staff to meet a “100% clean energy by 2030” goal. 

According to their website, Holy Cross uses 48% renewable energy, 31% coal, less than 1% mine methane, and 5% natural gas. 

The first board meeting with the two new directors will be June 21. Courses for new directors are offered by the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association, which Holy Cross bylaws require. 

How to vote

Instructions to vote by mail will be included on the mail ballot. 

To vote online, members will need credentials found on the mailed ballot or in the email they received titled “Holy Cross Energy Director Election Login.”

Members can also vote through their SmartHub account on a web browser or through the mobile app. Log in, and click on the “Vote Now” button. 

In-person voting will be available from 5-6 p.m. at the annual meeting on Thursday, June 15, at TACAW in Basalt. 

Mailed and electronic ballots must be received by Tuesday, June 13, at 11:59 p.m. Members who do not meet this deadline may vote in person at the annual meeting. If more than one ballot is submitted per member-of-record, precedence will be given to the paper ballot, officials said.

Meet the candidates

Three candidates are running for one open seat to represent the Western District, which roughly comprises Marble to Parachute.  

Thomas Sherman
Holy Cross Energy/Courtesy photo

Thomas Sherman: “Transitioning to 100% renewable energy by 2030 will be a challenging goal to meet. Base load is still largely through fossil fuels because of economics and infrastructure. I don’t know if members are in favor of higher energy bills to have sustainable, renewable energy. The PURE program, put in place to encourage a transition to renewables, is a great opportunity to get a measure of public willingness to pay a premium for renewables.”

Peggy Meyer
Holy Cross Energy/Courtesy photo

Peggy Meyer: “While working across the energy industry over the past 30 years, I helped guide various organisations to lower their energy costs while also transitioning towards a more sustainable approach. From large corporations to municipalities, cost reduction was always a leading issue to be considered alongside sustainability. In my professional roles, I worked to unroot and eliminate hidden costs and determine hindrances to a cost efficient supply chain. This work evolved in recent years as the true concerns of energy uses has undergone a revolution: Green energy sources and lower carbon footprints are now real user needs, not just blurbs at the end of a corporate press statement.”

Alex DeGolia
Holy Cross Energy/Courtesy photo

Alex DeGolia, incumbent: “During my first term on the board, we have made several decisions that will have enormous implications for the membership and cooperative. These include the decision to commit to providing 100% clean electricity by 2030, acquisition of large-scale renewable energy resources, updating our rate structure to align with how we will operate into the future and ensure our long-term financial sustainability, grid resilience upgrades through programs like installation of smart devices throughout our system, and developing new programs, such as Power+ and Peak Time Payback, that enable members to benefit from partnering with the cooperative as we transition to a clean energy future.”

Five candidates are running for one open seat to represent the Northern District, which roughly comprises Vail to Dotsero. 

Kimberly Schlaepfer
Holy Cross Energy/Courtesy photo

Kimberly Schlaepfer: “I believe the biggest challenge facing HCE in the next 5 years will be achieving their goal of 100% renewable energy by 2030 while not disrupting the reliability of our electric grid and keeping our bills for its members as low as possible. Traditional fossil-fuel power sources are polluting but reliable because they can be turned on or off and ramped up on-demand. Renewables on the other hand must be approached differently. They generate power differently than traditional fossil-fuel-based sources but crucially are also much cheaper. As HCE reaches their goal of 100% renewable energy by 2030, the challenge of power reliability will need to be addressed head on.”

Craig Arthur Brown
Holy Cross Energy/Courtesy photo

Craig Arthur Brown: “My service on a metro board has shown the importance of community engagement and having the right mix of professional management driven by leadership. A board, in my view, needs to be willing to question the status quo and advise management. In an elective position, the board needs to seek out and listen to those who may have been underrepresented or part of the “silent majority.” This co-op services a broad demographic. The history of this co-op has focused on all. I will uphold that focus.”

Linn Brooks
Holy Cross Energy/Courtesy photo

Linn Brooks: “Current rate structures were developed when the cost of source electricity was low and stable. Holy Cross is doing great work in shifting to renewables to manage increasing and unstable power costs, but members must also change. The billing rate structure along with targeted rebates, education, and positive messaging can incentivize members to make green investments in the power-using infrastructure in their homes and businesses. Together Holy Cross and its members can realign supply and demand to make progress towards a more stable electrical grid. The Holy Cross cooperative membership is diverse in many ways, and to meet its ambitious goals for the benefit of all members, Holy Cross must effectively connect with its many member sectors. Fully a third of members are Spanish speaking. Engaging effectively with this important constituency means providing information in Spanish and finding ways to improve accessibility to Holy Cross information and programs. Other important sectors include commercial and rural members whose energy needs may not fit rate structures designed for residential members.”

Brian Brandl
Holy Cross Energy/Courtesy photo

Brian Brandl: “I believe that as we forge into the future, cleaner, more efficient energy is the way, but it has to be done sustainably. It should not be handled with a preset completion date that may or may not be feasible or under poor planning that can have catastrophic results down the road. I think new cutting-edge technology in both the nuclear and hydrogen industries offer a lot of solutions to the problems every power grid is facing. I believe that a sound business plan, which will help keep the co-op financially healthy and protect its members, is of crucial importance.”

Roseann Casey
Holy Cross Energy/Courtesy photo

Roseann Casey: “The State of Colorado and Holy Cross Energy (HCE) have both set ambitious goals to cut emissions and increase renewable energy. Colorado is blessed with abundant natural resources, but the process of planning for investments, incentivizing smart infrastructure development, integrating renewable resources, and providing reliable and affordable power to consumers is a complex challenge. Aside from technical and financial aspects, HCE has the opportunity and challenge to educate and engage local communities and to help prepare our workforce to be at the leading edge of this transition. Consumers and communities are concerned about affordability, reliability, equity, and the impact that new and retiring power resources may have on local economies. Holy Cross excels in member outreach and collaboration with regional and state entities, but this coordination and collaboration will continue to be both a challenge and an opportunity. Last but not least, the HCE service area is vulnerable to fires and extreme weather events, which require exceptional planning and management. I expect that recent events in Colorado and elsewhere will continue to inform HCE planning, operations, and investment.”

Full candidate bios and Q+As are available at the Holy Cross website in English and Spanish.

Three special districts elect board members

Three special elections concluded on Tuesday evening: Aspen Fire Protection District, Aspen Valley Hospital District, and Crown Mountain Park and Recreation District all had board seats up for election. 

Judges posted an unofficial abstract of votes on the Aspen Volunteer Fire Department Museum doors at 420 E. Hopkins Ave. for the next board.

There were two open seats on the board, each winner will serve four-year terms. Charles Cunniffe and incumbent board President John C. Ward were elected. There were 8,467 ballots mailed out and 1,393 returned ballots, which meant 16.5% of those eligible voted.

Charles Cunniffe
Courtesy Photo

The unofficial vote tallies of the election:

  • Charles Cunniffe: 785
  • John C. Ward: 759
  • Jill St. John Wagner: 691
  • Mike Lyons: 337
John Ward.
John Ward/Courtesy Photo

Crown Mountain Park and Recreation District results were also called Tuesday evening, with what some called an encouraging voter turnout.

Leroy Duroux
Courtesy photo |

Incumbent board President Leroy Duroux and Shelley Lundh Freeman have been elected to four-year terms on the board. 

“We sincerely appreciate everyone who participated and would like to thank our judges for ensuring a smooth and efficient election,” said Jon Erickson, a CPA with Marchetti & Weaver LLC.

“We had great turnout today, with 171 voters casting their ballots at the polling place,” he said. “In total, over 300 ballots were returned — more than doubling the turnout from the 2022 election.”

Shelley Lundh Freeman on hike with one of her dogs.
Shelley Lundh Freeman/Courtesy photo

The unofficial vote tallies:

  • Leroy Duroux: 218
  • Shelley Lundh Freeman:168
  • Lari Goode: 124

And at 10:24 p.m., the hospital district reported that incumbent board President Melinda Nagle and board member Greg Balko had won re-election. A total of 1,873 ballots were returned, according to the district.

Dr. Melinda Nagle

The unofficial vote tallies:

  • Melinda Nagle: 1,463
  • Greg Balko:1,177
  • Robert Hutton: 763

Dr. Greg Balko

Tuesday is the last day to vote for special district campaigns in valley

Tuesday is your last opportunity to vote for three special elections in the Roaring Fork Valley.

Aspen Fire Protection District, Aspen Valley Hospital District and Crown Mountain Park and Recreation District all have board seats up for election. 

Registered voters have until 7 p.m. to drop off ballets in person. Be careful, though. Each election is accepting ballots at different locations. 

For the Fire Board, 1,100 ballots had been processed by 5 p.m. Monday.
Austin Colbert/The Aspen Times

Aspen Fire District

Incumbent board President John Ward is vying with challengers Charles Cunniffe, Mike Lyons, and Jill St. John Wagner for two seats on the five-member board.

Voters can drop off their ballot that was mailed to them at the headquarters station, 420 E. Hopkins Ave., Tuesday, between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m.

“As of 5 p.m. on Monday, May 1, election judges had processed approximately 1,100 ballots,” said Nikki Lapin, human resources director for the Aspen Fire Protection District.

For more information visit aspenfire.com/about/board-of-directors

Courtesy of AVHF
The Aspen Valley Hospital District had 1,500 ballots turned in by Monday morning.
Courtesy of AVHF

Aspen Valley Hospital District

Drs. Greg Balko, Robert Hutton and Melinda Nagle are running for two open seats with four-year terms.

Voters can drop off their ballot that was mailed to them at the official Aspen Valley Hospital District drop box in the hospital’s east entrance vestibule. 

Ballots must be received by 7 p.m. on Election Day. The drop box is open 24 hours day and is for Aspen Valley Hospital election ballots only. 

“AVH has received roughly 1,500 ballots as of this morning,” said Andrea Shaffran, executive assistant at the hospital, on Monday afternoon. “The results will be posted inside the east entrance vestibule, the ER entrance vestibule and the administration office door once ballots are tallied.”

For more information visit aspenhospital.org

With no drop box ahead of time for ballots, none had been counted as of Monday for the Crown Mountain Park and Recreation District.
by Austin Colbert/The Aspen Times.

Crown Mountain Park and Recreation District

Board President Leroy Duroux, Lari Goode, and Shelley Lundh Freeman are running for two seats with four-year terms.

Ballots can be taken to the Crown Mountain Bike Park Clubhouse in El Jebel, 495 Eagle County Drive, from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Election Day. There is no drop box ahead of time for ballots, so no ballots have been counted thus far.

For more information visit crownmtn.org/boring-stuff (although it’s not necessarily boring).

Three vie for two seats on Aspen Valley Hospital District Board

Three candidates are running for two open seats, each serving four-year terms, on the Aspen Valley Hospital District Board. 

Dr. Greg Balko is an emergency physician with 25 years at the hospital and a member of the board.

Dr. Robert Hutton served as chief of the emergency department at his former hospital and chief of staff of the Ascension St. Thomas Midtown Hospital in Nashville, Tennessee.

Dr. Mindy Nagle is an OB/GYN physician at All Valley Women’s Care, in practice in the Roaring Fork Valley since 2001. She is the president of the hospital board.

We asked each candidate the following questions:

What makes you uniquely qualified for the board position?

Balko: “I’m a board-certified emergency physician and I have lived in the valley and practiced medicine at AVH for 25 years. Working at AVH has provided me with the opportunity to keep a finger on the pulse of the hospital. I initially joined the board in 2004, when the hospital was on the brink of financial insolvency. We brought in a new executive team led by Dave Resler. Since then, we have restored financial security to the organization. I have the experience and knowledge necessary to continue to serve as an elected official to the Hospital Board. If re-elected, I will continue to bring the expertise to all the issues that affect our hospital with an eye towards how to best serve our patients and maintain our community’s health and wellness.”

Dr. Greg Balko
Courtesy Greg Balko, MD

Hutton: “In addition to working as a medical doctor for over 40 years, I also have significant administrative and managerial experience having served as chief of staff of a major metropolitan hospital, head of emergency medicine and I served on the board of directors. I also owned and operated five urgent care centers, so I have a keen understanding of alternative ways to improve access to quality health care for all and, at the same time, control costs. Working alongside the highly qualified staff at AVH and the current board, I can bring a new perspective to the challenges the AVH team is addressing.”

Nagle: “I feel my experience having served on the board for over 15 years makes me uniquely qualified to remain in the role. I am also a full-time physician at the hospital and in the community which I feel is important to maintain a patient centered approach.”

What makes you want to serve the Aspen community?

Balko: “I believe in serving my community. I work here and have raised my family here and it was logical for me to serve on a volunteer board. Initially, my motivation to serve was to help the hospital through its financial crisis. I continue to want to serve because I enjoy working with my fellow board members as we help guide the hospital into the future. I strongly believe in the mission of the hospital and in the work we still have to do.”

Hutton: “It was my dream to live in Aspen since I was 18 years old, I found my wife here 30 years ago, and have had a home here ever since. I am an enthusiastic cyclist and skier, and while I am very proud to have just earned my first 100-day skier pin this season, it would be my privilege and honor to serve on this board and use my experience and experience to give what I can back to this community.”

Dr. Mindy Nagle
Aspen Valley Hospital/Courtesy photo

Nagle: “I believe AVH is the most important community asset and making sure health care is accessible to all remains a goal of the board both in the hospital and in outpatient settings.”

What do you see as the biggest challenge for the hospital?

Balko: “Externally, there are several challenges facing the hospital, the biggest, staffing and economic pressures to the point where more than 50% of the hospitals in Colorado are facing unsustainable operating margins. Second, pressures on health-care costs are real and we have been on the forefront of health-care reform through our involvement through the Valley Health Alliance, as we continue to improve access to health care and increase insurance coverage in our community. Internally, we have the same challenges that other employers in this valley are also facing: workforce and housing. The board recently approved a 10-year housing strategy with the goal of housing 50% of our workforce.”

Dr. Robert Hutton
Courtesy of Robert Hutton, MD

Hutton: “Overall, the quality and safety at AVH are excellent, but of course there is always room for improvement. As with every organization, there are real challenges with staff retention, which are largely related to housing. There are opportunities to creatively expand services and access to underserved members of the community. And there is a growing need to increase efforts to address mental health issues in the valley.”

Nagle: “Health care continues to face numerous challenges. Focusing on population health which provides best care but also manages cost as well as possible are AVH board goals. We continue to work with the Valley Health Alliance, which Includes all the major employers in the valley to address these concerns. Legislative bodies are also embarking on ways to confront health-care costs. This Includes Colorado as a board and a hospital we need to stay abreast of these changes given our unique rural setting which us unique to the bigger city and health care systems  Lastly, as all of Aspen is facing is the housing crisis, which is not new but accelerated over the last few years, housing our employees at all levels is a focus for our board and AVH.”

Registered voters can vote by mail or in-person. Voters can mail or drop off their ballot that was mailed to them at the official Aspen Valley Hospital District drop box in the hospital’s East Entrance vestibule. Ballots must be received by 7 p.m. on Election Day, May 2. the drop box is open 24 hours day and is for Aspen Valley Hospital election ballots only. 

Meet the candidates: Crown Mountain Park

On May 2, voters within the boundaries of the Crown Mountain Park & Recreation District will elect two board members to four-year terms. 

The board of directors will oversee the finalization of the park’s master plan — which has been in development for over a year. Other topics relevant to the park include separate pickleball and tennis courts, weighing the need for more parking, and the potential purchase of an old U.S. Forest Service building. 

Board President Leroy Duroux is running for re-election. Lari Goode and Shelley Lundh Freeman round out the three-candidate field for two open seats. 

Voters who live within the special district are eligible to vote. Check eligibility at the Colorado Secretary of State ‘Find My Registration‘ webpage. 

Polls will be open on Election Day, May 2, at the Crown Mountain Bike Park Clubhouse from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. 

Voters can also request an absentee ballot mailing, faxing, hand delivering, or emailing the request form to the designated election officer by Tuesday, April 25. The absentee ballot will arrive in the mail. 

Then voters can mail their absentee ballot back to the address on the request form or drop it at the polling place on May 2. 

Meet the candidates:

Lari Goode

Recently retired after selling the restaurants she owned with her husband — Phat Thai and The Pullman — Lari Goode said she is ready to spend her time to give back to the park she has enjoyed since it opened in 2007. 

Lari Goode with her pup.

“I’ve got time on my hands now that I can commit  to give back to the community,” she said, recalling some of her favorite Crown Mountain Park memories. “I’ve had a lot of birthday parties at the volleyball pavilion. I was born Memorial, so it’s a good excuse to get everybody together anyway.”

She bought her home in El Jebel in 1993, just after relocating to the Roaring Fork Valley in 1992 from Chicago. She worked as an accountant back in the Windy City and applied those financial chops at the restaurants. Now, she said, is time to apply her skills for the benefit of the park. 

“I think that I’m at the point and (the park) is at the point where we could work together to grow the park sustainably and keep it in the black,” she said. 

Time was scarce when she and her husband owned the restaurants, but this would not be her first board of directors seat. She spent five years on the 5Point Film board, served on the Aspen Science Center Board, and was the finance director at the Aspen Community Foundation.

Seeing the park’s popularity and traffic level increase so much over her time going there, Goode said she wants to financially prepare the park to be its best without advocating for a tax increase in the district. 

“I don’t have any special interests,” she said. “At heart, I just want the park to be the best it can be.”

Leroy Duroux

With deep roots in the local political scene, Leroy Duroux (sometimes known as Mr. Basalt) said he has the experience to continue to lead the Crown Mountain Park & Recreation District board of directors in the right direction. 

Leroy Duroux outside his old office, Basalt Town Hall.
Paul Conrad/The Aspen Times

“I was involved with creating a park many years ago, when I was on town council when that was all going down,” he said. “I have a desire to see the park through to the next phase.”

He currently serves as the president of the board, and he sits on the Basalt Rural Fire Protection District board. He was born in Aspen, and his family moved to Basalt in 1963, and he has called the area home ever since. 

Along with a career in woodworking and cabinetry, he spent years in Basalt Town Hall wearing many hats, including town manager, council member, and mayor. 

He first decided to run for the park board three years ago — he has to run only three years later due to a state change in the timing of special-district elections from even to odd years — after seeing the park struggle financially and wanted to help right the ship.

“I just felt like it needed somebody who knew the history of the park, how the park was created, and all that just to get back on track,” he said. 

In his past three years and looking ahead, Duroux said his priority is to take care of the original features of the park before taking on new projects. 

“We have to take care of what’s existing,” he said. “There’s a lot of stuff that’s original, like the playground and several tennis courts. They’re tired, and they need replacing. My goal was to update and make all of our current stuff safe and usable for the public and also to address the need for pickleball courts.”

Writing the master plan has been an effort of viewing the park holistically, he said. And while that plan has been in the works for a while, it is not done yet. And he hopes to see it through.

“We need to get that taken care of, and I would like to continue,” he said. “That’s one of the reasons I’m running for re-election is continuing to finish that document because I think it’ll be a good look into the future of what the park will be.”

Shelley Lundh Freeman

“‘Separate courts for your own sport’ is my slogan,” Shelley Lundh Freeman said with a chuckle.

Shelley Lundh Freeman on a hike with one of her dogs.
Shelley Lundh Freeman/Courtesy photo

She runs the tennis leagues that play at the courts in Crown Mountain Park, and after smoothing out a kerfuffle over pickleball lines to be painted on those courts, she decided that someone representing the tennis and pickleball players should contribute their expertise to the board.

After being born in Aspen then moving to Texas with her mom, she returned to the Roaring Fork Valley in 1988. She owns a business that publishes maps of Aspen, Basalt, Carbondale, and Snowmass Village. 

As a Basalt resident, she frequents the park to let her dogs run free and stay active through her favorite sport. 

“I just think it’s wonderful to be able to have an enclosed area that’s big enough to let our dogs run free,” she said. “And we use the Crown Mountain courts for our league play in the whole valley. If we didn’t have those courts, I think the leagues might just fall by the wayside.”

If she is elected to the board, Lundh Freeman said, she is excited to work with park staff to help solve pressing issues like balancing the need to protect open space and still find land to expand park infrastructure. 

“If at all possible, let the board free their minds,” she said, “to do further investigation and make decisions rather than spending all their time doing all the legwork and gathering information.”

Looking into expanding the tax base for the district is also something she hopes to investigate if she wins a seat on the board. 

She has served as president on two HOA boards and as the treasurer on the Buddy Program board of directors. 

“I would be a good asset to the board with my experience, my knowledge, and my enthusiasm for being active,” she said.

Four run for two seats on Aspen Fire Board

The ballots are out, and four candidates are running for two open seats on the Aspen Fire Department board — each for four-year terms.

Ballots can be mailed or dropped off at the Headquarters Station (420 E. Hopkins Ave.) between 9 a.m.-5 p.m., Monday through Friday, and 7 a.m-7 p.m on Election Day, May 2. Visit aspenfire.com for more information or for instructions on how to go about getting a ballot if you didn’t receive one. 

Incumbent board President John Ward is vying with challengers Charles Cunniffe, Mike Lyons, and Jill St. John Wagner for those two seats on the five-member board.

Cunniffe, a long-time architect in Aspen who ran unsuccessfully in 2022 for a board seat, did not return email or phone messages in time for this story. But the other candidates took some time to talk about their candidacies.

Jill St. John Wagner

Actress Jill St. John Wagner has owned a home in Aspen since 1972 and, before that, was a frequent visitor for eight years.

Jill St. John, with husband Robert Wagner and Aspen Peak Magazine CEO Jason Binn, views housing as one of the greatest challenges for the fire district.

Aspen Times file photo

She has served on the board of Friends of Aspen Fire and is now retired from her acting career. 

“My husband and I have lived in Starwood for 24 years, and I have served on the Starwood Metropolitan Board for close to 10 years,” she said. “Recognizing the threat of wildfire, our Metropolitan Board had great success in funding and building a fire house there.”

She said it was completed about four years ago and has two apartments to house firefighters and their families.

“It was a first: building a firehouse with a fire engine in a subdivision,” she said.

Today, the Starwood Fire House serves 100 homes and responds to the entire Aspen area. 

She said her main concern is for any wildfire affecting the entire Roaring Fork Valley. 

“Due to climate change, the question is not if, but when. No group of people has my greater respect than our firefighters, first responders, and EMTs. They need our support. I am hoping that by serving on the Aspen Fire District Board, I will be able to help with facilitating response to impending problems,” said St. John Wagner.

She acknowledged of the greatest challenges for the fire district is employee housing. 

“As we all know, this is a problem with the entire workforce of Aspen. I’m very proud that Aspen Fire District built an apartment house near the ABC, and I hope being on the board will enable me to facilitate more housing for our first responders,” she said.

Mike Lyons

Mike Lyons has served the citizens of the Aspen Fire Protection District for 23 years as a volunteer firefighter. He believes his ground-up perspective is important to bring to the board. 

“The biggest challenge for the fire protection district going forward will be supporting its people and keeping it a community-based organization,” Mike Lyons says.
Mike Lyons/Courtesy Photo

“I understand what it looks like to have your worst day and have the heavy cavalry show up at your doorstep to take care of you,” he said. “I know what resources are needed from the citizens to ensure this happens.”

He was born and raised in Aspen. This is his home.

“I have had the blessing of growing up here, and I have always felt a desire to give back to the community. Aspen is a special place, and the fire protection district is here to serve all,” he said.

“The biggest challenge for the fire protection district going forward will be supporting its people and keeping it a community-based organization. Volunteers, those folks that willingly get up at 3 a.m. to help their neighbor, are the backbone of the fire protection district. The principal of neighbors helping neighbors in the Aspen Fire Protection District has a long history and should continue in the future.”

Lyons said he believes that the entire staff at the fire department needs the organizational culture and support from all aspects of leadership to ensure successful mission delivery. 

John Ward

John Ward has lived in Aspen for 23 years and, as a banker, financed more than a billion dollars of real-estate projects in the valley and reviewed hundreds of financial statements of small and large businesses.

“Basalt was a wake-up call to all in the upper valley about the potential dangers of dry conditions, beetle-killed forests, and a narrow valley,” John Ward says.
John Ward/Courtesy Photo

His wife, Ashley, attended high school in Aspen and runs a small business in the core, and his two sons attend Aspen schools. Ward has also served on the fire-district board for approximately eight years and is currently the board president. 

“The fire district is like a small business with employees, equipment, assets, and liabilities. Except it’s run by taxpayers’ dollars, which holds a higher level of accountability. I bring a practical banker’s mindset to allocating those funds, putting a critical eye on what the district needs, what it wants, and what voters expect,” said Ward. 

During his tenure on the board, he has seen drastic shifts. 

Ward said he has seen significant organizational change and development.

“With the voters’ support, we have built affordable firefighter/first responder housing in the North 40, we moved to a combination pay and volunteer staffing model that allows the district to staff specific stations 24 hours a day, seven days a week. We equip our responders with the most up-to-date equipment possible and have been updating an aging fleet of capital assets.”

He added, “The district has several future challenges, including a leadership transition, wildfire issues, and continuing the recruitment and development of new volunteers because the current model doesn’t work without robust volunteer support.”

Ward is most concerned about wildfires: “Basalt was a wake-up call to all in the upper valley about the potential dangers of dry conditions, beetle-killed forests, and a narrow valley.”

Special district campaigns run under radar toward May 2 Election Day

It is special district election season! And … so much for fanfare for campaigns that run considerably below the radar compared to, say, Aspen City Council or Adam Frisch’s refreshed quest to end U.S. Rep. Lauren Boebert’s reign in 2024.

Nonetheless, on May 2 three special districts will hold elections for open seats on their boards of directors.

Aspen Fire Protection District, Aspen Valley Hospital District, and Crown Mountain Park and Recreation District all have seats up for election. 

None of the special elections are Pitkin County elections, so ballots should not be dropped off at any Pitkin County (or any other county or municipality) ballot drop box. 

Aspen Fire Protection District

In the running: Charles Cunniffe, Mike Lyons, John C. Ward, and Jill St. John Wagner are running for two open seats with four-year terms. 

How to vote: By mail or in-person. Voters can mail or drop off their ballot that was mailed to them at the headquarters station, 420 E. Hopkins Ave., between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. Monday through Friday, and 7 a.m.-7 p.m. on Election Day.

Where to go for more information: The Aspen Fire website has information on how to request a ballot if you did not receive one.

Aspen Valley Hospital District 

In the running: Melinda Nagle, Robert Hutton, Greg Balko for two open seats with four-year terms.

How to vote: By mail or in-person. Voters can mail or drop off their ballot that was mailed to them at the official Aspen Valley Hospital District Drop Box in the hospital’s East Entrance vestibule. Ballots must be received by 7 p.m. on Election Day. 

Where to go for more information: Contact Andrea Shaffran (ashaffran@aspenhospital.org) at Aspen Valley Hospital.

Crown Mountain Park and Recreation District

In the running: Lari Goode, Leroy Duroux, and Shelley Lundh Freeman are running for two seats with four-year terms.

How to vote: In-person or absentee ballot. Voting will take place at the Crown Mountain Bike Park Clubhouse in El Jebel (495 Eagle County Drive) from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Election Day. The deadline to request an absentee ballot is April 25. There is no drop box ahead of time for ballots, voters can mail their absentee ballot to the return address on their absentee ballot envelope or drop it off on Election Day at the polling place.

Where to go for more information: Request an absentee ballot by mailing a request form to the designated election official, details available on the Crown Mountain Park and Recreation District website: https://crownmtn.org/boring-stuff/

Rose, Guth win Aspen City Council seats   

Aspen’s ready for a change, if the City Council election is any indication.

On Tuesday, city voters elected the council’s possibly youngest member in history, Sam Rose, 29, and William “Bill” Guth. Rose had a big lead over the other two candidates — first-time challenger Guth and incumbent Skippy Mesirow.

Guth defeated Mesirow by roughly 210 votes. 

The breakdown: 

  • Sam Rose, 2,323 votes
  • William (Bill) Guth, 1,499
  • Skippy Mesirow, 1,286

“I’m just honored beyond belief to be able to represent Aspen, the best place on Earth to call home. I love this community, my firefighter network, my hockey friends, my colleagues. Aspen has this small town charm and wonderful people,” said Rose.

There were inklings that the second City Council seat might require a run-off as election results neared two hours after the polls closed at 7 p.m. If two candidates for the City Council failed to reach the 45% threshold, it would trigger a runoff. It didn’t come to that.

At 9 p.m., Rose said he was exhausted. He left a friend’s home, where he was awaiting news with a group of friends. “I can’t stand the no updates,” he said. “It’s taking forever.” 

Patience won out, along with him winning a dominant lead over the others. n his second bid for the position, he said: “I was myself. I knew that there was not much overlap between Bill and Skippy. I am who I am, I spoke for everything that was asked. As much as I am delighted, this was the result I was expecting and hoping for.”

Guth, whose pro-real-estate-development campaign seemed controversial at times, eked out a win for the second City Council seat.

“I’m so humbled and just so appreciative of my supporters, my wife, and kids,” he said. “I’m very excited to bring a different representation to the table.”

Bill Guth, left, with his wife, Lisa, celebrates with his supporters at Aspen Tap after being elected to Aspen City Council on Tuesday, March 7, 2023.
Austin Colbert/The Aspen Times

Incumbent’s Mesirow’s bold ideas and City Council experience didn’t pay off this time.

“This election, I was 100% in integrity. I shied away from no challenge. Triangulated nothing. I embraced our history and honored those who built our town. I was supported by an amazing group of humans of all ages, incomes, and durations in town,” he said. “We ran a campaign about something — honestly and without fear. It felt amazing and challenging at times.”

He added, “The two campaigns that influenced Aspen most were Joe Edwards in 1969 and Hunter Thompson in 1972, and they both lost. It’s up to us. We can dig deep. I’ll be right here with you.”

Guth and Rose will be sworn into the City Council in April.

Bill Guth, left, and Sam Rose laugh with each other after both were elected to the Aspen City Council on Tuesday, March 7, 2023, at Aspen Tap.
Austin Colbert/The Aspen Times
Sam Rose laughs with supporters after being elected to Aspen City Council on Tuesday, March 7, 2023, at Aspen Tap.
Austin Colbert/The Aspen Times
Bill Guth, right, hugs Alexandra George after Guth was elected to Aspen City Council on Tuesday, March 7, 2023, at Aspen Tap.
Austin Colbert/The Aspen Times
Aspen city councilman Skippy Mesirow talks with supporters during an election night watch party on Tuesday, March 7, 2023, at Here House in Aspen.
Austin Colbert/The Aspen Times

Voters grant Torre a third and final term as Aspen mayor

Aspen voters re-elected the incumbent Mayor Torre by a margin of 561 votes, rejecting political newcomer Tracy Sutton.

“I‘m honored, and I take it with a great deal of responsibility,” Torre said of his victory. “I’ve heard through this campaign people’s concerns, and I take them to heart. The folks that didn’t vote for me, I want to take (their concerns) with me into this new term, too.”

He garnered 1,675 votes, and Sutton won 1,114 votes. Torre gained about 60% of the vote to Sutton’s 40%, which is in line with the short-term rental excise tax Aspen voters confirmed in November.

City staff said that approximately 2,800 voters cast ballots out of 6,130 registered voters, or about 45% voter turnout — relatively high for an Aspen election. 

In the 2021 municipal election, 38% of registered voters cast a ballot. And in the 2019 election, which included the ballot measure on the 1A development, voter turnout climbed to just under 60%. Previous municipal elections ran around 40% voter turnout.

City Clerk Nicole Henning said that her office had about 20 ballots left to cure to confirm signatures. That number will not affect any of the races.

This will be Torre’s third and final consecutive term as mayor, though the city’s Home Rule Charter would allow him to run again after a two-year break. 

He ran a campaign that emphasized the council’s successes from his past four years as mayor, navigating the COVID-19 pandemic, and prioritizing affordable housing. 

Vote tallying took until about 9 p.m. with press and candidates and their posses gathered outside of the Pearl Pass Conference room on the third floor of the new City Hall building.

Voters elected in two new City Council members by voting out single-term incumbent Skippy Mesirow and filling in for Rachael Richards’ retirement, meaning Torre will navigate relationships with two new council members.

“I’m looking forward to it and this new representation, and I am looking forward to starting the job and the next two-year journey with these guys,” Torre said. “I hope that we can strive for better voter participation.

GrassrootsTV usually live-streams the municipal election results, but they were not present this evening. It was unclear why not as of Tuesday evening. 

“Of course, I’m disappointed, but it’s been a great experience, and I hope that (Torre) does better in the next couple of years,” Sutton said. “It was a terrific experience.”

She said that she absolutely would run for public office again in the future.

By her own admission, she decided to enter the race at the last minute when she learned the incumbent might run unopposed. She is a real-estate broker and owns a luxury, short-term rental company.

Aspen mayoral candidate Tracy Sutton talks with supporters during an election night watch party on Tuesday, March 7, 2023, at the Berkshire Hathaway office in downtown Aspen.
Austin Colbert/The Aspen Times

She never participated much in local politics, but when the City Council implemented the residential and short-term rental permit moratorium in 2021, Sutton plugged in. 

After a series of meetings and an open house with council members, she — and other members of the local real-estate community — felt as if the council ignored their position on the issue. 

She ran on a platform of increasing transparency in council happenings and emphasizing public input in council decisions. On issues like housing and the Entrance to Aspen, she expressed frustration.  

And despite insisting that she did not want to get pigeon-holed into the STR issue throughout the campaign, Sutton struggled to express an equal level of knowledge and passion on other city issues, though she said she was willing to put in the work to learn. 

Torre touted accomplishments such as the open-space tax and the STR tax as points in which council championed issues important to Aspenites. He said his time with the City Council prioritized affordable housing with Burlingame Ranch and the Lumberyard projects to come, plus pointed to many businesses marketed to locals that still stand. 

Aspen first elected him as mayor in 2019, following multiple runs at the mayor’s seat and two terms as a City Council member peppered in 2003 and 2009. He works as a tennis instructor and media personality for the Aspen Daily News’ Local TV. 

The city’s Home Rule Charter would allow him to run again for mayor following a two-year break out of office.

Early voting hints at better turnout this year for Aspen elections

Aspen voters will decide who will occupy two City Council seats and the office of the mayor Tuesday, and so far voter turnout is low, though that is not uncommon for early voting versus Election Day voting. 

As of Monday morning, the Aspen City Clerk’s Office had received 1,442 ballots of the city’s 6,130 registered voters. That amounts to 23.5% of the electorate. The 2020 U.S. Census puts Aspen’s population at 7,004 people. 

Aspen Mayor Torre takes part in Squirm Night Feb. 8, at GrassRoots TV in Aspen. (Austin Colbert/The Aspen Times)
Austin Colbert/The Aspen Times

In the 2021 municipal election, which featured eight candidates for two open City Council seats and two candidates for mayor, 38% of the city’s 6,161 registered voters cast a ballot. 

In both 2017 and 2019 about 11% voted early in person and about 25% voted in person on Election Day. Historically, most city voters wait until the last couple of days to cast their ballot.

Aspen mayoral challenger Tracy Sutton takes part in Squirm Night on Wednesday, Feb. 8, 2023, at GrassRoots TV in Aspen. (Austin Colbert/The Aspen Times)
Austin Colbert/The Aspen Times

Incumbents Mayor Torre and City Councilman Skippy Mesirow are seeking reelection. Longtime civil servant Rachael Richards announced last year that she would not seek reelection. 

Tracy Sutton is challenging Torre for the mayoral seat. Bill Guth and Sam Rose are on the ticket for the City Council seats.

A mayoral candidate must receive 50% of the votes, plus one, to win.

To be elected to the City Council, a candidate must win 45% plus one of the votes cast. If two candidates for the City Council fail to reach that threshold, it will trigger a runoff. That would be scheduled for the first Tuesday in April, according to the city’s Home Rule Charter. 

Voters can register to vote up until Election Day they meet the requirements of being at least 18-years-old and resident of the city for at least 22 days.

In-person voting is available from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Election Day at City Hall. 

The deadline to return mail ballots via drop box or the Postal Service was Monday, but voters can cast their ballot at City Hall on Tuesday.