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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.  

Candidates for Aspen City Council reflect on accomplishments and shortfalls

Editor’s note: This is part of a series about mayoral and City Council candidates’ views on the top issues Aspen faces today, including incumbent members of the council, as well.

The Aspen City Council was updated recently on the progress and status of its goals — primarily from August 2022 through this January. 

Topics included the Burlingame Early Childhood Education Center and other child-care capacity goals, waste-code revisions, building-code adoptions, affordable housing, and fleet electrification. 

“We have had a lot of accomplishments,” Councilman Ward Hauenstein said. “I know that people don’t always view it that way, but we made progress on our three goals: increase child care, reduce greenhouse emissions, and increase affordable housing.”   

Affordable child care might be the most controversial on this list. The goal was to increase the number of available child-care spaces. 

To that end, four additional rooms at the Yellow Brick became available in July 2022 for a new child-care provider. The city also signed a lease in December for rooms 2, 4, 5, and 6 with Ajax Cubs to provide child care for children ages 2 months to 5 years for a minimum 200 days a year. 

Ajax Cubs are finalizing licensing and staffing for the newly-renovated space and anticipated opening initially with one toddler classroom last week and opening the other classrooms as they are staffed. This program has been subsidized by Kids First with start-up funding, materials, equipment, and coaching. Kids First will work with the Ajax Cubs directors to ensure they participate in the Kids First grants, teacher incentive program, and coaching to promote professional development and increase quality. 

Little Steps College opened Dec. 5, also subsidized by Kids First with start-up funding, materials, equipment, and coaching. Little Steps College is serving eight families and has six to seven babies each day. 

Preschool of the Arts at the Jewish Community Center opened in September. They are serving eight to 12 families with children 3 to 5 years old. They are participating in the Kids First city of Aspen Wage Enhancement Program.

“Council’s largest accomplishment is in the realm of child care,” City Council candidate Sam Rose acknowledged. “This is strange to say because of the debacle at the Yellow Brick with playgroup. But outside of that, the council has made great progress with their new programs introduced to help attract, retain, and train new child-care providers. Sixteen new teachers have been hired between September and January, and new child-care classrooms have been opened.”

City Council candidate Sam Rose makes a point during last month’s Squirm Night forum at Grassroots TV.
Austin Colbert/The Aspen Times

Councilman Skippy Mesirow didn’t agree: “I think failure of the current council is a poorly handled transition at the Yellow Brick, which left numerous families with great fear for significant time.”

Councilwoman Rachael Richards echoed his assessment: “Frankly, two years of notice and working with our child-care providers to provide a full week’s worth of service in the taxpayer-funded facility did not pan out. We had an operator leave. We offered aid, enticement, an opportunity to share the classroom in order to provide a full week of service, and it didn’t work.”

Mayor Torre was more enthusiastic: “Child care and education has received teacher pay support, program rent waivers, and new operators at the Yellow Brick and CMC campus, as well as identifying additional capacity opportunities,” he said. 

However, he added, “I believe that we still need some facts and data around valleywide child care. We are awaiting information on enrollment forecasts, capacity needs, staff challenges, and regional planning that will help us with next steps and direction.”

“I’m disappointed with the child care at Yellow Brick,” Councilman John Doyle said. “The situation was very misconstrued in the papers. It made me feel as if the city was fault. We were really trying to increase child care from four to five days a week. All the while we are negotiating with the operator, she is trying to sell the business. We were trying to increase child-care space. Nobody thought it was a bad idea.” 

Affordable housing

In April 2022, the council adopted the 2022-26 Affordable Housing Strategic Plan. The plan sets a goal of 500 affordable housing units over the next five years. Half of these units would be achieved through development-neutral strategies. 

“Housing has seen the newly-created strategic plan document promote and progress program improvements, partnership opportunities, capital maintenance, deed restriction buy outs, and new inventory,” Torre said.

The city’s voters in November voted 62% to impose a 5% tax on nightly room rates for short-term rentals with lodge-exempt permits (STR-LE) and owner-occupied unit permits (STR-OO). For second-home owners and investment properties (STR-C), 2A will implement a 10% increase. The city will begin collecting on bookings that happen after April 30, and the city estimates revenue will exceed $9 million. The city will allocate at least 70% of that revenue to fund affordable-housing projects, and the remaining 30% will go to infrastructure maintenance and environmental-protection initiatives.

“I think obviously passing the STR tax was huge; changing our residential demolition rules was important as well,” Doyle said.

Construction on the Burlingame Ranch Phase 3, 79-unit condominium project is nearing completion, and units are anticipated to be ready for sale this year. 

“We continue to work on WH (workforce housing), actually adding new units, but that did not happen last year because of delays on bringing BGIII (Burlingame Ranch Phase 3) online. Seventy-nine more units at BGIII will be ready within a couple of months,” said Hauenstein. 

“Council has taken positive steps in the affordable-housing realm like a right-sizing pilot program and being close to opening Burlingame Ranch Phase 3; but at this time, they are mostly just steps and not major accomplishments just yet,” Rose said.

“Our greatest success is the comprehensive, strategic, and multi-faceted work to address every angle of the affordable-housing challenge,” Mesirow said.

Tracy Sutton, running for mayor of Aspen, is critical of the current City Council.
Austin Colbert/The Aspen Times

“Council deliberately set just a few major goals, so there could be serious steps toward that. In the past, there has been a laundry list of 15 goals. I am happy to see the things such as affordable housing really moving forward,” Richards said.

The Lumberyard Project is anticipated to yield 277 affordable housing units on 11 acres of land located south of Aspen Airport Business Center. 

City Council goals included leveraging and amending regulations and policies in support of affordable housing. The residential building moratorium resulted in several new policies and regulations in support of affordable housing development.

“For me, the biggest accomplishments of this council were APCHA seller standards and the right-sizing pilot program,” City Council candidate Bill Guth said.

APCHA has instituted seller standards for all sales in its system. An independent formal home inspection funded by APCHA is conducted to provide transparency to the buyer about the state of the property. By signing a new deed restriction, the owner will start with an updated “purchase price” with the 10% capital improvements based on that updated value. Five homes have been put back into the APCHA system in the past year as a result of compliance actions.

Mayor candidate Tracy Sutton wasn’t impressed.

Aspen City Council hopeful Bill Guth said the council got some things right with APCHA.
Austin Colbert/The Aspen Times

“I am disappointed to see that the best option we currently have for APCHA residents to repair or maintain their housing could be a pilot program with grants for “emergency repairs;” I think we should already be closer to a long-term solution that helps APCHA owners repair and maintain their units,” she said.

Climate Impact 

The City Council has passed nation-leading climate policy.

“While I am generally critical of this council’s performance, I am happy they are taking steps on climate. As mayor, I would certainly support continued efforts in this space,” Sutton said.

“Environmental initiatives are back on track with clear goals, a sustainability plan, and roadmap for success in reducing greenhouse-gas emission, resource consumption reductions, waste diversion, and transportation improvements,” Torre said.

Richards said she was pleased with the council’s climate efforts: “I think moving forward with the environment initiatives to deal with composting and greenhouse emissions — these are long-term items and incredibly important for our climate-change issues; our community economy depends on snow. It’s easy to overlook these issues.” 

What went wrong?

Well, all the unfinished construction downtown, for one.

“As admitted by the incumbents and challengers in a recent Aspen Times article, the permitting process that led to so many empty spaces and stalled projects is something that was not prioritized. I know from previous council meetings and with talking to current members that it was discussed, but not enough was done about it, and now is the time to prioritize it to the benefit of locals and visitors alike,” said Rose.

“I was surprised to see nothing related to traffic mitigation,” Sutton said. “This is one of our most glaring issues as a community.”

“I think in the last term, the City Council goals that were missed or not prioritized are the Armory Hall conversion and the lack to action to remediate traffic flow on Highway 82,” Guth said.

“Personally, I wish we could delve more into the demographics of and the changing nature of our larger region,” Richards said. “Aspen has drawn 60% or more of its workforce from the free market outside of city limits. And that market has changed radically. Those families can’t afford El Jebel or Carbondale anymore. I don’t think our business community has fully woken up to the fact that the free market will not be providing the workforce we need in the future.”

“Another one I would point out as not being prioritized is the Entrance to Aspen,” Rose said. “It felt like we only started prioritizing it after the most recent bridge construction this past fall and because we are on a short timeline and the bridge may have weight restrictions at some point. This should have been prioritized sooner, so we never have to deal with weight restrictions, which will cause more traffic and lower quality of life.” 

“The biggest disappointment for me was The Living Lab,” Doyle said. “It was our biggest blemish. We implemented it with the best of intentions to provide a safer downtown core for everyone. However, setting it up the weekend before Fourth of July was not putting our best foot forward.”

Hauenstein wasn’t ready to declare that a failure — or at least not a complete one.

“I found the Living Lab to be a success, and I know that’s controversial,” he said. “It told us what did and didn’t work and identified some communication flaws. There were failures. We hadn’t factored in reverse flow of bicycle lanes, for example, and that told us what was intolerable in the community. There’s always a silver lining of a failure.”

“Why didn’t the city purchase the Centennial deed restrictions for $10 million in 2019?” Rose asked. “Affordable housing is almost always the No. 1 issue on this community’s mind and maintaining what we currently have should be priority No. 1. The cost of those deed restrictions is clearly cheaper than what it would cost to build the Lumberyard project. I believe in more affordable housing, so potentially losing what we have and then building more seems like a poor strategy when we can hopefully maintain what we have and attain more in a sensible and logical way.” 

“The biggest disappointment that I have felt in the last term is the waste reduction (compost) requirement versus the incentive; I don’t think there was a prior discussion with restaurants,” Guth said, referencing an ordinance that eventually will prohibit the landfilling of organic waste in the trash.

A complete guide of City Council goals and updates can be found at aspen.gov.

How Aspen council candidates will solve the affordable housing crisis

Editor’s note: This is part of a series about mayoral and City Council candidates’ views on the top issues Aspen faces today.

The cornerstone of all Aspen issues is affordable housing. Without a place to live, child care, locals-focused shops and restaurants, and traffic management are not relevant to Aspen voters. 

And many City Council members maintain that affordable housing is among the most important issues the body faces. 

Currently, the Aspen Pitkin County Housing Authority has 3,200 in the program. According to the strategic plan, 72% of deed-restricted units are within the City of Aspen.

The City Council published the Affordable Housing Strategic Plan for the years 2022-26 following a retreat in December 2021. 

“We are struggling to now keep up with the market shift in utilization of many homes for residential to commercial in the form of short term rental,” the introduction reads.

The document sets a goal to add 500 units to the affordable housing stock by 2026 with about half of those units achieved without new development. 

The city of Aspen is the largest affordable housing developer within the city. Two major affordable housing projects are in the pipeline and will require input from the incoming council.

The Aspen Lumberyard Affordable Housing Development will be the largest building endeavor undertaken by the city. If the development application is approved by the Community Development Department, construction at the 11.28 acre site in the Airport Business Center will likely start in 2024. 

The city has well-lined affordable housing coffers, but because of the sheer scope of the Lumberyard, the price tag is expected to hit over $330 million. Construction is expected to take at least 12 years of phased construction, as the city secures funds. 

The project will consist of 277 affordable housing units across three four-story buildings. The buildings will house 104 one-bedroom units, 91 two-bedroom units and 82 three-bedroom units.

Supporters of the Lumberyard hail its potential as a game-changing development for families and longtime locals to own and rent or own in the city. Critics highlight its high cost and worry about traffic impacts.

“I do support the Lumberyard. I hope it becomes like a Burlingame-esque housing for families,” said City Council candidate Sam Rose. “I really hope the housing we prioritize is some place where families can grow into so we don’t lose people in this community that are committed to it.” 

Incumbents council member Skippy Mesirow and Mayor Torre were both involved in the multi-year process to determine the specifications of what became the Lumberyard project. Both expressed support for maximizing affordable housing units during the many work sessions involving the project since 2019.

However, council candidate Bill Guth said that population and traffic growth within the city gives him pause, and he suggested introducing free market units into the plan.

“That’s a major, major growth driver, whether it’s affordable or not,” Guth said. “And maybe that needs some balance. Maybe it needs to be balanced out partially with free market (units) where there’s a good chance that people will not be living in it full time.”

Mayoral candidate Tracy Sutton said the timeline and cost for the Lumberyard project looked excessive to her.

“I think that if we’re able to spend those dollars maximizing what we already have — one of the things that I found interesting was perhaps redeveloping the area out at the golf course — I think there’s some strategic things that could happen more quickly than some of these other items on the agenda, such as the Lumberyard project,” she said.

Development-neutral practices seem to be the future of increasing the affordable housing stock in the city and in the county. 

Mesirow positioned himself as the strongest advocate of development-neutral methods.

“One of the three new policy architectures I’m putting forward is a new model for delivering affordable housing, the development neutral model, which delivers affordable housing without new development. It’s a completely different way to look at the problem,” Mesirow said. “And it responds to the issue of today, which is displacement of workers living in nationally occurring free market housing, with vacancy investment properties and STRs, as opposed to our current system which responds to the problem from the 1980s, which was new commercial development, creating new jobs and attracting people to town. So we’re operating under a system that can only deliver affordable housing with growth, which we don’t want and responds to a problem that is no longer ours.

Mesirow also supports a vacancy tax to discourage empty free-market units. 

Torre also advocates for the importance of development-neutral practices. It was one of the core strategies enumerated in the Affordable Housing Strategic Plan.

The plan listed replacing expiring deed restrictions with permanent deed restrictions and incentivizing voluntary “right-sizing.”

“We have limited opportunities for building more. And so looking at the opportunities for no build solutions is something that we very much need to do,” Torre said. “Whether that’s the expiring deed restrictions and confronting those or, you know, utilizing partnerships — like we’ve seen a few happen here in the community in the recent years — (we need to) improve our existing housing stock so that it doesn’t need to be replaced and rebuilt.”

Sutton said she would need to learn more, but voluntary right-sizing seemed like a viable option to her. 

“There’s a lot of people who (live in) three- and four-bedroom units and had families that are getting older, and they don’t really need that much space. But they don’t want to get back into the fray,” Sutton said. “So I think it would be interesting to look into the solution of incentivizing them to give up their larger units for families in the area and moving into the top of a priority was for a smaller unit, because I think that’s a win-win situation.”

APCHA is exploring a right-sizing program. The housing authority surveyed homeowners in 2022 about what it would take them to relocate to a smaller unit. And the APCHA board continues  to discuss the future of such a program. 

Guth also expressed support for development-neutral methods. But he also posed a question about surveying current APCHA tenants and owners on their occupations, potentially prioritizing some occupations over others.

“Do we need more short-term seasonal housing? Do we need more entry-level housing? Do we need more housing for families? You know, the answer is yes to all of those, but what’s the order of priority? And that requires some data collection and some data analysis that we’re currently not doing,” Guth said. “There’s a fear of collecting this data amongst current APCHA owners and residents because they think that it will be used against them. And I have zero interest in using any of that information against anybody. I think it should all be anonymized and aggregated, so that we can make the best decisions for our community.”

Currently, APCHA does not track or monitor occupations and only sees the information in the context of residents showing that they work 1,500 hours per year in Pitkin County.

For Rose, development-neutral methods include expanding on existing infrastructure.

“Step one is maintaining what we currently have. Step two is then looking for development, neutral housing, meaning existing infrastructure. And the examples I have of that or potentially putting a second floor on the Red Brick or Yellow Brick for affordable housing. And in addition to that, it’s working with the development community.”

Rose currently serves on the city Planning and Zoning Commission. He said that he would encourage some affordable housing practices he has seen there.

“On planning and zoning, we just approved a project where they build two homes on a lot near Power Plant Road and Smuggler,” Rose said. “And they also going to build two four-bedroom (accessory dwelling units), which they plan on selling to the Aspen School District for teacher housing.”

All candidates agreed that the city must prioritize the purchase of expiring deed restrictions. 

Incumbents Mesirow and Torre pointed to it as a No. 1 priority from the Affordable Housing Strategic Plan, and also said that prioritization is not a direct result of Centennial Apartments. 

The city of Aspen was set to buy the deed restrictions at Centennial for $10 million, but the deal fell through in 2020 because the two sides couldn’t agree to terms.

Some tenants are now facing high rent hikes that started this year. 

Guth, Rose and Sutton all criticized the City Council for not securing the deed restrictions or outright ownership on Centennial when they had the chance. Still, it is not certain that the tenants are locked into their raised prices as the city, county and APCHA continue to engage in months-long legal talks with the relatively new owners of Centennial, a large firm out of Indiana. 

Mesirow said that another tenet of his platform, an office of government innovation, would directly address the need to buy up expiring deed restrictions.

“One of the other three things that I’m putting forward as this big policy shift is an office of government innovation because the way that we do things like … budget, have City Council meetings, run campaigns, in many ways fights the outcomes we want,” he said. 

All candidates agree, however, that the responsibility of providing affordable housing to Aspen residents and workers can and should be shared.

“This is a regional issue. So we looked for not just public private partnerships, but other partnerships with the county and other valley municipalities as they tried to solve the same problem for their communities,” Torre said. “And then it is directly related to both workforce issues, as well as environmental and transit issues.”

Partnerships are part of the city’s larger Affordable Housing Strategic Plan. 

Part of the entry reads: “Project risks can be transferred to private partners, and greater price and schedule certainty can be achieved. There can be opportunity for innovative design and construction techniques,and public funds can be freed up for other projects or purposes. These potential benefits come with limitations such as increased financing costs, limited flexibility and often few bidders to partner with on such projects.”

Aspen Housing Partnership rentals is a public-private partnership that resulted in 45 deed-restricted units in 2020.

Guth strongly supports more public-private partnerships for the city’s future.

“Let’s partner with people who can execute on (affordable housing) more efficiently than we can. And let’s be smart about it, so that we’re really putting our dollars and our efforts to best use,” he said. “And that doesn’t mean just building more, right? It means building more of the things we need most. And it means building them the most efficient way we can. And it means allowing others to shoulder some of the responsibility of what we’re building.”

He also said that his background in real estate development would not conflict with his role as a council member. 

“I don’t have any specific projects or anything that I anticipate going in front of City Council. Even if I did, I would have to recuse myself. So I’m not doing this out of selfish interest in any way, shape, or form. … ​​I think that my skill set could be very valuable for our community.”

Rose would like to see more programs to incentivize and assist locals to buy. His time as a volunteer firefighter with the Aspen Fire Protection District exposed him to a program he would like to see expanded.

“One of the more broad ideas that I have related to affordable housing is something we did at the Aspen Fire Department where if you lived in firefighter housing and then ended up winning an APCHA ownership lottery, you could use that rent that you put into living at the firefighter housing towards a down payment of actual ownership,” Rose said. “And I think that’d be a beautiful thing to look into as far as trying to distinguish between workforce housing and community housing.”

Voters can check their registration and address through the Colorado Secretary of State’s Office. 

In-person early voting runs Feb. 21-March 6 at the City Clerk’s Office in City Hall. The polls will be open 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Friday.

Election Day is Tuesday, March 7. The polls will be open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. 

A tense day continues in candidate forum for Aspen council, mayor

Aspen mayoral and City Council candidates faced off in the most intense public interaction of the campaign on Wednesday night, capping a long and emotional day.

The atmosphere of the candidate forum at the Mountain Chalet in Aspen was thick with anxiety, relief, and stress. The day’s school district lockdown in the face of what turned out to be a prank threat of violence and guns at schools in Aspen and across the state weighed heavily on the candidates.

“It’s been a bad, bad day,” City Council candidate Bill Guth said and exhaled wearily.

“Today impacted me emotionally and continues to impact me emotionally,” he said. “So I’m sorry if I’m not entirely myself, but I will do my best. But I am super appreciative to all the first responders and educators in our community who do whatever they can to keep our children safe, and I can never express my appreciation deeply enough for all of you and for what you do.”

Councilman Skippy Mesirow reiterated the stresses of the day and thanked the community for their response, as did challenger Sam Rose.

The three candidates are running for two seats on the council.

“And I echo everybody in this room,” mayoral candidate Tracy Sutton said. “I mean, it makes your heart drop just when you hear something like this is going on in your community. And we’re very lucky and we’re very thankful because you always think that it’s going to happen to someone else. And even though we had a scare, I’m very happy that the outcome was what it was, and I’m very thankful to the people that responded to it.”

Aspen City Council hopeful Sam Rose, left, next to incumbent Skippy Mesirow, takes part in the “Thriving in Aspen” election forum, presented by the Aspen Chamber Resort Association, on Wednesday, Feb. 22, 2023, inside the Mountain Chalet.
Austin Colbert/The Aspen Times
Aspen City Council hopeful Bill Guth takes part in the “Thriving in Aspen” election forum, presented by the Aspen Chamber Resort Association, on Wednesday, Feb. 22, 2023, inside the Mountain Chalet.
Austin Colbert/The Aspen Times
Aspen City Council incumbent Skippy Mesirow takes part in the “Thriving in Aspen” election forum, presented by the Aspen Chamber Resort Association, on Wednesday, Feb. 22, 2023, inside the Mountain Chalet.
Austin Colbert/The Aspen Times

“I feel emotional about what we went through today and what our kids went through and what our whole community went through,” Mayor Torre said. “And I want to say thank you to our valley responders and the city. We’ll be following up with this — doing an after-event evaluation and bringing our community together to move forward safely for everybody.”

Elevated emotions carried over into the discussion first among the council rivals into visible frustration, miscommunication, and perhaps the most aggressive behavior of the campaign.

Highlights included Rose becoming flustered by questions of his policy by a moderator and an outburst that in his view Mesirow’s idealism over pragmatism is a hindrance to moving forward with council goals. He told Mesirow at one point, “We’re not Vancouver,” in a verbal exchange over Mesirow’s idea for a residential vacancy tax modeled on one carried out in that city.

Mesirow was equally quick to declared Rose wasn’t “holistic” in his approach to community solutions.

It was a threesome of testy exchanges.

At another point, Guth told Mesirow to “listen to my words” in the middle of his answer to a question.

The fiercest and most agreeable response from all three candidates came from a question about what they each thought about city setting limits on commercial rents. The idea didn’t set well with any of the candidates.

“I’m not in support of controlling rents. We need an affordable business zone,” said Mesirow.

“I’m not a communist,” Guth declared. “I don’t think government rent control will work. Communism doesn’t work.”

Rose expressed support for community spaces such as the Taster’s Space and Armory, saying these wouldn’t undercut local businesses.

Mayoral forum testy, too

The evening’s confrontational landscape didn’t end with the council candidate panel. Torre and Sutton butted heads from the get-go. They couldn’t agree on much during the blustery evening — not even how many years each has spent in the town in which they are vying for mayor.

Nearly two-thirds through the moderated discussion, they had to be interrupted and reminded of the educational and informational purpose of the event.

Torre poked at Sutton’s knowledge of city matters and research on topics. “Tracy, I thought you would know more about this,” he commented about the current status of Aspen’s construction.

Incumbent Aspen Mayor Torre takes part in the “Thriving in Aspen” election forum, presented by the Aspen Chamber Resort Association, on Wednesday, Feb. 22, 2023, inside the Mountain Chalet.
Austin Colbert/The Aspen Times

“I’m done taking a Torre beating,” Sutton said. “I’m tired of seeing things not completed. That is why I ran. I thought this would be much more of a discussion then a debate.”

From name-calling such as “career politician” at Torre to digs at Sutton’s qualifications for the job and available time, the two didn’t find much to agree on or be particularly agreeable about.

“I’m ready for fresh thinkers not in a governmental rut,” Sutton said.

Sutton acknowledged her real estate and development interests and noted she represented many groups of people, specifically those who could not vote due to limited months of residency in Aspen as second-home owners. This was also an explanation of her campaign signs that mention the voice that cannot vote.

Mayoral challenger Tracy Sutton takes part in the “Thriving in Aspen” election forum, presented by the Aspen Chamber Resort Association, on Wednesday, Feb. 22, 2023, inside the Mountain Chalet.
Austin Colbert/The Aspen Times

At one point Mayor Torre suggested that Sutton was actually endorsing him on the premises of what she wanted done and what he had already accomplished. Downtown construction was the Achilles heel of their panel. He thought he had made progress; she thought there were giant holes that can’t be reprimanded successfully.

Visitor volume

In a topic that hasn’t been beaten to a pulp during the campaign — such as The Entrance to Aspen, construction woes, affordable housing — the candidates were asked about their impressions of the resort-town dilemma of too much popularity with visitors. What is an appropriate visitor number? Is there one?

They seemed to agree there isn’t one.

“It’s not a number. We need to use it to our advantage,” said Rose.

“Tourism is not a number,” echoed Guth. “We live and always have in a resort community and must leverage it.”

“We have shifted from marketing to resort management for a reason. We need to find balance,” said Mesirow.

“That’s a loaded question,” said Sutton. “The summer after COVID was not pleasant for anyone. We can’t quantify it with a number.”

Torre said, “We have all felt it. As Tracy said, It’s not about sheer numbers. That fluctuates. It’s about experience.”

The forum was hosted by the Aspen Chamber Resort Association, the Young Professionals Network of the Aspen Board of Realtors, and the Aspen Rotary Club.

Council candidates candid about child-care challenges in Aspen

Editor’s note: This is part of a series about mayoral and City Council candidates’ views on the top issues Aspen faces today.

In a valley of many transplants, meeting someone who grew up in Aspen is like meeting a unicorn. Raising those unicorns in Aspen, however, can be cost-prohibitive for many families as the cost of child care rises in an already pricey hometown. 

To mitigate those costs, the city of Aspen founded the citizen advisory board Kids First in 1990. It is a taxpayer-funded, child-care program that helps connect families with child-care options and works to supply financial aid and grants to parents and providers.

The city and Kids First made major decisions relating to child care in Aspen in the past few years and will face more in the immediate future.

In the summer of 2021, Kids First mandated that the longtime providers in the Yellow Brick must move from offering child-care services four days a week to five. After months of back and forth over the business viability and community benefit, two longtime providers decided to close. The city did not have immediate replacements after no providers responded to a request for proposals, which led to a disruption in child-care services for families. 

But in December 2022, the city approved providers Ajax Cubs to operate out of the Yellow Brick and Little Steps College to open at Aspen Colorado Mountain College. Both receive support from Kids First. 

Ajax Cubs serves infants, toddlers, and preschool-aged kids. And Little Steps College accepts children aged eight weeks to eighteen months. 

As the city moves forward on developing the next phase of the city-owned, affordable-housing development Burlingame Ranch, across from Buttermilk ski area, council members will determine the specifications of an early childhood education (ECE) center on site.

Tracy Sutton, a mayoral candidate challenging incumbent Torre, thinks that the Burlingame ECE will cost too much, and that the city should prioritize providing more affordable-housing units on the development site.

“How do you choose between children and housing? I think there’s got to be a situation where you could do both,” she said. “And that would be something that I would look into.”

At a December work session, city staff estimated that the low-end cost for the Burlingame ECE would hit $13,208,924, plus millions more in site work and escalation costs. 

“I would be looking for … what we need to do to defray those costs,” Sutton said. “We’ve also got to make sure that we have good teachers.”

Teacher and staff retention has posed a huge problem for child-care providers in the valley and the state, as low wages and high cost of living clash. 

Bill Guth, a first-time City Council candidate, also said the price tag at the Burlingame ECE seemed steep to him. He would prioritize finding a provider for the space before moving much further along. 

“I would like to really understand who’s going to operate the facility to make sure that when you know, we can get this thing up and running on day one,” he said. “Maybe even more critically, make sure that their knowledge of the business and the operation can be factored into design because changing the physical facility later to suit their needs is so much more expensive than getting it right the first time.”

At a December City Council work session regarding the Burlingame ECE, Mayor Torre said, “If there’s 18,000 square feet to work with here and we were going to have to go to the master HOA, I would want to utilize more of that for housing and a smaller footprint for the ECE.”

He said he stands by that statement and is waiting to hear more from city staff about the specific costs and requirements from the Burlingame HOA before making a decision on details for the ECE and housing on the site.

Incumbent council member Skippy Mesirow also indicated a desire to hear more from the HOA before directing city staff on the ECE. He supported the continued progress toward a large child-care facility, stressing that supporting affordable housing goes hand-in-hand with supporting child care in the city. 

Second-time City Council candidate Sam Rose is supportive of the Burlingame ECE but also stressed the importance of considering affordable housing for potential staff at the center.

“It’s just about trying to find more opportunities for working with Kids First, who has a really wonderful mindset and attitude about how to fix these problems, because the money is there for financial aid for parents that need help affording childcare, but the child care is not there for them to get in the first place,” he said. “And that’s, that’s really the underlying issue. And that’s why helping to solve the affordable housing crisis will help solve the child-care crisis.”

Some Aspenites have criticized the City Council for the decision to require the Yellow Brick providers to offer five days of child care instead of just four. Incumbents Torre and Mesirow acknowledged that the situation did not play out as they had hoped.

“I don’t know what to say; it was unfortunate for sure to lose Ms. Kadi at the Yellow Brick. The more recent actions of City Council and getting some stabilizing funding to our child-care providers and educators are really stabilizing for our child care,” Torre said.

He also said that the city made sure to give providers time — two years — to adjust and plan for the change, and that the goal was to expand access to child care. A goal that was met with the new tenant at Yellow Brick, Ajax Cubs.

“One of our greatest child-care assets is the physical building of the Yellow Brick, and we were under utilizing that asset by 25%. Four days instead of five, right? So we can increase capacity by 25%,” said incumbent Mesirow, who was also on the City Council in 2021. “By filling that day, and that seemed like a logical, rational thing to do. But somewhere in the game of telephone, we lost touch with the people on the ground, and this is my observation, not others would agree, in such a way that didn’t work well.”

He added that the Yellow Brick decision was a systems failure but also a learning opportunity. 

Rose asserted that while the situation did not play out well, the end result was beneficial for families.

“The city has done a decent job. As far as what happened at the Yellow Brick, that ended up poorly on all sides. But in the end, I believe it will work out for the best of this community,” he said. “The only real criticism of that is that if there’s going to be a changeover in providers, it needs to be much more immediate, but that’s a very difficult thing to do. So that’s very idealistic.”

Guth said he would have approached the situation entirely differently.

“I would have done my best to pair (the original tenants) with someone who would like to operate the other three days a week,” he said. “And that sort of accomplishes a lot of things simultaneously. One, you don’t have to build anything new. You’re utilizing an existing resource. Two, you’re not putting somebody out that has given so much to this community over the years. And three, you’re adding all this availability, including on Saturday and Sunday.”

Sutton said she would have liked to see more community input ahead of child-care decisions.

Voters can check their registration and address through the Colorado Secretary of State’s Office. 

In-person early voting runs Feb. 21-March 6 at the City Clerk’s Office in City Hall. The polls will be open 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Friday.

Election Day is Tuesday, March 7. The polls will be open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. 

Mesirow aims high with Aspen aspirations

Aspen City Councilman Skippy Mesirow shows no sign of backing off high idealism, lofty visions, and a big taste for finding new solutions. Not even the onset of a lockdown pandemic soon after joining the council with all its hard, practical lessons could stop that.

“It was really frustrating for me,” Mesirow, 36, said. “It was really hard. We didn’t have a city manager; we had COVID. I didn’t really know what I was doing. And there’s a lot of frustration.”

The shuttered buildings in the core of Aspen and red tape on construction have specifically plagued the city during Mesirow’s first term.

“But in the last year and a half, we have really gotten a lot done for this community. But it’s just the start because in my observation, we have inherited an incredible legacy of leadership with doing the hard things,” he said. “But the architecture on which we know some of the most important things — we need affordable housing, local business, ease of congestion, healthier environment — our current architecture cannot get us there. We need new approaches.”

Currently the youngest member of the City Council, he seeks re-election as his first term ends to become part of the new beginning he envisions.

Lifelong Aspen Connection

His Aspen roots run about as long as he has been alive. His grandparents bought a house here in the 1950s, and he was on skis by 18 months old. Mesirow would visit often from his hometown of Highland Park, Illinois, and moved here in 2004.

After graduating from the University of Colorado, he returned to Chicago as an unpaid intern for the deputy director of the Obama for America presidential campaign in Illinois and four neighboring states. At 23, he was the campaign manager for Jesse White’s successful race for Illinois secretary of state in 2010.

In Illinois, four of the past 10 governors have been incarcerated for committing federal crimes during their time in office, one disillusioning fact among many in politics.

“I was in the middle of the Rod Blagojevich scandal at one point,” Mesirow said. “And all the glitter that initially drove me to get into public life fell off.”

So he left what he considered a promising political career and embarked on a nomadic lifestyle.

“I would say traveling has been my graduate school in so many ways. I have traveled to very unconventional places, such as Russia, North Korea, Vietnam, Iran, the West Bank, tribal territories in rural India, and always with the intention of studying different people, culture, and societal frameworks,” he said.

During this time, he launched two unsuccessful businesses, which he said gave him invaluable experience. His thinking began to change then, and today, a wider world perspective shows up in his campaign platform.

“The most amazing city centers across the world are all walkable,” Mesirow said. He said visiting cities has given him the intellectual flexibility to be open to new and differing systems. “That’s why I’m pushing for this government office of innovation,” among the ideas he would seek to implement early on if re-elected.

“And when I’ve seen what they have done in the city of Vancouver with vacancy tax and how it’s working, it makes me believe we can build three Lumber Yards without investing a single dollar if we use a similar tax structure,” he said.

Mesirow was a co-founder, two term chair, and member of the Aspen Next Generation Advisory Commission from 2013 until last fall, according to his LinkedIn site.

“As I was back here and working in a variety of different ways, I just sort of got dragged back in unexpectedly; someone asked me to go to a city meeting about getting young people involved in politics.” he said. “It was a white-boarding session that turned into the Next Gen Advisory Commission. And we worked on a variety of issues bringing meaningful change in affordable housing and promoting childcare and voter participation.”

One of their projects was passing an election-ballot initiative in 2018 to change the municipal elections from May to March.

“That resulted in the highest number of voter turnout for Aspen (in 2019), an increase of 26%, which was really important to us,” he said. “I just had a variety of experiences that kind of re-ignited my recognition that at the local level, we can really make change.”

The infamous Lift One proposal was on the ballot, as well, in March 2019, and Aspen’s turnout soared to nearly 60%. By the 2021 municipal election, however, turnout had returned to the longstanding trend of around 40%.

In 2021, Mesirow founded the Elected Leaders Collective, a company bringing tools and a community of mental health and well-being to mission-driven, public-sector workers. A life mission is to heal politics, he said.

There’s also his other investment, his full income-bearing job.

“I run a vacation rental company called SkyRun. We just help second-home owners use their homes when they’re not using them,” he said.

Looking Ahead

“We have incredible staff and expertise to call on,” Mesirow said. “The question is, can we be tied to revenue reverential of and connected to the through line to the original Elizabeth Paepcke vision of Aspen? And can we be broadminded and curious enough to seek out new solutions to try to achieve old ends to meet a new moment?”

He said serving a term on the council is the most applicable resume for the position.

“Certainly nothing else can really prepare you,” he said. “I have been intimately involved in policy, politics, and campaigning, and this community my entire life.”

Experience matters, then, but he remains fixed on big, new ideas.

“I am putting out bold policy proposals to move us out of the architecture of the 1980s and in some cases, 1780s, so that we can solve problems for the next generation and things that this council either doesn’t agree with or hasn’t considered. I’m actually putting out new ideas,” he said.

He said he has a record of being for the community first in outlook, even when that may go against personal or professional self interests.

“I demonstrated a willingness to act independently for the broad community benefit. And I’ve done that many times,” he said, “in many ways. So I think I have that proven track record.”

Mesirow lives with his partner Jamie Butemeyer in Aspen. He is out in the city door knocking on weekends and plans a variety of community events and fundraisers. Visit skippyforaspen.com for more information.

Frisch announces 2024 challenge against Rep. Boebert

Aspenite Democrat Adam Frisch will challenge U.S. Rep. Lauren Boebert, R-Silt, for Colorado’s 3rd Congressional District seat again in 2024, following the nation’s closest congressional election in the 2022 midterms. 

He announced his intent to run again on Tuesday morning via an online statement. 

“November’s election results show us that Boebert is weak and will be defeated, which is why I have decided to launch my 2024 congressional campaign. Despite her near-loss in a district that favored Republicans by 9 points, Boebert has only doubled down on her divisive antics, attention-seeking, and angertainment that does nothing to benefit the people of Southern and Western Colorado,” Frisch said. “When elected, I will join the bipartisan Problem Solvers Caucus to find solutions and deliver results for the families, businesses, and communities in this district.”

Gunnison County veterinarian Debby Burnett also announced her intent to run for the congressional seat in 2024 earlier this month. She also ran in 2022 but fell short of appearing on the final ballot after failing to win enough votes in the primary. 

The new term only began just over a month ago, Jan. 7. With the early announcements of campaigns came an early start to the campaign rhetoric.

National Republican Congressional Committee regional spokesperson Delanie Bomar shared a statement with The Times via email: “For years Democrats like Aspen Adam Frisch have attacked Colorado’s oil and gas industry. Frisch’s far-left campaign is dead on arrival.”

Multiple pollsters designated the 27-county district safely in Republican control ahead of the 2022 midterms, but the race ended up the closest of the midterm elections nationwide. 

Boebert edged out a victory over the former Aspen City Council member, winning by just 546 votes out of a total of 327,285 votes cast. Colorado law mandated an automatic recount due to the closeness of the election, which was completed Dec. 12.

Frisch had already conceded the election to Boebert before the final recount.

When Boebert was elected in 2020, she beat Democrat Diane Mitsch Bush of Routt County with 51.4% of the vote to Mitsch Bush’s 45.2%.

A Democrat has not held the 3rd Congressional District House seat since the election of John Salazar in 2008.

Boebert’s firebrand conservatism attracted critics and diehard supporters in her district and across the country. She supported a nationwide abortion ban and openly suggested there shouldn’t be a separation of church and state, the Glenwood Springs Post Independent reported.

Frisch ran as a moderate Democrat friendly to energy and small business. He also said during his campaign that he would prioritize consensus building and working across the aisle to find compromises. 

He will hold an in-person launch event in Pueblo on Wednesday at 10 a.m. at the Pueblo Union Depot.

The kid aims for council again — wiser, he believes

Sam Rose, now 29, is making his second attempt to become the youngest ever on the Aspen City Council.

He said he’s confident the city is ready for the voice of a younger and newer-to-Aspen generation after coming in fourth place in 2021.

Since then, he has been hard at his homework, including graduating from Aspen 360, a city-hosted program that introduces residents to the workings of city government over six weeks — everything from how a building plan goes through the approval process, to how are streets prioritized for plowing after it snows, to where tax dollars go.

His ongoing education has been more formal, as well. In December 2022, he graduated with a Master’s in Finance and Risk Management from the University of Colorado.

“I think this is a big factor that sets me apart from other candidates. I think the master’s is huge. Finance is such a big part of every issue. There is a financial component to everything,” said Rose.

“Especially in the entrepreneurial town of Aspen, the master’s helped enhance my accuracy and comprehension of budgets and accounting, really highlighting what it takes to run a business. While the city is a public entity and different than private business, I still feel I am much better prepared to contribute in a meaningful way. I understand a spreadsheet.”

His dad served on his hometown city council for St. Albans, Vermont, for 20 years.

“I now see the impressiveness of his career, the longevity, and the commitment to our community. That is a huge part of why I ran in 2021 and am trying again in 2023,” said Rose.

He has lived in Aspen for five years, more than a decade less than the other two candidates. For comparison, sitting City Council members John Doyle and Ward Hauenstein have each lived in Aspen for 40-plus years.

Over the past five years, Rose has been a member of the city Planning and Zoning Commission and the 9th Judicial District of Colorado Performance Commission. He has also volunteered as a response hotline advocate for survivors of sexual assault and domestic violence.

And he is an Aspen volunteer firefighter and EMT.

“Currently, I work for Pitkin County Public Health doing data management work. I was part of the COVID-relief effort, and now I manage the COVID-data dashboard and do other miscellaneous tasks related to supporting public health,” said Rose. “My contract ends at the end of June, and I will look to stay with the county in a different capacity or make a career change.”

Middle of the road

He will point out that his true defining characteristic between the other candidates is his middle-of-the-road viewpoint.

“I represent the people, the typical demographic of Aspen, those who vote,” he said. “This distinguishes me from Skippy and Bill. I’m fighting for others that don’t look like me. It doesn’t matter what background; I use empathy and communication and put it all together to form a conclusion that is best from everyone.

“Mesirow pushes for bold, progressive policies, and Guth, who did not see eye-to-eye with the current council on issues like the residential building moratorium and short-term rental tax, was on the opposite end of the spectrum,” Rose said.

While he said he appreciates Mesirow’s dream-big mentality and the strides the current council has taken, he believes Aspen can do better.

“I am not a developer, and I am not proposing anything that seems unrealistic at this time, nor do I have certain antics that some people do not like. I am pro-common sense and taking a pragmatic approach to making sure the policy we push forward is local and friendly — whether that be housing, permitting, or something else,” Rose said.

“I see myself as the middle between the two other candidates with two votes to be cast by each voter. I believe that with who I am, the perseverance I have had, and the strides I have taken for this moment that I should hopefully be an easy candidate to vote for.”

All three candidates for the council this race are white males, not the most diverse group. However, Rose said, “I believe I’m a true representative. I don’t think in terms of being color-blind or gender-blind or that sort of thing. It’s what I’m advocating for, the community as a whole.”

He said he does response work for victims of sexual assault and domestic violence.

“It could be a man, but I’ve only spoken to women through that. And I’ve helped many women through that, in their times of like greatest need,” he said. “Something like that does not affect me personally. I’ve never been a victim of sexual assault and domestic violence. I use this as an example of something that I tried to do just for the greater good of the community rather than for myself.”

His tenure during the COVID-relief effort expanded his knowledge and appreciation for all demographics of the real Aspen community, he said.

“At the fire department, I helped anyone there, no matter what their background was,” he said. “A lot of times, it was from the Hispanic community. They had more questions than others. I tried to go the extra mile to help them. I’m here to help.”

Curious where you can find and engage with Rose? He’s an active member of Aspen Rec’s B league hockey. He also reaches out as he did through January.

“I’ve been talking to anyone who will speak with me,” he said. “I have been out and about door knocking last week and this week. The cliché is it takes a community to raise a child, and I know this community. I meet real community members while door knocking and through all the things I do in the community. I encourage them to reach out to me if I miss them while door knocking or if they have any questions, comments, or concerns.”

His methods also lead to a new network, he said.

“It all leads to concentric circles of support, where someone I know introduces me to someone they know, and through that, I have gotten to know and gain the support of a diverse and robust group in this community.”