Aspen mayoral candidate Tracy Sutton felt she had to step up
When Tracy Sutton learned in December that Aspen incumbent Mayor Torre might run unopposed, she saw it as an opportunity to step up for her community.
This campaign is her first run for public office, and she feels confident she is the right Aspenite to hold the title of mayor.
Since submitting her nominating petition last year, she made sure to attend as many city council meetings and work sessions as possible. A copy of the latest city budget sat on her desk, sticky notes protruding from its pages.
“I think if you have good ideas and you’ve got good experience, which I feel that I do, then you can work with the community,” she said. “If they don’t like your ideas, well fine. I’m not going to rubber stamp them, you know, let’s work around it. We’ve got to find a way to bring those people together and come up with effective solutions.”
An Aspen-transplant but Colorado native, Sutton was born in Rifle and grew up in Fruita. After years on the front range and in Denver holding jobs in construction, oil, and work starting up Copper Mountain, she felt pulled back to the Western Slope.
She worked from home as a consultant and supplemented her income with other gigs, well before the pandemic normalized the work-from-home option, and moved her way up-valley from Glenwood Springs and finally to Aspen. Around 1989, she got her real-estate license.
Sutton started Aspen Signature Vacation Rentals in 2004, a luxury vacation rental business, and works as a broker with Berkshire Hathaway Signature Properties. Though, she said, most of her business comes from short-term rentals.
“I love working with people. I love introducing them to Aspen, my Aspen,” she said.
But after 33 years of living in Aspen, city council actions — particularly the moratorium on residential development and short-term rental permits — drove Sutton to get involved in city politics and governance.
She said that she and colleagues in the local real-estate market felt unrepresented in the process, and she hopes to diversify opinions on city council.
“In some of the things that I saw during those zoom meetings and in person, I just didn’t think that the general community was being listened to,” she said. “And so that was my final decision to run.”
Sutton insists that she does not want to be pigeonholed as an “STR or moratorium-only” candidate. The Entrance to Aspen, employee housing, and climate concerns also top her list as priorities for the mayor’s office.
Parking and traffic are also important to her, as she gets a front row seat to the problem every day. Her office sits at the corner of Main Street and Mill Street, across from Hotel Jerome. In perfect view from her window, she watches the infamous Aspen rush hour traffic crawls out of town.
Stuck in traffic once, she said it took her over 40 minutes to get from her office to Aspen High School to watch one of her niece’s basketball games.
“I’ve lived all of that. I’ve commuted from down valley, I’ve looked for employee housing, I’ve had to work two jobs,” she said. “I know both sides of that fence. And I’m a business person. I can read a budget, I can write a contract, I do things to get things done.”
Like the majority of past mayors and city council members, Sutton will continue in her job outside of city hall. Aspen City Council passed a pay raise in 2020 for the mayor and council members, meaning that the new mayoral salary starting next term is $3,325 monthly.
Sutton said she would utilize that money to help her stay on top of both positions.
“That money will probably go to an assistant to help me get both things done,” she said. “I plan on spending as much time as I need to because I think that Aspen is a priority to me, and I’m thankful that I am in a spot in my life where I can do both.”
She identifies as a workaholic who truly enjoys spending her time at work. But in her free time, Sutton enjoys spending time with her family, many of whom live closeby, hiking and reading. Her favorite Aspen events are Wintersköl, Jazz Aspen Snowmass, and seeing the latest from the Aspen Historical Society.
Locals often lament over the changes the town has seen over the past decades and even the past few years. She empathizes, but she said that watching Aspen change over her decades here has only solidified her view that Aspen survives because of its identity as a destination for the rich, famous, and recreation-inclined.
“You’re never going to take the resort element out of it. And if you do, then you’re going to lose your local population. Where would (Aspen) be if we didn’t have people like me that are renting houses, people that are bartending, people that are waiting tables, the housekeepers, everybody else. It’s just part of it.”
Beating an incumbent is never easy, especially in a town as small as Aspen. Still, Sutton expressed optimism that her business experience and fresh perspective will resonate with voters who desire change at City Hall.
“I think that people are ready for change and ready for somebody fresh,” she said. “They need a new voice, and they need somebody who’s gonna listen to them and speak up for them. And I do think there’s a good chance I’ll win.”
The municipal election will take place on March 7. Aspen voters can confirm their registration through the Colorado Secretary of State website.
Ballots will be mailed out to active registered voters on Feb. 14, and early voting will begin in the city clerk’s office on Feb. 21. Ballots can either be mailed or dropped off at the dropbox located in front of City Hall.
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