Aspen mayoral candidates tell their story; why they’re best
The Aspen Times has asked candidates for Aspen mayor to answer five questions about who they are and what their positions are on various issues facing the community.
We will publish one question and their answers from the candidates each day this week, today through Friday. Last week, The Aspen Times published answers to the same questions to candidates for Aspen City Council.
Today is the first question getting to know the candidates and why they are the best fit for elected office.
Question 1: Tell us your Aspen story: how you got here and why you stayed; age, occupation and government experience; a dead person you’d like to have dinner with and why, and what makes you the best fit for mayor?
My first Aspen visit was in 1977. Growing up ski racing in Minnesota, I still remember my feeling of awe at any ski run longer than 25 seconds. Attending CU-Boulder to focus on ski racing allowed more time in Aspen. I am 51.
After 11 years of living in New York, I loaded up my car for a winter sabbatical. In January of 2002, I met Katy in Vail. A year later, after getting engaged on a backcountry ski trip in Chamonix, I suggested to Katy we should move to Aspen; a better place to build community. I am continually awed by the depth and variety of the community, and the opportunity to raise my family here.
My grandfather on my dad’s side would be my choice for a dinner companion who is no longer with us. He passed away when I was 5. He fled Europe to a small mining town in northern Minnesota. I wish I had the chance to hear his story directly from him to have a deeper understanding of my family roots.
I think the most critical question facing Aspen is “how does Aspen remain authentic in a less authentic world.” I believe the core of our community’s enthusiasm and angst comes from this seminal question.
I believe Aspen’s mayor needs to lead this discussion and must have their pulse on the true diversity of this community. Too often leadership has looked at the community through a narrow, personal prism. It’s been a generation since we had a mayor with young kids. The diversity of my experiences prepares me to listen and to lead.
My experiences, along with a proven track record of delivering community goals such as a thoughtful and balanced downzoning, improvements in our affordable-housing program and introducing the tobacco tax makes me the best fit for the community to be our next mayor.
My parents moved the family of five to Colorado in 1998. I was 11. There aren’t a whole lot of choices at the age, but I chose pretty quickly where I would try to spend the course of my life. I am 32, now spending 20 years in the Roaring Fork Valley, and the reasons I have are endless and continue to grow.
I would say the No. 1 is because Aspen has always allowed me to dream. I am a staff accountant at The Little Nell; however, I have worked many jobs around this town, finding available options almost anywhere I looked. Busser, waiter, retail, rental shops, driving for a fishing-shuttle service, at the hospital as a glorified stocker, also currently a part-time member of the glorified overnight stocking team at City Market.
I have worked all over this city, this valley, because this is my home and it has always provided for me. I have no government experience, other than the understanding that it was “We the People” who created this nation we stand on, and “We the People” who run it. Alongside my dreams and hopes, I want to represent this city as its mayor.
I know this city because this city very much created me. I want to continue to see this city shape into a city with not just ideas but with actions; actions and examples, guiding toward a sustainable future on this planet.
If I were given the opportunity to raise the dead for dinner, I believe it would be in my best interest and the world at large to dine with Nikola Tesla.
The remarkable inventor was a man who saw the world much differently than others of his time. I would be excited to see his understanding of where we made it scientifically and what more ideas he may bring to mankind. If he had lived a little longer, the possibility of our world being shaped quite differently than it is today may have existed. I would love to speak upon the dreams he had surrounding science.
I came to Aspen in August of 1971. I graduated in mathematics from Wells College, a small college in upstate New York. At that time, even with the Woman’s Lib movement gaining traction, the only jobs available were secretarial positions or working in a cubicle maze. Not for me, and on the advice of a good friend who had graduated from Wells a year earlier, I joined her in Aspen to ski, or more accurately to learn to ski.
I stayed for four years and then went back to school and attained a master’s in landscape architecture.
For the past 40 years — I am now 70 — my career has been landscape architecture/urban design, co-founding a firm in Denver that would become one of the largest in Colorado.
In a career of connecting people, cities and environment, we worked closely with municipal governments throughout Colorado and the U.S.
My government experience has been in Aspen. Seven-and-a-half years on the Historic Preservation Commission and elected for two terms on City Council.
I would like to have dinner with my grandfather. He was a self-made man from a farm in Arkansas who built his own successful company and was mayor of Booneville, Indiana, for several terms. The stories he could tell.
I have a long history, wide-ranging knowledge and deep love of Aspen. I saw Aspen in the ’70s as a ski bum, spent the ’80s and early ’90s experiencing Aspen as a mother with young children and then moved back permanently in the early 2000s.
During the recent recession, I worked as a ticket seller at Buttermilk, ski instructor and started my own firm again.
My leadership style is even, balanced, respectful but assertive. Honesty, integrity and transparency are what Aspen needs now. That is how I led my business and how I will lead the city.
Before I called Aspen home, I enjoyed visiting a few times with college friends for ski vacations. In the summer of 1993, I stopped in Aspen for a few days on a summer cross-country road trip. On this visit, I fell in love with Aspen. I was supposed to stay for three days. Instead, I left the following day to drive back to San Francisco, pack my things and move to Aspen.
I landed in Snowmass Village because of the open door of my great friend, Shane. I have lived in Basalt and Woody Creek, as well. Everywhere I went, I met the most wonderful, friendly, honest and caring people who created a real community.
I moved to Aspen and have called the area home for the past 25 years because of the people, its natural beauty, the abundance of art and culture, the sense of community and the local respect for a cooperative ambition.
I am 49 years old, and have lived in Aspen for over half of my life — longer than I have lived anywhere else. It is my home.
I have enjoyed many different jobs in Aspen. I have been a race crew employee, a snowboard instructor, a hotel concierge, every restaurant position imaginable, a live sound engineer, an event promoter and a few more. All the while, I have been and still am a tennis professional.
I am a two-term Aspen City Councilman, serving from 2003 to 2007 and 2009 to 2013. I have served as mayor pro tem under two mayors, served on the Northwest Colorado Council of Governments, the Red Brick board, acted as a RFTA representative, been a member of the Ruedi Water and Power Authority board, as well as numerous task forces and committees.
A person, no longer living, that I would like to have dinner with is John Lennon. I would imagine (pun) that dinner with him would have conversation about a range of social, global, political and environmental aspirations. And, I can picture an amazing after-dinner jam session.
I am the best candidate for a few reasons. First, I have eight years of experience sitting on City Council where I learned that I can make a difference like promoting housing goals by approving Burlingame; environmental progress by requiring recycling and banning the bag; and growth limitations through land-use codes.
Second, the past six years observing this council and its aftermath gives me a knowledge and insight into what needs to be fixed. For example, my opponents do not seem to know a better way to set up a successful City Hall.
Third, I am prepared to lead City Hall in a different direction and manner. We cannot keep following the same course or we will get the same results. Also, I have the strength to fight for core Aspen values, such as affordable housing without caving to developers requests, business pressure or election favors. Lastly, I have a vision and a clear understanding how we get to a better housing program, real environmentalism, family services, local business and community building. The mayor’s term is two years. I am asking for your vote and I give you my promise to succeed in those two years.
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First-term Aspen Mayor Torre sailed to re-election victory Tuesday with a sound disposal of his sole opponent, Lee Mulcahy, by a 2,039-177 margin, according to unofficial results from the City Clerk’s Office.