Adam Frisch a fresh face on Aspen City Council
June 13, 2011
ASPEN – A fresh face will join the Aspen City Council Monday.
Adam Frisch, a relative newcomer to the city’s political scene, will be sworn in at the council’s regular meeting, which starts at 5 p.m. Mayor Mick Ireland and Councilman Steve Skadron, re-elected in the same May 3 election in which Frisch was a candidate, also will be sworn in: Ireland to a third term, Skadron to a second term.
The second time was the charm for Frisch, 43, who unsuccessfully ran for council in 2009. Though the upcoming four-year term will mark his first hold on elected office, the former New York currency trader has been active in government affairs since moving to Aspen in 2003.
He has served on Pitkin County’s financial advisory board since 2004; since 2009, he has worked with Housing Frontiers Group, another advisory board that is examining financial problems faced by homeowner associations within the local affordable-housing program.
Frisch is expected to hit the ground running. He is well-versed on local issues and has attended most of the city’s public meetings since the beginning of the year. Essentially, he will assume the seat vacated by Dwayne Romero, who resigned in February to take a job in Gov. John Hickenlooper’s cabinet.
“Having that month between the election and actually taking office has been helpful, just to get a better lay of the land and a further appreciation for all of the work that gets done in City Hall,” he said.
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“I think my popularity will peak right before I get sworn in, and then I’ll start voting on things and that will change,” he joked.
Frisch said he doesn’t expect the pace of major development applications to pick up this year, which will allow the council to concentrate on other business, such as the adoption of the 2011 Aspen Area Community Plan, a document to guide future city and county decisions that has been undergoing an extensive revision for more than two years.
He said people inside and outside of City Hall are seeking “consistency and clarity” from councilmembers, and he hopes to deliver. He said the Adam Frisch who ran for office will be the same person while serving on the council, “without a lot of surprises.”
“I definitely have a style of building consensus and reaching out to people and making sure the questions are sincere and the answers are thoughtful,” Frisch said. “It’s a serious job. There’s an $85 million budget and a lot of decisions get made that affect the community for the long haul.”
He said he’s used to working with diverse groups of people, having conducted business in over 30 countries. Prior to moving to Aspen, much of his career was focused on global financial markets, experience that will serve him well in elected office, he said.
“I think it’s a bit of a fallacy to say governments need to run more like businesses,” Frisch said. “I don’t believe in that kind of shop talk. There are things both sides can learn from each other. What I’ve taken away from working in bureaucratic organizations, whether they were in the private or public sector, is that it’s important to remain open-minded and respect other ideas.”
He said he will be a balanced voice on the council, working to protect Aspen’s small-town character as well as the job base. He reiterated a campaign message that there are ways to grow the local economy without resorting to methods that will encourage another building boom.
He said he doesn’t think the community is as polarized as some people contend, noting that voters overwhelmingly elected him and reelected Skadron from a field of six candidates, despite perceptions that they have vastly different political philosophies.
“I’d love to be known more for having a civil dialogue with other community leaders than anything else, and trying to get to the bottom of what the issues are,” Frisch said. “I think it’s going to be interesting to see if we can bring people together to work out some things.”
Frisch and the council’s first major issue of the new term will come up at Monday’s meeting. A public hearing will be held on developer Steve Stunda’s plans for an affordable-housing project at the site of the former Boomerang Lodge. Many neighbors of the West Hopkins Avenue property have been vocal in their criticism of the proposal, saying it doesn’t plan for enough parking spaces and that the three-story building is monolithic and should be broken up into smaller pieces.
Stunda has said that the 45-unit building is sorely needed to help keep Aspen workers in the city. He already has received council approval to build a lodge on the site, in a larger building than currently proposed. He and his Virginia-based development group switched gears and planned an employee-housing project because of economic circumstances.