Alyssa Shenk to join Snowmass council

Jill Beathard
The Aspen Times

In a single, unanimous vote Monday, the Snowmass Village Town Council elected Alyssa Shenk to be its newest member.

Shenk was one of eight applicants who interviewed for a council seat vacated by Markey Butler, who was elected mayor in November. After conducting the candidate interviews Dec. 1 and garnering input from residents over the past week, the sitting council members decided last night that Shenk was the right person for the job.

“There were a lot of qualified applicants,” Shenk said. “I feel very honored.”

Before going to a vote, the council members — led by Butler — discussed what they each thought was important under three categories: institutional knowledge, demographics and skills.

“From where I sit, the thing that really put Alyssa over the top for me is that this town is about families. … I think having that voice sit at this table is invaluable.”
Bill Madsen

In the first, the council took up the debate of whether political experience was important.

“Part of what I took away from our election was that the community was looking for, No. 1, more congeniality amongst the council, … and that seemed to transpire into new personalities, new people,” said Councilman Bob Sirkus, who was elected in November.

Councilman Bill Madsen, also newly elected, said experience was important but that former public servants could influence the town in other ways.

“I hope those people who have been involved in the past continue to do so and lend us that knowledge,” Madsen said.

As far as demographics, the officials expressed an interest in diversifying the board as well as connecting to younger residents. Shenk was the youngest of the candidates and the only female applicant who went through the interview process.

“During the week, probably the most poignant comment that someone said to me was, ‘It’s very difficult to get people under 40 involved in politics,’” Sirkus said. “We have an applicant who fits that perspective, and we should seriously consider how significant an advantage that is for our town and our council.”

As for skill sets, the elected officials noted that it would be useful to have someone with a background in law on the board. Three of the candidates fit that description — Shenk, Jamie Knowlton and Arnie Mordkin — and they were the three that the council nominated as finalists for the vacant seat.

Town Attorney John Dresser gave the four sitting members ballots to write their top choice on, letting them know that it might take a few rounds to reach a consensus. However, they each wrote down Shenk’s name in the first vote.

“I thought that was great, especially because I know they’ve been trying to work on cohesiveness … and working together as a group,” Shenk said.

Shenk has worked in political campaigns since graduating college, she said, including some locally. She hasn’t practiced as an attorney since moving to the valley 10 years ago, but she has been active on many boards over the years, including as president of the Aspen Elementary School Parent Teacher Organization since 2012.

After her 17-month-old son Max died in his sleep in January 2013, she also has been highly involved in rallying support for a bill that would establish national protocols for the investigation of sudden infant deaths and stillbirths. The bill recently passed muster with the U.S. Congress and is awaiting President Barack Obama’s signature, she said.

“After Max died, I kind of let some things go,” she said. “I had to narrow it down.”

She said she’s looking forward to Town Council being one of those priorities.

Shenk also has two older children — Sophie, 9, and Eli, 6 — with her husband, Ben Genshaft.

“From where I sit, the thing that really put Alyssa over the top for me is that this town is about families,” Madsen said after the vote. “I think having that voice sit at this table is invaluable.”

Shenk will be sworn in at the council’s next meeting Monday.