Aspen City Council candidates in their words: Eight running for two open seats propose how they can improve citizens’ lives

Eight candidates running for two open seats on Aspen City Council talk about how they can improve citizens’ lives

Collage of the Aspen City Council candidates 2021. Top row from left: Sam Rose, Erin Smiddy, Casey Endsley, John Doyle; second row from left: Ward Hauenstein, Jimbo Stockton, Mark Reece, Kimbo Brown-Schirato.

Editor’s note: The Aspen Times has posed five questions to each of the eight Aspen City Council candidates running for two open seats in the March 2 election. We will run answers (200-word limit) to one question each day this week, beginning Monday with some background and the first question: What can you do as an Aspen City Council member to improve the average citizen’s quality of life?

Casey Endsley

Age: 41

Years lived in Aspen: eight; 15 in the valley

Short bio: Small business owner for nine years, Army Combat Veteran for seven years, youth hockey coach for eight years and mentor for The Mayfly Project for three years.

Why are you running for office?: I am looking to bring common sense solutions that keep us all prospering. I intend to be a voice for small local businesses and see our youth thrive in this community.

What can you do as an Aspen City Council member to improve the average citizen’s quality of life?

I think the people in this community want a voice. From the recent shutdowns, housing, traffic, mental health, even the bus schedule. They deserve that and that is my intention, to be a voice of common sense for the working people in town.

Ward Hauenstein

Age: 69

Years lived in Aspen: 44 years

Short bio: Ward was born in Minneapolis, where he attended the University of Minnesota studying political science and history. He started an IT business in 1985. He has been married for 40 years and has two adult daughters and one granddaughter. He loves outdoor activities including bicycling and all forms of skiing.

Why are you running for office?: I want to complete the work the council has been working on and see us out of COVID-19. I love Aspen.

What can you do as an Aspen City Council member to improve the average citizen’s quality of life?

One person on the council cannot accomplish anything. It takes a majority to move issues forward. What one person can do is work well with the rest of the council and collaborate to find solutions.

One thing that would improve the average citizen is the availability of affordable health care. I believe a valley-wide task force should be established to explore every possible method of making health care assessable to all. Summit County has a model to guide us. The Valley Health Alliance is another resource. The AHA enrollment has been opened for three months. Everyone should be aware of this opportunity.

Income inequality contributes to the disparity of health care, education, housing, and a myriad of other ills. It may be time to advance the discussion of the feasibility of a minimum livable wage for Aspen.

Dedicating energies toward providing work force housing benefits the entire community. Employers are provided a more stable work force. Employees become part of the community. Schools have teachers.

Decreasing the traffic in town would be a huge improvement. Efforts must be continued to mitigate traffic. The efforts of the Aspen Institute Forum on mobility that I served on informs these efforts.

Mark Reece

Age: 50

Years in lived in Aspen: 12

Short bio: Mark was born in Schenectady, New York, to family who immigrated to America in 1965. He attended primary school in Erie, Pennsylvania and Wilton, Connecticut. He graduated from Penn State University with degrees in history and business administration. He moved to Aspen in 2009, built Snowmass Bowling Alley in 2013, is a member at Aspen Yacht Club, Fraternal order of Eagles, and is a member and holds a seat on the Veterans Committee at The Benevolent and Protective order of Elks Aspen.

Why are you running for office?: The original gripe that made me insincerely say I was running for council was back in 2012. The land use for the Bad Billy’s-Cooper Street was changed in return for a promised affordable restaurant space by the developer. It never happened and will definitely be a topic of conversation should I get elected.

In reality, I actually began to take a city government position seriously when I had my daughter four and a half years ago. I knew I had to wait a few years so I could fully dedicate myself to the job. Now I have four more years of local knowledge and experience under my belt and the drive to make Aspen the place we want for all of our sons and daughters.

What can you do as an Aspen City Council member to improve the average citizen’s quality of life?

I can improve the average citizen’s quality of life by starting with realistic goals prior to being elected. Climate change, APCHA, parking, traffic, development, child care, mental health, etc.

How many people have we elected who have made their campaign platform a promise to fix these things? What I can do as a successful business owner and problem-solver who loves this town is to accept that there are enormous hurdles facing the city and even more so to a newly elected council member.

I will take the time to learn as a newly elected official, audit the problems within our city, identify the speed bumps and bottlenecks, and then help devise a permanent fix. Understanding the dynamics of actually getting things accomplished is what will really allow me to help make things better for all of us.

Sam Rose

Age: 27

Years lived in Aspen: Since 2019

Short bio: Born and raised in Saint Albans, Vermont. Wen to college at the University of Denver and has BA in geography/sustainability and business. After college he worked in cartography and satellite imagery and then traveled to 72 countries while also doing different volunteer work in Norway, Israel, New Zealand and Argentina. Since 2019 he has been a volunteer firefighter, Response advocate, and lead case investigator of COVID-19 for Pitkin County.

Why are you running for office?: I decided to run because I believe in the power of local government to fix the problems right in front of us. I believe, in a perfect world, that local government should matter more to our daily lives than the federal government. I truly believe that I have the skill set, humbleness, humility, determination, listening ability, and critical-thinking skills to make a positive impact on the Aspen community.

What can you do as an Aspen City Council member to improve the average citizen’s quality of life?

As an individual council member and citizen, there is only so much we can do alone. However, we can work hard in elevating civil discourse and restoring public trust. To improve the average citizen’s quality of life, we can make decisions that keep businesses open and thriving, thus improving everyone’s economics.

We can subsidize and add universal child care helping the working families of Aspen. We can improve transportation and parking, allowing us to spend less time in traffic and more time being productive or with our family.

We can look into helping with health care expenses like they do in Summit County. We can fix the problems in front of us like when a road is not plowed properly or if there is a pothole that needs fixing.

Many of the problems from City Council should be “boring” but I vow you can reach out to me to tell me the problems facing you and I will do everything I can to help solve that problem in an efficient and logical manner. I am a problem-solver who thinks outside the box and have shown through my actions that I will fight to help the average citizen in any way I can.

Kimbo Brown-Schirato

Age: 38

Years lived in Aspen: 16

Short bio: I am a full-time working mom of a young child and I run a small business, Aspen Custom Vans, with my husband. Originally from South Africa, I came for a ski season, met my husband, and effectively never left. I’ve lived in Snowmass, Carbondale and won APCHA housing in 2016.

Why are you running for office?: I love this town and valley. We live in a special place where you can meet someone for the first time and within 10 minutes they feel like good friends.

You can run into people from all walks of life and generations within a few blocks, and have meaningful, different conversations with each of them.

Where when one of us falls down, we all rally around and support each other in whatever way we know how. This is the definition of community and is why my family and I continue to live here. But this balance is hanging by a thread. We moved to Aspen after living in Carbondale for 10 years, but most people make the opposite move. I’m running for council because I want our town to be the best place for people to visit, and what makes that possible is that locals and part-time residents continue to live here and thrive.

I want us to be lead in creating an environment that ensures our mountain resort community fosters equity and stability. I want our leaders to have a shared vision with the community about what Aspen looks like in 20 years, and then do the work to get us there.

What can you do as an Aspen City Council member to improve the average citizen’s quality of life?

The great thing about Aspen is there is no average citizen — people of all ages and incomes and life stages — so governance requires listening to groups representing this mosaic. By listening, we may find the keys for each group — housing for more of our work force, child care for those building families, and ways for part-time residents who have moved here to contribute their experience and talents.

We need to realize that polarization is less helpful than making sure each group has what they absolutely need, executed within the context of what we share and need in common.

If successful in my long-term goals, more of our work force may be able to live closer to their work place, strengthening community bonds.

More families of infants will have a chance at a child care spot in a quality program. More working families may realize financial relief from looking at universal child care.

Small businesses may feel more heard and supported, and in turn their team members may have better quality of life and security.

Everyone, be they locals or visitors, would benefit from courageous leadership and moving our community toward the culture of possibility.

John Doyle

Age: 60

Years lived here: 41

Short bio: I was born in Denver. My family moved to Aspen in 1980. I studied art and architecture at the University of Idaho. I’ve worked in restaurants, built skis, driven snowcats. I’ve been a sculptor for over 30 years. My daughter Sylvan attends Aspen Middle School. I am passionate about skiing.

Why are you running for office?: The reason we all moved here is because of Aspen’s small-town character. I’d like to preserve that Aspen for our children and us.

What can you do as an Aspen City Council member to improve the average citizen’s quality of life?

Our present high quality of life can be preserved and enhanced by supporting local-serving businesses, especially at the SCI zoned area near Clark’s Market, by creating in-town housing in the same SCI zone and possibly at the city-owned recycle center property.

We should explore a newer pay for parking system that would allow locals to sign up for Epay the way toll road users do on E470 and in California. An incentive to use Epay could be 30 minutes of free parking.

We must protect our residential neighborhoods from being converted into virtual hotel districts with unlimited vacation rentals and parking for downtown visitors.

We should also expand day care opportunities, as we have learned during the pandemic that our working families need help in participating in the work force during school closures and public health shut downs.

Jimbo Stockton

Age: 54

Years lived in Aspen: 23

Short bio: Ski instructor at Aspen Highlands in the winter. In the summers, I’ve worked in hospitality, transportation, and landscaping. I’ve also been a school bus driver and river guide.

Why are you running for office?: I’ve been thinking about serving the community in this way for several years. Right now, our community needs exceptional and decisive leadership more than ever. We need someone who will represent the interests of full-time residents and make sure Aspen is affordable.

What can you do as an Aspen City Council member to improve the average citizen’s quality of life?

What is average? Everyone in our community is special in their own way. First, we must mitigate the damage the pandemic has done to our community, especially when it comes to our mental health.

City Council must keep Aspen affordable and fun for everyone. Relationships and friendships are extremely important in Aspen. It’s easier to maintain the quality and depth of relationships when Aspen is affordable, and fun! To make the most of living here, it’s important that people can afford to live, well, here.

Erin Smiddy

Age: 45

Years lived in Aspen: 40

Short bio: I grew up in Aspen with a working-class mom, who raised myself and three brothers here. I’ve been a volunteer firefighter with Aspen Fire for 15 years now. I’m extremely dedicated to this town and protecting the character and future, as it is my hometown and I love it.

Why are you running for office?: I wanted to run for council as a way of giving back to this community that has given so much to me. I’ve seen so many changes over the years that have been detrimental to our future and I want to do what I can to slow that down and try to preserve what’s left of our vitality and character.

What can you do as an Aspen City Council member to improve the average citizen’s quality of life?

As a member of City Council I will bring a level of compassion and devotion that exemplifies my love of this town and its people. I am a very honest and transparent person who has the ability to listen to all sides before making an informed and sensible decision that benefits our town.

I’ve worked here since I was 11 years old and I am fortunate enough to live in and own APCHA housing. I understand how hard it is. I want to get back to a time where the working locals and their needs are priority number one.

We have lost so much of our wonderful community because it has become so difficult to reasonably make a living here. As a volunteer firefighter and a former board member with APCHA, I have tried to always show appreciation for how lucky I am to be a part of this amazing place we call home.

City Council feels like the right next step to continue to protect Aspen as best I can.


COMING TUESDAY: Is there something you would change to the local COVID-19 public health order?