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Basalt changes the guard

Basalt residents were able to observe the consequences last night of their decision to stick with term limits on the town’s elected officials.

Two highly popular members of the Town Council were forced to step down after serving at least two terms. Mayor Rick Stevens was forced out of office after serving since 1994. Councilwoman Jacque Whitsitt was forced out of her position after eight years.

New members of the council were sworn in last night. Leroy Duroux, a councilman, took the post of mayor. Jon Fox-Rubin left his council position after one four-year term.

Filling the three open council seats were Glenn Rappaport, Mark Kittle and Laurie Dows.

Although neither Stevens nor Whitsitt said they would have run again if allowed, it’s a moot point since legislation didn’t allow other bids. Whitsitt said she never gave it much thought because it wasn’t an option. Stevens said it was time to share the decision-making duties.

“There’s a lot of good people in town,” he said.

Both Stevens and Whitsitt won big when put to the test before Basalt voters. Stevens won a Town Council seat in April 1994. He was appointed mayor – while he was on vacation – after the elected mayor, Patrick Collins, resigned. The remaining council members appointed Stevens.

Stevens was unopposed in the April 1996 election and earned a four-year term. He easily defeated two foes in the April 2000 race.

Whitsitt first won election in 1996 then coasted to victory in a re-election bid in 2000.

Duroux, another popular candidate in Basalt elections, was also forced off the council due to term limits. However, he successfully ran for mayor and earned another four-year term.

The town’s term limit rules don’t prohibit an office holder from seeking a different office after they have served two terms.

So, Whitsitt could have run for mayor and Stevens could have run for council. Stevens indicated he kept an eye out on the race but didn’t feel compelled to get involved since several qualified candidates emerged.

Basalt voters have affirmed term limits twice in the last eight years. Limits were approved statewide in 1994. Local jurisdictions were able to hold their own elections in following years to let their constituents decide the issue.

Basalt residents were asked in April 1996 if they wanted to eliminate term limits. The proposal failed with 286 saying no and 128 in favor.

The question appeared on the ballot again in November 2002 and term limits were upheld by a 57 to 43 percent margin, or 466 votes in favor of limits and 351 against. The election was tainted because Eagle County officials gave the wrong ballots to some residents who lived outside the town of Basalt.

Stevens, Whitsitt and Fox-Rubin were presented with plaques last night honoring them for their years of public service.

Whitsitt advised the new board members to “instantly bury all hatchets” so they could work together and to vote their conscience.

“I would urge you to listen to your heart even if you’re outnumbered,” she said.

Stevens noted that a “benchmark” has been set by Basalt government for citizen involvement. He said hundreds of people are involved in various town and civic endeavors and urged the new council to continue to nurture that level of involvement.

Fox-Rubin said he is off the council but not finished participating in town government. He vowed to find ways to stay involved.

Scott Condon’s e-mail address is

scondon@aspentimes.com


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