Basalt mayor’s race: It’s on | AspenTimes.com

Basalt mayor’s race: It’s on

BASALT – Two longtime veterans of the Basalt Town Council confirmed Monday that they are likely to run for mayor in the April 3 election next year.

Glenn Rappaport and Jacque Whitsitt said they are leaning toward seeking the seat that will be vacated by Leroy Duroux. He must step down because of term limits. Candidates can take out nomination petitions in March, so it cannot be determined now how big the field could ultimately grow.

Neither Rappaport nor Whitsitt is stumping yet since the election is more than six months away, but they were upfront about their intentions after word of their possible candidacies hit the streets. Both said economic growth will be the cornerstone of their campaigns.

“I think that we could do a better job of planning for the future and developing economic diversity,” Whitsitt said.

The area has depended too heavily for too long on real estate development and construction, she said. She wants town officials to brainstorm with local, state and regional experts to explore ways to attract clean-energy jobs and businesses that are low-impact on the environment.

Whitsitt has been a slow-growth advocate during her time in elected office, which started in 1996, but she said growth positions are moot right now. Land-use development applications “haven’t been rolling in the door,” she said. “Let’s talk about something that’s really happening.”

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To her, that means exploring new ways to bring jobs to Basalt and the Roaring Fork Valley.

Rappaport said he thinks a lot of people erroneously believe that the local economy will recover to the days of old thanks to high-end residential development. “I believe those days are over,” said Rappaport, an architect. So he wants to help figure out how Basalt stays vital.

“My concern is the same as it’s been all along: How do we diversify our economy?” Rappaport said. “Basalt really needs to move away from being a bedroom community, even if it’s a little bit.”

He said that need to diversify plays into his strengths. Rappaport said he is good at keeping an open mind, talking to people with ideas and helping determine if their plans could benefit Basalt. Architects cannot be afraid to dive into the future, he said.

There are a lot of good opportunities for the town right now, Rappaport said. There is a proposal to redevelop the Pan and Fork Mobile Home Park into a campus that could include Colorado Mountain College, the Rocky Mountain Institute, various nonprofits and businesses such as a hotel, he noted. Drawing more skiers and anglers to Basalt would benefit shops and restaurants.

If the mayoral race materializes as expected, voters will choose between two candidates with long track records and widespread name recognition. Whitsitt and Rappaport have been involved in numerous civic endeavors over the last two decades, and both have been fixtures at Town Hall. Rappaport served on the Town Council from 1994-98, 2004-08 and was re-elected in 2010. His current term expires in 2014.

Whitsitt won election in 1996 and 2000 and was forced to step down in 2004 because of term limits. She won election again in 2008. Her current term expires next year.

The candidates have spent four years together on the council, including the last two. It hasn’t always been harmonious.

“If it’s just the two of us running, it gives people a choice,” Rappaport said. “We’re two different people. We both have biases.”

When asked how they work together, Rappaport said, “We don’t agree on anything.” He later added that was tongue-in-cheek. They often vote the same way, but they see issues differently, he said.

Rappaport questioned the amount of thought Whitsitt puts into decisions: “I don’t see it going deep. I see a lot of emotions, but I don’t see a lot of rationale going deep,” he said.

In addition, he said he doesn’t believe she tries to build consensus, which he said is his prime goal.

Whitsitt said she and Rappaport work together “fine.”

“If he disagrees, fine,” she said. Council members don’t have to agree on everything, she said. That makes for a more thoughtful and diverse board, she added.

Whitsitt declined to respond to Rappaport’s contention that she doesn’t put a lot of thought into decisions.

“If Glenn wants to talk specific issues, I am happy to do that,” she said. “I wouldn’t dream of attacking him personally. That’s not the way I campaign.”

scondon@aspentimes.com