Candidates identify their key issues facing Basalt (Hint: Pan and Fork comes up big) | AspenTimes.com
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Candidates identify their key issues facing Basalt (Hint: Pan and Fork comes up big)

Leroy Duroux
Courtesy photo |

Basalt has six candidates vying for three council seats in the April 5 election as well as two candidates squaring off in the mayor’s race.

The lineup for the council race was finalized Tuesday, when two candidates decided to pull out by the deadline to keep their names off the ballot. The council members will be selected in an at-large election. The top three vote-getters earn the seats.

The Aspen Times is kicking off its coverage of the council race with a biographical Q&A. The candidates, as well as mayoral hopefuls Rick Stevens and Jacque Whitsitt, will be quizzed about specific issues later in the campaign.

Leroy Duroux

Age: 66

Family: Wife Janice, daughter Amy and son-in-law Rob French; son Darren and daughter -in-law Devin Duroux; grandson Harper French.

How many years have you lived in Basalt? 53 years, 64 years in the valley.

Current and past civic activity in Basalt: Basalt and Rural Fire Protection board, three years.

Past activity: Eight years, mayor of Basalt, 91/2 years, Town Council member; two years, Basalt and Rural Fire Protection board; eight years, Mid-Valley Metro District board; 17 years, Ruedi Water and Power Authority; Basalt High School Design Committee; Basalt schools committees.

Why are you running for council? I would appreciate the opportunity to continue to serve the community that I have loved and worked hard to make the best place to live and raise a family. My experience, knowledge, commitment and historical background ensure that I am ready to make decisions that have the most benefits for the future of Basalt. I have invested many hours in the River Master Plan, pedestrian connections, affordable housing, redevelopment of the Pan and Fork property, economic development, senior housing and water issues. I would like to be able to be involved in the decisions that move these critical issues forward.

What is the single biggest issue facing Basalt? In my opinion, there are two huge issues facing Basalt currently. The first is a community that appears to be divided. The Basalt community seems to me to be polarized to the extent that a middle ground is going to be difficult to achieve. The comments have gotten very personal with name-calling and group-gathering to promote special interests. I believe that the best interests of the entire community have been overlooked. The second issue is the financial good of Basalt. Money is being spent at a rate above income. Many needed projects requiring large sums of money have been proposed and currently not totally funded. It appears the property owners will ultimately be responsible for the shortfalls in revenue.

Rob Leavitt

Age: 51

Family: Wife Erika, daughters Tess (12) and Jordan (10), and dog Bentley (9).

How many years have you lived in Basalt: 11 years, 28 years in the Roaring Fork Valley.

Current and past civic activity in Basalt? I was elected to Town Council in 2012 and voted mayor pro tem by fellow councilors in 2014. I serve on the Basalt Emergency Management Committee as well as the CORE board of trustees, representing Basalt and encouraging greater resource management and efficiency in our town. I previously served as president of United Jewish Appeal Aspen Valley and as a member of the school district Facilities Planning Committee.

Why are you running for council? Four years ago, I ran for Basalt Town Council to represent a new generation of Basaltines and those families with children in the Basalt schools. I am running for re-election to continue as a voice for the same people as well as citizens who want and deserve a thoughtful, progressive, reasonable voice on council. Basalt has two Gold Medal trout streams running through its downtown, yet there is only one place to dine by the river. Future development must do better to enhance the town and ensure a vibrant, thriving community.

What is the single biggest issue facing Basalt? Obviously, the biggest issue facing Basalt today is what to do with the Pan and Fork property. However, there will be equally important issues tomorrow — the eventual redevelopment of Clark’s Market, development at Stotts Mills and on Skico land, growth at Willits. So the real issue is who should be guiding such decisions for Basalt. I have represented the interests of citizens by supporting affordable housing for teachers, working with the school district on the facilities master plan and fighting against rampant growth. I envision a lively park on the old Pan and Fork with a limited amount of development next to Rocky Mountain Institute. The size of the development, roughly 40,000 to 50,000 square feet, is important, but the design and configuration of the buildings is more important. They must work well with the Rocky Mountain Institute building, hopefully be as energy-conscious and also convey the unique charm of Basalt.

Jenn Riffle

Age: 37

Family: Husband John Perko, two dogs, six chickens.

How many years have you lived in Basalt? Seven years total, two years as a renter, five years as a homeowner, 12 years total in the Roaring Fork Valley.

Current and past civic activity in Basalt: In 2011, I successfully campaigned and wrote the Urban Poultry Keeping Ordinance for the town of Basalt. The process inspired me to attend and speak at many Town Council meetings and within the Our Town planning.

Why are you running for council? To preserve and enhance the best of Basalt. I have a desire for civic responsibility toward the future of Basalt from the population of the 30-somethings generation moves me to hold a council seat. John, my husband, and I plan to live long term and retire in Basalt. There are several decisions facing our community regarding affordable housing, schools, child care, development and infrastructure. I feel the right direction with these issues will vitalize the community and nurture a happy and thriving future for us all.

What is the single biggest issue facing Basalt? In the immediate moment, the Pan and Fork parcel is the hottest topic. Negotiating and representing the various voices and visions into a cohesive outcome is of the utmost importance to me. Completing this mindfully, with consideration toward the finances and citizen tax burden, is my top priority.

Herschel Ross

Age: 73

Family: Single

Current and past civic activity in Basalt: Four years on Town Council.

Why are you running for council? An opportunity to do some real good for my community.

What is the single biggest issue facing Basalt? Securing a desirable place where working people can afford to live, raise families and have a job or a business into the future.

Auden Schendler

Age: 45

Family: Wife Ellen, children Willa (11), Elias (8).

How many years have you lived in Basalt? 15

Current and past civic activity in Basalt: I’ve been busy raising small children in the last decade (both are in the Basalt public schools), but I’ve always been engaged in civic issues. When I lived in Carbondale, I served on the Environmental Board the Planning and Zoning Board, and as a volunteer EMT for the ambulance. In Basalt, I helped design and implement the new water-rate structure before I fell into the hole of having young children.

Why are you running for council? Basalt has the potential to be the coolest small town in the West, with a compact core around a town square and a focus on the river. There’s not a whole lot of disagreement on the bigger vision. But we’re divided right now. I can help move us off the dime because I’m not an old-fashioned environmentalist and I’m not a develop-everything guy, either. I know and respect both factions in the town, and I think there actually isn’t all that much difference between what the park faction wants and the development faction wants. Nobody’s arguing for huge growth there.

What is the single biggest issue facing Basalt? The town core is a mess. We have a wonderful main street, but we also have a gas station and a used-furniture store and parking lot as the centerpieces of the town. We need to implement a vision of a beautiful, vibrant, new urbanist core that integrates walkability, mixed-use buildings, parks, affordable housing, access to the river and a town square where people hang out just because it’s fun and they see friends.

Katie Schwoerer

Age: Old enough to hold office.

Family: Husband and extended family in the Basalt and Carbondale area.

How many years have you lived in Basalt? 10 years in October.

Current and past civic activity in Basalt: Current Crown Mountain Park and Recreation board treasurer; former Basalt town councilor; current member of Pan and Fork River Park Citizens Committee; coordinated the “No on 4C and 4D” campaign (opposed the proposed midvalley recreation center).

Why are you running for council? Since the end of the economic recession, the midvalley community has been inundated with large-scale development proposals. The community has shown up in force to demand that local boards truly consider citizens’ concerns and the negative externalities of development proposals. I would like to represent these concerned citizens.

What’s the single biggest issue facing town? While there are several significant issues currently facing Basalt — including attainable housing, traffic, child care, safe pedestrian access and the future of the Pan and Fork river parcel — I believe that the most impactful issue is unsustainable large-scale development. There are hundreds of thousands of approved but unbuilt square footage in Basalt, and another 91,000 square feet was just approved at Willits. Local governments need to support infill within urban growth boundaries, prevent sprawl along Highway 82 and to collaborate to reach solutions that do not further burden our natural resources, infrastructure, emergency services and schools.


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