Clapper to seek second term as commissioner | AspenTimes.com

Clapper to seek second term as commissioner

Allyn Harvey
Aspen Times Staff Writer

Pitkin County Commissioner Patti Clapper is seeking a second term in office.

Clapper, who represents District 1 on Aspen’s east side, said a second term is almost a necessity for any commissioner, because the first term involves so much learning.

“This first four years has been a huge learning curve, and I think I can be an even better commissioner for the next four,” Clapper said.

Clapper, 48, is a registered nurse who has lived in Aspen for 22 years. She lives at Smuggler trailer park with her husband, Tommy Clapper, and their children, Trevor, 16, and Traci, 13.

Clapper said one of her top accomplishments in her first term was the recent showdown with the federal government over airport security.

Pitkin County and a number of other small communities with commercial airports around the country convinced the Transportation Security Administration to allow security guards from the private sector to man airport checkpoints. Pitkin County, with Clapper’s encouragement, became the first local government in the nation to openly balk at the TSA order requiring local communities to replace National Guard troops with trained law enforcement officers at their own expense.

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Other accomplishments that she cites include her recent appointment as chairwoman of the Northwest Council of Governments, a regional body that coordinates legislative matters for Pitkin, Eagle, Summit, Grand and Jackson counties. Clapper also points out that she has helped improve relations between Pitkin County and the jurisdictions within its borders – Aspen, Snowmass Village and Basalt.

With a second term, Clapper said she would spend much of her time working on ways to shore up the county’s financial position. This year, under financial pressure from the recession and the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, the county has cut six positions and ordered a 5 percent across-the-board cut in operating expenses.

The county budget currently relies mostly on revenues from fees, sales and property taxes. Clapper would like to add a real estate transfer tax to the mix. State law currently prohibits the implementation of new real estate transfer taxes, but Clapper said she would be willing to lobby state legislators to allow the county to impose a tax on real estate transactions.

If that doesn’t work out, she would consider asking voters to increase property taxes. “I’m not a big fan of property taxes, but if the rest of the board [of county commissioners] wants to go that way, I will too,” she said.

Clapper will not know whether she’s facing any opposition until mid-June, when petitions for office seekers are due at the County Clerk and Recorder’s Office. Her opponent of four years ago, Aspen City Councilman Tom McCabe, said he has given some thought to running but has yet to make up his mind.

“The difficulty I had running against Patti in the first place is we weren’t that different on the issues,” McCabe said. “I have to examine that closely – there need to be significant issues for me to run.”

In 1998, Clapper outpolled McCabe 2,643-2,525. That contest was a nail biter until the very end of election night. McCabe led all night, until the final two voting precincts and the last 500 absentee ballots were counted.