Coronavirus, economy will force new Basalt council to hit ground running
Tuesday’s election provided an extensive overhaul for the Basalt Town Council, although the winner of one seat remains in the air.
The board is losing incumbents Jacque Whitsitt as mayor and council members Auden Schendler, Katie Schwoerer and Jennifer Riffle. Whitsitt could not run again due to term limits. Schendler and Schwoerer didn’t run for re-election. Riffle fell short in her bid to return for another four-year term on the council.
Mayor-elect Bill Kane and council-elect members Glenn Drummond and David Knight are replacing them. Votes are still being counted in the race between Elyse Hottel and Dieter Schindler for the third open council seat.
All four additions to the council are new to politics. They will be sworn into office April 28.
Kane said he feels the new members will learn quickly on the job, in part because they have to, with the one-two punch of the coronavirus and its economic impacts.
“I think we’re going to work well together because the times are going to require us to work well together,” he said.
The four newcomers will join Gary Tennenbaum, Ryan Slack and Bill Infante, who lost a bid for mayor but has two years remaining on his council term.
In the outstanding race for a council seat, Hottel leads Schindler by four votes but there are 56 outstanding ballots that may figure into the outcome. Of those, 36 ballots were mailed to Basalt residents who are overseas. Any of those ballots received by the close of the day on April 15 will be counted, according to Town Clerk Pam Schilling. There were questions regarding signatures on another 20 ballots, she said. A letter will be mailed to those voters asking if they indeed filled out a ballot. They will have a chance to respond and their vote potentially counted.
Hottel said that with all the uncertainty in the world right now, it seems fitting that the council race has uncertainty, as well.
“I trust the process and have adopted a zen attitude, yet am looking forward to the official results next week,” Hottel said via email. “I am more hopeful than ever that I can bring my sustainability experience to the town of Basalt and balance what will otherwise be an all-male council with some female leadership.”
Depending on the outcome of the final race, Basalt could be without a woman on council since at least the mid-1990s.
Kane said it is desirable to see the council reflect the community and workforce in gender diversity.
“I think it’s a little unfortunate, but the voters have spoken,” he said.
Whitsitt, Basalt’s third female mayor, said she would like to see gender balance on the board but feels all the candidates’ hearts are in the right place and it will be an effective board.
“I am very excited about the make-up of the council,” she said. “I think it’s a diverse, smart group.”
Whitsitt said any philosophical differences on issues such as growth would be overshadowed by the need for the board to work together during a tough time.
“The council has much bigger fish to fry,” she said. “The coronavirus and economy will be on the front burner for a long time.”
Like Kane she said the newcomers to political office would learn quickly from the veterans and town staff. Nevertheless, they have a lot to absorb.
“It’s definitely drinking from a fire hose,” Whitsitt said.
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