Council refines seat appointment process

Andre Salvail
The Aspen Times

The Aspen City Council on Tuesday came up with more details for the process of appointing someone to the council seat that became vacant after Steve Skadron won the spring mayoral election.

Skadron and council members Ann Mullins and Adam Frisch agreed to interview all of the applicants for the nearly two-year job during a July 1 work session. A special meeting will take place July 2 to finish the public interviews, if necessary, and conduct a formal vote.

New Councilman Art Daily, who is traveling, was not present for the discussion. He is expected to return to Aspen later in the month, according to city officials.

On Monday, the City Clerk’s Office reported 12 names of residents who had submitted applications for the position. However, the list was shortened to 11 on Tuesday after it was determined that one of the applicants, Jason Elliott, missed Monday’s 4 p.m. filing deadline by 12 minutes. Elliott is a 13-year Aspen resident and chairman of a Dallas-based investment-management firm.

The city charter requires the council to appoint a member to finish out a term when a seat is vacated, in lieu of calling a special election.

Skadron said he wanted the community to participate in the process before the July 1 interviews, suggesting that local media and other organizations hold events similar to the forums where mayoral and council candidates answer questions during the spring campaign season.

“I need to know if there (will be) some forums happening,” Skadron said.

A question arose concerning how the council members will arrive at a decision involving a large number of applicants. City Attorney Jim True reminded council members that the discussions must be conducted in public but added that they are allowed to winnow down the field by means of a secret ballot during an open meeting.

Also, “Any discussion about who’s interviewed or who’s not interviewed has to be done in public,” he said. “You can set forth a process to make that decision that could include certain secret ballots, but all discussions have to be in public.”

City Manager Steve Barwick suggested that the interviews be conducted in flights July 1, with a group of six interviewed starting at 5 p.m. and a group of five to be queried starting at 6 p.m. The council’s July 2 meeting starts at 4 p.m.

The 11 applicants are L.J. Erspamer, Marcia Goshorn, Ward Hauenstein, Howie Mallory, Jay Maytin, Lee Mulcahy, Bert Myrin, Dwayne Romero, Cliff Weiss, Wendle Whiting and Scott Writer.

The council-seekers already have submitted answers to a detailed set of questions on the applications. Mullins asked if they will be made to answer different questions, with Skadron and Frisch replying that council members can ask them whatever they want.

“I’m personally hoping that the media asks other questions besides the ones that were presented to them on the application,” Frisch said, adding that local business and environmental organizations might want to conduct forums, as well.

In other work-session business, local organizers of the USA Pro Challenge bicycle race provided a marketing update to council members about the event, which begins with a circuit race that loops through Aspen and Snowmass Village on Aug. 19 and leaves Aspen for Breckenridge the morning of Aug. 20.

Bill Tomcich, president of reservations firm Stay Aspen Snowmass, said that with the race starting in Aspen for the first time in its three-year history, there is an opportunity to sell a lot of hotel rooms to cycling enthusiasts for the preceding weekend, Aug. 16 to 18.

In his remarks, Tomcich managed to outdo his normally upbeat self.

“I’m fully convinced this is going to be the most spectator-friendly stage in U.S. pro-cycling history,” he said of the Aug. 19 circuit race.

Many bike paths run parallel to the roads being used for the circuit race, organizers noted, giving fans the opportunity to follow the riders during parts of the first stage.