Explore begins candidate forum gantlet
On a bright Tuesday morning, Explore Booksellers opened early to host incumbent Skippy Mesirow, first-time candidate Bill Guth, and second-time candidate Sam Rose for the Aspen City Council.
The panel of three candidates running for two seats were asked questions from Jeff Bernstein, special events coordinator at Explore Bookstores.
He welcomed an audience of 40 and noted, “Because we’re a non-profit and because we’re a 501(c)(3), nothing we do has any political tinge to it. We are supposed to be very careful in what we do.”
Guth, Mesirow, and Rose introduced themselves and recounted their personal histories, civic service, and current occupations. Then Bernstein dove into topics.
At 36, he is currently the youngest member of City Council and is seeking re-election after serving his first four-year term. He ran an unsuccessful campaign in 2017.
Mesirow was candid about his first term: “It was really frustrating for me. It was really hard. We didn’t have a city manager; we had COVID. I didn’t really know what I was doing. And that brought frustration. But in the last year and a half, we have really gotten a lot done for this community.”
If elected for another term, he said, “My campaign is focused on creating new structures, new policies, and specific policies to deliver those outcomes.
“We deal with a lot of complicated and intractable issues on council. Days of low-hanging fruit are far behind us. If we want to really rise to the challenge of solving our problems and making sure that our kids and our grandkids get to inherit a place that is not just as good or better than the one we did, then it’s going to take some bold solutions. It’s going to take some uncomfortable conversations. It’s going to take some work in the trenches.”
Asked about his accomplishments on the council, Mesirow said, “I think I’ve been most involved in housing. That’s been my number one issue since, well, before I ran the first time for council. I’ve served on and chaired the actual board, and I’ve been intimately involved in all areas of the policy that have made it into our strategic housing plan.”
Undaunted from his first try, Rose, 29, is running again, more experienced and wiser, he believes. Since the last election, he has a better understanding the workings of the city and their departments, he said.
“I have taken great strides to run for office again,” he said. “I’m a volunteer firefighter and EMT; I’m on the Planning and Zoning Commission. I am on a state Judicial District Board of the 9th District reviewing judges. I work a response hotline for advocacy for victims of sexual assault and domestic violence. I’ve completed the Aspen 360 to learn about our city government. So just like anything and everything I could do to be involved in this community.”
Rose works in the COVID relief effort for Pitkin County and does data management work for the Public Health Department. Also, “I just finished my master’s degree in finance this past December,” he said.
He said local government is where he can make that tangible impact to better lives and the lives of everyone in the community. “And that’s why I’m running, to try to make that positive impact for future generations,” he said.
“By default, the three of us deeply care about this community, but I can’t stress enough how much I care about this community,” he said. “I don’t want it to become Vail. I want it to be Aspen. I’ve done a lot of like research in the last few years, and meeting with a diverse group of community members has really prepared for this moment. I believe in embracing Aspen but knowing that we can do better.”
“I grew up in Toronto, mostly, born in Florida. I’ve lived a variety of places since then. I moved to Aspen almost 13 years ago and met my wife, Lisa, here, and we have three young children together, 6, 4, and almost 2,” Guth said.
“I started a restaurant called Hops Culture, a casual craft beer-focused restaurant. I did that specifically because, at the time, I thought that casual dining was lacking. In essence, I wanted to take action and provide an amenity for the community.”
Currently, Guth, 40, is involved in real-estate and development work and owns a local title and escrow company with a partner.
“I used to be the chair of citizen board called the Commercial Core and Logic Commission for quite a few years,” he said. “I’ve served on a lot of local for-profit and non-profit boards. And I am motivated to serve on City Council because I love asking and I want to give back.”
Building a community is a collaboration, he said.
“I think we need to come together as a community to work on these issues. And that includes interaction between the government and the private sector and the community. And I think, lately, there’s been a disconnect there. And we can improve on that in a major way. Rather than working against each other, work together,” he said.
“It’s important for all of us to look inward and ask ourselves: What type of community do we want to live in? But some of these ideological solutions that are being discussed and proposed by the current council, I don’t think (they) create the type of community that we want.”
Ballots will be mailed Feb. 14 to active registered Aspen voters, and early voting will begin in the City Clerk’s Office on Feb. 21.
To vote in this election, you need to:
- Be 18 years old as of the election day, March 7.
- Live within the city of Aspen for 22 days immediately preceding the election.
- Registered in the state’s voter registration system (Register any time, including on election day, at the Pitkin County Clerk & Records Office at 530 E. Main St.).