Five mayors gather to discuss Aspen’s changing politics |

Five mayors gather to discuss Aspen’s changing politics

Former Aspen mayor Eve Homeyer (sp?), center, responds to a question from former Colorado governor Richard Lamm, right, as (l to r) Rachel Richards, Bill Sterling, Bill Bennett and current mayor Helen Klanderud listen and formulate their responses during a round table discussion at Heritage Aspen Wednesday afternoon August 20, 2003. Paul Conrad photo.

Former Aspen Mayor Bill Stirling admitted last night that he “can’t seem to stop” talking about the political issues of the day.

He even conceded that his successors in the town’s top elected job – John Bennett, Rachel Richards and Helen Klanderud – might “dread” seeing him walk in the council chambers when a big topic is on the agenda.

Stirling’s admissions came last night when he was sitting on a panel of five Aspen mayors as part of HeritageAspen’s summer speaker series. The panel, which included the above and Eve Homeyer, was moderated by former Colorado Gov. Dick Lamm.

Perfect weather greeted the end of the weekly speaker series, which has been held on Wednesday evenings outside on the patio of the Wheeler/Stallard Museum since the beginning of July.

The format had Lamm posing a question to be answered by each of the mayors.

Homeyer, who moved to Aspen in the 1950s and served as mayor from 1970-73, was the most succinct of the bunch. When, for instance, Lamm asked the panel to discuss the most memorable event of their term, Homeyer didn’t mince words.

“When I was elected,” she said.

It was memorable because she hadn’t expected to win. In fact, she had originally used her mayoral run as an excuse to resign her position as vice-chair of the state Republican Party.

“It was boring because all you did was talk to people who think the same thing you think,” Homeyer explained about her position with the GOP. (She has since become a Democrat.)

The other mayors mostly identified legislative or ballot initiative victories that occurred during their terms. Richards, for instance, cited the November 2000 election, when no less than five tax increases that she supported passed, funding everything from parks and recreation to RFTA to marketing.

Bennett said it was when the federal Environmental Protection Agency agreed to reconsider and ultimately reverse its stance on the need to clean up the Smuggler neighborhood, which is built on old mine tailings with high concentrations of heavy metals.

Klanderud said her biggest thrill, like Homeyer’s, was winning the election. After pointing out how well educated and diverse the people of Aspen are, Klanderud said, “To win the trust of those who live and work here is an exhilarating experience.”

Stirling, meanwhile, recalled the 1990 City Council’s 5-0 vote, just one day before a recall election against four of them, to require accessory dwelling units with all new development. The vote meant everyone who built in Aspen had to build units that would ideally be rented out to local employees.

Lamm’s queries touched on questions of political philosophy, personal history and the meaning of the word “community,” at least as far as it applies to Aspen.

Homeyer set the tone of the conversation on community when she said, “I think there are five or six communities in Aspen, and somehow they manage to stick it out.”

The panelists agreed that the people here for classical music may share very few interests with the extreme athletes who risk their lives in recreational endeavors, but nonetheless share a deep sense of appreciation for this place.

Said Stirling: “I think Aspen has changed a great deal since I moved here [in 1972], and I’m proud of how hard we’ve fought to keep it.”

HeritageAspen is planning a winter lecture or speaker series. For more information call 925-3721.

[Allyn Harvey’s e-mail address is]

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