Former Basalt mayor seeks return to civic duty
November 15, 2007
BASALT ” Former Basalt Mayor Rick Stevens is itching to dive back into civic duty, although in a significantly lower profile position.
Stevens, who served as Basalt’s mayor from 1994 to 2004, has applied to fill an opening on the town’s planning and zoning commission. Members of the voluntary board are appointed by Town Council.
“I’m probably crazy,” Stevens said about his willingness to return to governance.
Three people applied to fill two openings on the planning commission. The town needs to fill a regular voting position and an alternate position. The other applicants are Liz Conners and Jennifer Miller. The council will interview the candidates on Nov. 27.
Stevens said his desire to build a better community and concerns about the recent direction of civic debates sparked his interest in getting involved again with town government.
Stevens said a group of people is dominating discussions on issues in Basalt and intimidating others with different views. For example, residents who spoke last year in favor the Roaring Fork Club’s proposed expansion were labeled pro-growth and virtually run out of public hearings by an anti-growth contingent. That had an ongoing chilling effect on community involvement.
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“It’s caused a lot of people to throw their hands up in the air and say the hell with it,” Stevens said. “There’s a certain amount of balance that’s missing. I just want to bring it back.”
The community seems “pre-occupied” with land-use matters right now at the expense of other qualities important to small-town character, he said. Issues such as the restoration of the town’s historic kilns, completion of trail connections, conversion of the Red Brick School into a community center and implementation of a river master plan have stalled.
“We’re losing sight of all that stuff,” he said.
There’s also a stalemate with developers that Stevens believes prevents the town from making progress on issues such as providing affordable housing. “It really hasn’t been a win-win lately. The town isn’t winning, and the developers aren’t winning.”
He believes he can help the town achieve some of its goals and objectives as a member of the planning commission. That board makes recommendations to the council on development applications, but it is also involved in numerous issues that can shape the town.
“I’d like the change the dynamic a little bit and get the community re-engaged,” Stevens said.
It is rare that an elected official is willing to serve in a volunteer position that requires a lot of time-consuming grunt work. Dwight Shellman, one architect of Pitkin County’s growth controls, returned to the Pitkin County planning commission years after he stepped down as an elected county commissioner.
Stevens wouldn’t rule out seeking elected office in Basalt again, at some point. He was elected to the Basalt council in 1994 and was appointed mayor in June 1994 after Patrick Collins resigned. He easily won election in 1996 and 2000. Term limits prevented him from seeking a third term.
A major election looms in Basalt in less than six months. Terms for four out of seven positions on the council are expiring.
Scott Condon’s e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.