Former Basalt town manager Bill Kane announces run for mayor
Former Basalt Town Manager Bill Kane announced Thursday he intends to run for mayor in the town in the April 7 election.
Kane, 74, said he feels he could heal some of the wounds that have developed from political bickering over the past decade or so in the town. Basalt went through a bitter fight over the mix of development and parkland at the former Pan and Fork Mobile Home Park site. The past two mayoral races also were hard-fought campaigns.
“I think the town is too small to have a model of government where you have rival entities with constituencies that get dug in,” Kane said. “It fosters the potential for wedge issues that set neighbor against neighbor.
“If I’m elected, I would try to emphasize that there’s really only one constituency and that’s the town,” he continued. “I would not try to pander to one specific group or another.”
Kane is the first person to toss his hat in the ring for the municipal election. In addition to the mayor’s seat, there are three council seats up for election. Currently, mayor Jacque Whitsitt cannot run again because of term limits. She is serving the second of her two four-year terms.
Kane is well known for various positions he has held since moving to the Roaring Fork Valley 45 years ago. He was the Aspen-Pitkin County planner when the governments enacted many of their growth-control policies in the 1970s. He was a principal and owner in Aspen-based Design Workshop, which works on development projects through Western mountain resorts. He was vice president of development for Aspen Skiing Co.
Kane and his wife, Carolyn, moved from Aspen to Basalt 10 years ago. He served as Basalt town manager from March 2009 to August 2012, and he served on the Colorado Parks and Wildlife Commission for 10 years. Currently, he works part time as an advisory principal with Design Workshop.
Kane said his familiarity with government and his forte for helping guide discussions persuaded him to seek the mayor’s seat. When contacted by The Aspen Times, he said he was contemplating a bid for a council seat, though he kept the door open to run for mayor.
“I just think it’s the best fit for me,” he said.
Kane was complimentary of Whitsitt and the current council for its performance. Whitsitt has “soldiered through some tough times,” he said.
“A lot of the really difficult, contentious issues (have been settled) — the Pan and Fork, the tax issue and some of the really tough stuff,” he said. “I look back and this council has done a lot. They made major strides in affordable housing. The underpass was not an easy thing to get done. It’s just a good time to pick up on that momentum and keep it going.”
He also works well with people who have been opposed to Whitsitt. He said he is good friends with former Mayor Leroy Duroux and holds former Mayor Rick Stevens in high regard. Stevens lost to Whitsitt in 2016.
Kane said he would reach out to people on all sides of Basalt issues in an effort to add qualities that make the town a great place to live. He wants to see Basalt and the midvalley emerge from Aspen’s shadow.
“It feels like there is a great opportunity to get the town on very positive footing and develop a sense of belonging,” Kane said. “I think it’s really time for the midvalley to build its own cultural institutions and its own identity.”
He pointed to efforts underway by The Arts Campus at Willits to build a performing arts center and efforts by the ArtBase to build a facility in downtown Basalt as positive directions. He is currently on the board of the ArtBase but his last meeting will be Dec. 11.
As town manager, Kane led the effort for the government to work with the Roaring Fork Community Development Corp. to acquire the former Pan and Fork site in 2011. The town acquired land along the river for a park. Its partner bought land by Two Rivers Road to develop. After several years of debate and political sparring between a divided community, the council approved a development plan along Two Rivers Road. The proposal includes selling additional land to the town for expansion of the park.
Kane said he “absolutely” supports the plan.
“Early on, I was an advocate for a much more ambitious development over there, but I think I have the basic wisdom to understand that the community got to decide,” he said. “It was a really difficult process because democracy is messy.”
Kane said the state of national politics also inspired him to run for local office.
“Getting up to the 30,000-foot view here, it feels like it’s an important time to invest time and energy in democracy, given what’s happening with national politics,” he said. “I feel so saddened over what’s occurring in the national scheme. It’s an important time for communities to pull together and do good things and reassure ourselves that our democratic scheme of things is still valid.”
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