Hatfield’s hat in ring | AspenTimes.com

Hatfield’s hat in ring

Allyn Harvey

Just a day after Pitkin County Commissioner Leslie Lamont said she planned to vacate her seat at the top of county government, Snowmass Village Councilman Jack Hatfield has announced his plans to fill it.

Hatfield, a six-year veteran of the Snowmass Village Town Council, announced yesterday his intention to be a candidate in the District 4 race. He has until June 9 to gather 100 signatures from registered county voters to qualify for the ballot.

Hatfield, 54, praised Lamont and the work she’s done over the last five years as a commissioner, and added that if she had chosen to seek a second full term in office, he would not have run. Hatfield lost his bid for the seat in 1996, losing to Lamont by a 3-2 margin.

“I think the time is right for Jack Hatfield to bring his unique style to the table,” Hatfield said. That style includes a reputation as someone who regularly challenges the conventional wisdom on the council, even when he agrees with that wisdom.

He describes himself as fair and honest, as someone who demands the public process be done in public, and as someone who both challenges developers and works with them to “make their projects better.” Hatfield also said he is a liberal, an environmentalist and a fiscal conservative – “I’m fairly tight fisted with the public’s money” – who chafes at the trend in government toward hiring consultants on every project.

“I think I can bring some stability to county government,” Hatfield said. “I have a good rapport with Dorothea Farris and Patti Clapper, and I have had a good rapport with Mick Ireland over the years.”

Asked why he wants to be a county commissioner in light of the hostility that has engulfed the board as a whole and Ireland in particular, Hatfield said he is thick-skinned. “I have the kind of personality that can handle that kind of environment, and improve it,” he said.

Hatfield has more than 10 years experience on decision-making and advisory boards in Pitkin County. He spent two-and-a-half years on the county planning commission in the early 1990s and the last six years on the Town Council. Two years ago, he joined the Snowmass Village Water and Sanitation Board.

Hatfield makes his living as a property manager. His wife, Ruth Hatfield, is a ticket sales supervisor for the Aspen Skiing Co.

He said that his focus on his hometown, Snowmass Village, shouldn’t be held against him. “It can be a very introverted perspective that we can have in Snowmass Village,” he conceded, “but I take more of a regional outlook in my thinking.”

Transportation is one issue in particular that encourages that regional perspective.

As a member of the Snowmass Village Town Council, Hatfield sits on the Elected Official’s Transportation Committee, which oversees spending of money raised by the half-cent sales tax that is devoted to transportation. Although the committee is made up of council members and commissioners from Aspen, Pitkin County and Snowmass Village, it regularly decides on matters that affect the valley as a whole – especially funding for the RFTA bus service between Glenwood Springs and Aspen.

The position also put him on the hot seat with the roundabout – he’s happy with how it’s working and appreciative of Ireland’s work in ensuring that most of the local money spent on the project will be reimbursed by the state. But Hatfield remains skeptical about the current design for the Entrance to Aspen – a two-lane parkway plus a rail corridor.

All along, I’ve been for an underdesigned, overlandscaped, four-lane highway into Aspen with a separate transit corridor,” he said. “Until we know we have the funding lined up, I’m for phasing from buses to rail.”

In the meantime, Hatfield plans to push for passage of the proposed Rural Transportation Authority, slated for this fall’s ballot. As currently proposed, the transportation authority would manage and fund – with its taxing authority over all the communities within its boundaries – public transportation between Glenwood Springs and Aspen.

“Our biggest challenge is the RTA. We have an urban transportation environment in a rural setting, and we need to treat it like that,” he said.

Hatfield still has two years remaining in his term on the Snowmass Village Town Council.

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