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Johnson announces Aspen mayoral bid

Andre SalvailThe Aspen TimesAspen, CO, Colorado
Derek Johnson
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ASPEN – Aspen City Councilman Derek Johnson officially has announced his candidacy for mayor, joining his three fellow council members who previously declared their intent to run for the post.Johnson, 45, moved to Aspen in 1991 after graduating from the University of Minnesota, where he played center for the Golden Gophers football team. He is a Minnesota native.”I met my wife here, we are raising our family in employee housing here, and I started a business here,” Johnson said of his connections to Aspen in a written statement. “I am proud and honored to have served our community as a city councilman for the past four years. As mayor of Aspen I will work to secure Aspen as a place for the next generation of hardworking people to call home and maintain our reputation as a world-class resort, of which we are all proud.”Johnson is nearing the end of his first term on the council, having been elected in 2009. Councilmen Adam Frisch, Steve Skadron and Torre also have announced publicly their candidacies for mayor. L.J. Erspamer, a member of the city Planning and Zoning Commission, has said he likely will run for mayor but left open the possibility of a campaign for council. Mayor Mick Ireland, who also is a voting member of the council, cannot seek re-election to the mayor’s job because of term limits. Ireland is contemplating a run for council, however.The election will take place May 7; a runoff, if necessary, would be June 4. Petitions to qualify for council or mayor can be picked up in the City Clerk’s Office starting March 18. Mayoral candidates must record at least 25 valid voter signatures under the process. The deadline to turn them in is 5 p.m. April 5.In January, Johnson cast the lone vote against a change to the municipal land-use code that limits new developments, and building renovations, in the downtown area to 28 feet, or two stories. The only exception is a third floor for lodging units and related uses, such as a restaurant.During an interview last week, Johnson explained his vote. He said another reason he opposed the development-restricting ordinance was because it prohibits free-market residential development downtown; he does not agree with Torre, Skadron and Ireland on the notion that new free-market residences are bad in the long run for downtown vitality.”I do not agree with how we got there,” he said of the 10-month debate on development restrictions that started in early 2012 when Torre proposed an emergency ordinance that failed to secure enough votes for passage. “I do not agree that we are in the appropriate place today within the (two downtown) zoned districts. We did not take staff’s direction. We did not listen to the community.”The emergency ordinance that was pushed forward was not thought-out or communicated well, … and that started a rush of (project) applications that sought to get in under the old code. I think we should have been more thoughtful and mindful.”After moving to Aspen, Johnson co-founded and ran D&E Ski and Snowboard Shop. He and his partner sold it to Aspen Skiing Co. in 2001. Today he works for Skico as the company’s managing director of rental-retail.”I have the skills and experience of a business owner,” he said. “I live in and understand employee housing, and I balance the realities of smart development with a concern for overdevelopment.”Along with others, Johnson was involved in restarting the Aspen High School football program several years ago. He is an active booster of the program and also serves on the board of Aspen Junior Hockey.In his statement, Johnson listed some accomplishments of his council term:• Making it easier to conduct business in Aspen. “We have started the process of reviewing how the city looks at businesses. Just last week we passed an ordinance which will start to clean up antiquated codes allowing for businesses to more easily navigate the Aspen process. There is still much to do in this area and I am looking forward to continuing to lead in this area,” he said in the prepared statement.• Improving employee housing. “In the Burlingame Phase II planning process, I pushed for the pre-sales program and appropriate phasing of construction to allow us better visibility of demand,” he said. “By following this plan we will be able to build Phase II without additional taxing resources. I also worked hard to improve the ‘livability’ of Phase II. I am raising my family in affordable housing. I understand better than any other candidate how important this program is to our community.”• Environmental stewardship. “As a community we have decided to hit the pause button on the Castle Creek hydroelectric plant,” he said. “We need to continue to look for ways to move forward on our goal of becoming 100 percent reliant on renewable power sources.”• Balancing community needs with demands of a resort-based economy. “I am committed to exploring and investing in our economic sustainability. We are both a community and a resort,” he said.Asked what separates him from the other announced candidates, Johnson said he would have a broader outlook on community issues and a more diverse base of support.asalvail@aspentimes.com


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