List of Aspen City Council-seat applicants pared down to four |

List of Aspen City Council-seat applicants pared down to four

Andre Salvail
The Aspen Times

The Aspen City Council on Monday pared down the number of applicants for its vacant seat from 11 to four: Dwayne Romero, Howie Mallory, Wendle Whiting and Scott Writer.

During a secret-ballot process that followed 2½ hours of group interviews, the three elected council members and Mayor Steve Skadron each were armed with four votes but were not required to use all four. Romero received a vote from each elected official for a total of four votes. Mallory garnered three votes, while Whiting and Writer each got two votes.

Three other applicants — L.J. Erspamer, Jay Maytin and Bert Myrin — received a single vote each but failed to make the cut. Four others — Marcia Goshorn, Ward Hauenstein, Lee Mulcahy and Cliff Weiss — did not get any votes. Two available votes went unused, but because the process was secret (though conducted in an open session), no one knows which members decided only to cast three of their four votes.

The process resumes today at City Hall during a special meeting that starts at 4 p.m. Council members plan to take at least 45 minutes to re-interview the top four and then will conduct another vote. Unless there is a 2-2 deadlock and no way to resolve it, the council’s fifth member will be officially selected at the meeting.

Council members Art Daily, Ann Mullins and Adam Frisch participated in Monday’s voting exercise along with Skadron. Daily and Mullins were sworn into the council June 10 during the same meeting in which Skadron took over as the new mayor, replacing Mick Ireland. Frisch is midway through a four-year council term. The fifth seat became vacant when Skadron, elected as a councilman in 2007 and 2011, won the June 4 mayoral runoff over then-Councilman Torre.

Romero, president of Related Colorado, which manages the Base Village development at Snowmass Village, is a former Aspen councilman, having served from 2007 until he resigned in January 2011 to take a job in Gov. John Hickenlooper’s new administration.

Six months later, Romero resigned his post as the governor’s director of economic development, citing the demands of travel and being away from his family in Aspen. Seeking to return to the council, he ran third in the most recent municipal election, losing to Daily, a longtime local attorney, and Mullins, who chaired the city’s Historic Preservation Commission.

Mallory is a retired banker and longtime participant on city committees and nonprofit boards. In his application, he said he did not bid for office in the recent election cycle because he felt that the city “would be well-guided by the candidates’ values and skills.”

“I am submitting my application for appointment now because I feel clearly that my skill sets will complete the current council’s breadth and allow for us to meet and resolve the jointly identified challenges for the future benefit of the community,” Mallory wrote in the official application, which featured a set of questions.

Whiting, a hotel concierge, is a political newcomer who reiterated during Monday’s interview that he believes he’s right for the job because Aspen’s young adults and service-industry workers are not represented in city government. He said the process does not give them a voice because the city’s elections are held during the spring offseason, a time when many employees feel the need to take short vacations after the busy winter ski season.

Writer’s application states that he is self-employed and involved in renewable energy and real estate development. In recent years he has been a prolific writer of letters to The Aspen Times’ commentary pages. He ran third in the 2011 council race that saw the re-election of Skadron and the election of Frisch.

The 11 applicants were asked a variety of questions at Monday’s meeting, which was televised for rebroadcast on Community GrassRoots TV (Channel 11). Here are a few selected comments from the four who made the final cut:

• Romero (on how to handle complaints of noisy and drunk local employees downtown): “We are a resort community, and yes, there are going to be those issues. … I don’t wholly buy into the nexus of (people) partying and having fun, and ergo, that’s an employee-housing problem, please don’t approve any more (employee housing) downtown. That’s a little bit of a leap of logic. Having said that, there is some level of general awareness and some public good-neighbor campaigning, the golden rule that you would always want to have in a neighborhood.”

• Mallory (on whether Aspen is outwardly friendly to visitors): “It’s a question the town has struggled with over the last 30 years. Having been in the private sector, and banking, we were constantly trying to make sure we reached out to welcome and appreciate our customers. If we didn’t have our customers, we go out of business, and then we fail as an enterprise. That really should be taken to a more macro level, on a citywide basis. We have to be appreciative and understand that it’s essentially the tourists that bring in the funds that the community survives on. Having said that, that doesn’t mean we need to run around and carry little buttons that say, ‘Welcome to Aspen, how may I help you?’ There are campaigns like that that come and go.”

• Whiting (on why the council should select him): “I think the council … has a very unique and rare opportunity to appoint someone who represents a large section of the community that’s not represented because they’re disenfranchised. It’s an important part of the community, that’s the service, hospitality and tourism industry. … There’s no one on the council who is deeply tied to the industry like I am. … The rule of thumb should be if Eric’s Bar is closed, you shouldn’t be electing someone in town because that whole demographic is gone.”

• Writer (on speculative development): “Rising real estate prices are a function of our greatness. People want to come here; we can’t help that. … Maybe you can bring the prices down some, through legislation, (but) you’ll never make it affordable. To me, yeah, there are speculators, developers who come in, try to do this, make some dough and move out. That’s the nature of the beast. We’re amazing. We’re awesome. People want to be here; people want to visit here. I hear we have the highest return rate in all of the resort industry. So let’s write into the (development) code what we want, and then let’s also pursue public improvement so that by the time we get to build-out, we’ll have everything by then.”

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