Aspen’s electeds rank their top 10 for new affordable housing board |

Aspen’s electeds rank their top 10 for new affordable housing board

Kathie Novak, a facilitator based on the Front Range, facilitates the first day of a two-day retreat for Aspen City Council on Monday.
Carolyn Sackariason/The Aspen Times

It’s time to retreat for Aspen City Council

As a newly elected board, Aspen City Council members met for four hours on Monday as part of a two-day retreat.

Sworn in less than a month ago, Mayor Torre and council members Rachel Richards and Skippy Mesirow joined incumbents Ann Mullins and Ward Hauenstein on the board.

They gathered in the community meeting room at the Aspen Fire Station on Monday afternoon to discuss how they want to work together and best serve their constituents as one governing body.

In today’s session, council is expected to decide on common goals to be reached in the next year and give policy direction to key staff members.

— Carolyn Sackariason

Aspen City Council on Monday culled a list of 32 applicants who want to serve on the local housing board down to 10 using a ranking system.

The whittled-down list includes three current Aspen-Pitkin County Housing Authority board members (Carson Schmitz, John Ward and Rick Head) and two former elected officials from the city and Pitkin County (Adam Frisch and Rob Ittner, respectively).

The remaining applicants are Peter Louras, Michael Miracle, Elizabeth Stewart, David Laughren and Scott Russell.

Council members individually ranked all of the applicants by choosing a maximum of five for the first tier, which included highly interested and qualified candidates.

A maximum of five candidates were placed in a second and third tier, with the remaining going to a fourth tier.

Those rankings were aggregated prior to council’s work session Monday evening. But the rankings had to be recalibrated after it was discovered Councilwoman Ann Mullins put eight candidates in the first tier.

“There were so many qualified candidates,” Mullins said.

Mayor Torre said it didn’t matter — the rules are the rules.

“I’m sorry, that’s against the process,” he told Mullins, after making an earlier comment about how difficult it was to whittle down the list. “They aren’t obviously my top 10 but the process here is well done.”

Recalibrating the ranked choices did not change the outcome.

The Pitkin Board of County Commissioners are expected to complete their own ranking process during their meeting today.

The council’s list will be compared with the commissioners’ to find between six and 10 candidates that both governing bodies agree to interview next week, Interim City Manager Sara Ott said.

If there isn’t sufficient alignment, Ott will work with County Manager Jon Peacock, along with Torre and Greg Poschman, the chair of the BOCC, to finalize the interview list.

The interviews are scheduled as part of a joint meeting between council and the commissioners July 9.

Whomever is chosen will join a reconstituted board that will seat three non-elected citizens, along with an alternate, and two elected officials, each representing the city and county.

Councilman Skippy Mesirow will serve as the city representative on the APCHA board, with Councilwoman Rachel Richards as the alternate.

While the county has not made an official decision, it’s likely commissioner George Newman will serve on the APCHA board, with Kelly McNicholas Kury as the alternate.

Council members and commissioners voted earlier this spring to change the makeup of the board to expedite decisions on major issues like how to fund deficits among homeowners associations with aging buildings.

As it is currently, the all-citizen board makes recommendations to the commissioners and council for approval.

The current board has one more meeting scheduled before it disbands and a new one meets, which is expected in August.

Affordable housing has been a hot topic in the community in the past year, both in terms of issues that have arisen in the 40-year program and the shortage of inventory to serve the community workforce.

“I’m optimistic about this board,” Mullins said, adding she gravitated toward applicants who have experience on volunteer boards and have been in the community for a long period of time.

Richards agreed experience is necessary.

“This may not be the best ‘starter’ board,” she joked.

Councilman Ward Hauenstein said he picked candidates based on wanting someone older with experience; one current member and a younger person who is living in workforce housing currently.

Ott said it was a “phenomenal turnout of applicants.”

Normally, the average number of people that apply for a citizen board is between three and six, according to county and city officials.