Big shake-up possible on Basalt council with four of seven seats up for grabs
Basalt appears destined for a huge shake-up of its Town Council in April with as many as four of the seven seats potentially turning over.
Mayor Jacque Whitsitt cannot run again because of term limits. She has served two four-year terms and said she will not run for a council seat in April.
The seats of council members Auden Schendler, Katie Schwoerer and Jenn Riffle also are up for election. They have each served one four-year term and could seek another term.
Schendler and Riffle said they are not inclined to be candidates for the April 7 election, but they reserved the right to change their minds. Schwoerer said she will decide in early 2020 whether to run again for council. Schwoerer said if she runs, it will be for council and not mayor.
Schendler said he is not planning on running for council or mayor.
“That said, I will be watching the development of the race,” he said recently, “and I reserve the right to get in if I can be of use.”
Riffle also left the door open a crack. She said her decision ultimately will be determined by the candidates who pull petitions to run.
“It’s been and is an honor to represent the town of Basalt, especially with the far-out list of accomplishments achieved in the past (three-and-a-half) years,” Riffle wrote in an email to The Aspen Times.
Former councilman Rob Leavitt said he is “seriously considering” a run for mayor but hasn’t made a definitive decision. Serving on council affects a person’s family because of the time commitment, he said. Therefore, he wants to talk the decision through with his wife and daughters. Leavitt said he will likely reach a decision by the new year.
Leavitt served as councilman in 2012 to 2016 before losing a reelection bid.
Basalt is assured of at least one political newcomer in the race. Glenn Drummond, a member of Basalt’s Parks, Open Space and Trails Committee, said he will “most likely” seek a council seat. He said he wants to get more involved in his community and keep it moving in a positive direction. He was complimentary of the accomplishments of the current council and town manager Ryan Mahoney.
Bill Kane, a former town manager in Basalt, said he is weighing whether to run for office.
“If there were spontaneous demonstrations in the streets asking me to run, I’d do it,” he quipped.
Jokes aside, Kane said he has to consider if he can balance the demands of elected office with his work at Design Workshop. He hopes to reach a conclusion in a few weeks. If he runs, it would likely be for a council seat, though he didn’t rule out running for mayor.
Kane said he is interested in the same issues that probably any candidate will be focused on — downtown vitality, redevelopment of the former Clark’s Market space, securing the future of The Arts Campus at Willits and the ArtBase among them.
The three council members whose seats aren’t up for election in 2020 are Bill Infante, Ryan Slack and Gary Tennenbaum.
Infante has been mentioned in Basalt circles as a possible candidate for mayor but he said Thursday his time is consumed with the business he and his wife, Betina, own and operate. They import and sell Mongolian textiles. He said he often squeezes in trips to Mongolia in between council meetings.
Infante said it is difficult enough to juggle work with his time on council. It would be even tougher finding the time and performing the duties of mayor, he said.
“At this juncture, I don’t think it’s something I’d consider,” Infante said.
It’s his hope that Basalt attracts a diverse field of candidates in gender, age, place of residence and ethnicity.
The campaign season won’t rev up until January, when candidates can pick up nomination petitions.
Squirm Night at the GrassRoots TV studio Wednesday evening for Aspen City Council candidates drew out some lively discussion showing differences in the candidates, if not entirely heated, in the short hour they had.