Runoff for Aspen mayor could shake up council makeup; here’s how a vacancy would be filled |

Runoff for Aspen mayor could shake up council makeup; here’s how a vacancy would be filled

Anna Stonehouse / Aspen Times
Aspen City Hall.
Anna Stonehouse / Aspen Times

Depending on results of the Aspen mayoral runoff election, the makeup of City Council might not be decided until July.

That’s because candidate Ann Mullins is in the middle of serving her four-year council term and if elected mayor, she would be leaving a vacancy for her and her fellow electeds to fill.

The city’s policy to fill a vacancy is for council to appoint a new member within 30 days of the vacancy, which would presumably be June 10 when new members are sworn in.

That is when council members-elect Rachel Richards and Skippy Mesirow will take office, as well as the new mayor, which will either be Torre or Mullins.

“The concept is that before she takes office she would have to resign,” City Attorney Jim True said Wednesday.

Within a month of that resignation, council would have to allow time for applications to be filled out and submitted by interested Aspen residents. Elected officials would then schedule interviews with those applicants before making the decision by secret ballot in a public meeting.

In previous vacancy situations as a result of the elected official taking a new seat, council has chosen the next highest vote getter in the election, said former City Clerk, Kathryn Koch, who oversaw Aspen’s political races for decades.

“The thinking was they put in the time and money to run so they should get it,” Koch said.

The most recent instance in which that occurred was in 2013 when Steve Skadron left his council seat to be mayor.

After a bit of controversy on council’s deadlock between two applicants, Howie Mallory and Dwayne Romero, the board chose Romero, who came in third in that election.

The council had been split 2-2. As part of the city’s election code that decided stalemates at the time, elected officials turned to a “by lot” process, True said.

“There are a number of procedures that could be used,” he said, adding it could’ve been a flip of the coin, or a throw of the dice.

Koch said her office wrote into the election code the roll of the dice would be the deciding factor in that tie.

But it was never used because Skadron, who initially supported Mallory, eventually fell to Romero to avoid such an important decision going to the luck of the dice.

True said the dice clause has been removed from the election code and it’s now up to council to choose the process to fill a vacancy.

“They have a choice to appoint or have a special election,” True said.

In 1997 when Councilman Max Marolt challenged John Bennett for the mayor’s seat, he resigned on Election Day.

Jake Vickery was chosen to fill the vacancy; he had been the third top vote-getter in the previous election.

Current Councilman Bert Myrin came in third in the March 5 municipal election. He said he wouldn’t want to serve again by appointment and is supporting Torre, so he hopes the vacancy scenario is a moot issue.

City Clerk Linda Manning, who is the elections manager for the April 2 runoff and was a candidate for a council seat in this most recent election, was the fourth vote-getter and came in last place with 1,076 votes.

She said she hasn’t thought about whether she would apply should a vacancy come available on council.

“I’m 100 percent focused on making sure the runoff election is executed accurately,” she said. “My goal right now is to get a mayor elected.”

In previous years when councils have had to fill vacancies, as many as 20 or 30 people have applied, Koch recalled.

In the 2013 case, 11 people applied.

The only other time in recent history that a vacancy was created on council as a result of an election was in 2007 when Richards won a seat on the Pitkin Board of County Commissioners.

She was serving on City Council and won the county seat in the fall of 2006 after beating True, prior to him being city attorney.

Richards resigned from council in January 2007 after she was sworn in as a commissioner.

Jasmine Tygre, who was a planning and zoning commissioner at the time, was appointed and served until newly elected council members were sworn in in June.

When Councilman J.E. DeVilbiss died in 2008, Jackie Kasbach was appointed to fill the vacancy he left.

And in 2011, when Romero resigned from council to take a job in the governor’s economic development office, commercial Realtor Ruth Kruger was appointed to take his place.

They were all appointed with the understanding that they wouldn’t run for the seat when the next election came so they wouldn’t have an unfair advantage by being an incumbent.