Longtime Aspenite throws hat in ring for commissioner
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado
ASPEN – David S. Weiss, a candidate for the Pitkin County commissioner seat in District 1, offers the story of the quintessential Aspenite – he showed up to ski after college, in 1980, and wound up staying.
“When I first moved here, I lived in a van in the Highlands parking lot and cleaned houses until the lifts opened,” he recalled.
Weiss, 53, quietly filed as a candidate in the District 1 race several weeks ago. He discussed the issues and ideas that prompted his run for public office on Thursday in a downtown coffee shop after returning to Aspen from a trip to California.
The California native’s 30-year tenure in Aspen includes a host of jobs, most recently running his own property management and landscape contractor company, Thumbs Up Properties. He’s also a member of the Elks Lodge and has served on the homeowners’ board and as manager at Smuggler Park, the Aspen neighborhood where he has resided since 1982.
“There are a lot of great things about here. I think there are some things that need fixing,” said Weiss.
As a business owner who has felt the impacts of the recession, Weiss said he’d like to see local government explore incentives to put local contractors back on the job. How those incentives might work, he couldn’t say.
“I don’t have all the answers,” he said.
Weiss said he also wants to make sure government is as streamlined as it can be.
He applauded the county’s new Energy Smart Loan Program, and suggested exploring a broader approach to fostering energy-conscious initiatives, whether it’s incentives to use electric cars or an oil-recycling facility in the valley that could be used to fuel Roaring Fork Transportation Authority buses.
When it comes to the “green” movement, Weiss said he was ahead of his time. He studied environmental studies and sociology at the University of California at Santa Barbara and said he wrote a thesis with a focus on organic farming. When he started his landscaping business in 1985, Weiss said he ran ads offering to create organic gardens for clients, though he had no takers in those days.
He earned a degree in Colorado Mountain College’s solar building program in 1983, according to his resume, and said he helped found Aspen’s first aluminum recycling effort in the same decade, setting out collection containers at City Market and at the county landfill. Now, he noted, the landfill recycles most of the materials that are brought to the facility.
On a topic that is likely to come to a head before the November election, Weiss said he can’t support the Hidden Gems Wilderness campaign if it closes off public lands to uses the public has traditionally enjoyed.
“Allow people to use areas they’ve been able to in the past. They can’t just shut them out,” said Weiss, who describes himself as a hiker, bicyclist and four-wheeling enthusiast.
Of the proposed Wexner-Sutey Ranch land trade that has been on the commissioners’ plate for more than a year, Weiss said he supports the swap in concept, but added that it’s difficult to endorse it without knowing what’s being discussed out of the public’s eye.
Weiss is seeking the seat currently held by Patti Kay-Clapper, who cannot seek re-election because of term limits. Clapper’s husband, Tom, also declared himself a candidate before suffering a heart attack and several strokes in April. He remains a patient at an acute long-term care facility in Denver.
Jack Johnson, a former Aspen city councilman and current county Planning and Zoning Commission member, is also a declared candidate for the seat.
Also up for election in November is the District 2 seat. Incumbent Commissioner Rachel Richards is the only candidate who has announced an intention to run.
Last month, the City Council adopted 49 amendments to the International Building Code that will go into effect April 1 — no joke.