Mayor celebrates new beginnings
ASPEN Mayor Helen Klanderud had a mini crisis on her hands Friday morning – there were no G-rated movies playing for the reopening of the Isis Theatre.With only a few days left in office, Klanderud was still dealing with complaints, no matter how big or small. A woman left a phone message Friday complaining that the Isis lineup left the children out and wanted the mayor to do something about it. Klanderud receives dozens of e-mails and phone calls weekly and does her best to respond to them all. But Friday, Aspen’s mayor for the past six years had other things on her mind – picking up her daughter at the airport and planning her own 70th birthday bash at Aspen Meadows, which hundreds of Aspenites attended Saturday evening.A departure from her standard black attire, Klanderud donned an off-white dress. She clearly enjoyed the role of being one of the community’s highest-profile residents as she basked in the admiration her friends and family gave her, which was a mutual sentiment throughout the evening. It was a birthday celebration in nothing but Klanderud fashion.All of four of her children spoke of their mother’s influence on them – both as a single mother and as a caring community member. Klanderud moved here in the early ’70s with her children, taking a job as a social worker. She considered a job on an Indian reservation in New Mexico before coming to the Roaring Fork Valley.”Moving to Aspen, mom took some risks to make our life better,” said her son, Erik. “I can’t imagine what my life would have been if we had gone to an Indian reservation.” Guests enjoyed Klanderud’s birthday party in the newly finished Doerr-Hosier Center at Aspen Meadows with its spectacular views of the Roaring Fork River. The building has been open to the public for two days. Champagne flowed, and there was sushi, crab cakes, shrimp and beef tenderloin for hours.One of Aspen’s more social mayors, Klanderud is always up for a party and frequents as many social gatherings as time permits. She believes the role of mayor is symbolic and therefore it’s important to show support to the community whether it’s for the schools, organizations or nonprofits.”That is why I go to as many places that I do,” she said. “The mayor needs to stay in touch with the community.”Jackie Lothian, who works in the City Clerk’s office, said Klanderud has been the best mayor to work for.”She treated all of the staff the same,” Lothian said. “She was incredible because she care about people.”Phil Whittingham, who showed up for Saturday’s festivities said Klanderud was a fantastic mayor because she “gets it.””She encompasses the mind, body and spirit that we all share,” he said. Klanderud will relinquish her seat on Monday because of term limits. She will hand the reigns to Mick Ireland, who won the seat in the June 5 election.Since taking office in 2001, Klanderud has received criticism from many political foes and residents on her policy-making decisions and her votes on growth and development. She doesn’t mind the criticism – unless it’s based on misinformation.”That is what irritates me,” she said. “I don’t mind being blamed if it’s my fault. … I spent a lot of years as a therapist, and people project their anger onto you, but my skin is just as thick as it was when I took office.”Klanderud reflected on her three two-year terms last week in her nearly empty office on the second floor of City Hall. She listed off a number of accomplishments under her administration, such as getting bus lanes on Main Street and the recent voter-approved Highway 82 bus-only lanes from Buttermilk to the roundabout. The exclusive lanes on Main Street have reduced travel time for buses by 15 minutes, she said.Klanderud is proud of the Canary Initiative, a series of goals one environmental plan set out. It won’t be easy to implement but definitely possible.”Aspen is very visible, and we can spread the awareness to the rest of the country because of our visibility,” she said. “If nothing else, the awareness of global warming and climate protection has spread like wildfire.”But with all the accomplishments there are just as many lingering issues, such as traffic and the lack of affordable housing.”The housing crisis has reached a level of epic proportions,” she said. “And I’m frustrated about the Entrance to Aspen, but that doesn’t mean I have a solution.”By far the biggest concern for Klanderud is the divisiveness among the populace.”I felt really good with the cooperation and collaboration in 2001 and 2002,” she said. “But I regret the divisiveness has returned. … The rich-poor thing has got to stop.”She hopes that falls by the wayside soon and the next administration can bring the community together. As far as what the future holds, she doesn’t know yet. Right now, she’s just basking in her birthday and ending her stint as mayor.”I’m very excited about the future, whatever that may be.”
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