No dice: Aspen City Council chooses Dwayne Romero for vacant seat
The Aspen Times
There was no dice roll Wednesday morning to break the Aspen City Council’s 2-2 deadlock in the appointment to fill the vacant Aspen City Council seat.
Mayor Steve Skadron, realizing that none of the three elected council members would change their vote, decided that giving in would be better than leaving the selection up to chance. Though he had lobbied for retired banker Howie Mallory during special meetings Tuesday afternoon and Wednesday morning, his last-minute switch put Dwayne Romero, a former Aspen councilman and head of a local development company, in the seat Skadron vacated when he was elected mayor in early June.
Officially, the vote for Romero was 4-0. After Skadron announced he would go with Romero, Councilwoman Ann Mullins went along with the decision and made it unanimous even though she also had pushed for Mallory.
On Tuesday, following interviews with four finalists for the part-time job, the council indicated its preferences through a secret-ballot process that quickly became transparent after the first of four tie votes. Mallory had the support of Skadron and Mullins. Councilmen Adam Frisch and Art Daily preferred Romero, president of Related Colorado, the company that manages the Base Village area of Snowmass Village.
Neither side was willing to budge, setting up a Wednesday showdown that would have culminated in a dice roll had Skadron not acquiesced.
“Ann, I’m going to part ways with you here,” Skadron said after it was clear that Daily and Frisch weren’t going to capitulate. “I don’t believe abdicating responsibility for an important decision to a roll of the dice is appropriate. I think it’s wrong.
“My decision is to break this tie,” Skadron continued. “And I think that’s in Aspen’s best interest.”
Before he spoke, though, he obtained an assurance from Romero that his attention would not be focused on trying to get the recently passed 28-foot height limit on new and refurbished downtown projects repealed.
Afterward, Mallory and Romero shook hands. Mallory said he was comfortable with the decision.
“Steve really deserves the credit,” Mallory said. “He didn’t let Lady Luck rule democracy even though the (municipal) code allows for that.”
Though the council members and the two finalists said the community would be better off with a council majority making the decision, Mallory said the dice roll — actually, the procedure would have involved a roll of one die by each finalist — would have been fine with him, as well.
“It would have been a left-handed dice thrower versus a right-handed dice thrower,” he said, referring to Romero, who is a lefty. “But I think it’s good that the council made the decision; it showed that they can be faced with a tough decision and debate it among themselves. The mayor took a leadership role, which is why the mayor’s position is so important.”
The process to fill the vacant seat began after Skadron and newly elected council members Daily and Mullins were sworn in at a June 10 meeting. Eleven people officially sought the position, filing applications by a June 17 deadline.
“This was more like a job interview than a campaign with all the rhetoric,” Mallory said.
During the public evaluations of the finalists, Mullins said she liked Mallory’s big-picture view of community issues and the fact that he would be another fresh face on the council, which many voters indicated they wanted. Frisch and Daily, however, praised Romero’s knowledge of city and state government: He served six months in early 2011 as Gov. John Hickenlooper’s director of economic development.
Mallory was seen as an advocate of slow and cautious growth and more in line with Skadron’s and Mullins’ views. Romero generally was perceived as someone who is more open to building opportunities, although he has a track record as a moderate on such issues.
Before relenting, Skadron sought to convince Frisch, a fiscal conservative, that Romero had a liberal attitude toward spending on social services, to no avail. Skadron and Romero served on the council together from June 2007 until January 2011, when Romero vacated his own seat to work for Hickenlooper.
Frisch stressed on Tuesday and Wednesday that a main reason for supporting Romero was the fact that Romero actually has run for office, winning a council seat in 2007 but coming in third in this year’s bid to return. In the May 7 general election, he was bested by Daily and Mullins, both of whom pulled enough votes to avoid a runoff.
“That was tremendous leadership that Steve showed,” Romero said. “It was a positive play for the community. Put aside the outcome, I’m uplifted by the message and the position that he has taken. The community’s going to feel real good about the step he took.”
He said he’s a team player and he’s not looking to shake things up during the next two years in the appointed seat.
“People who know me know that’s not my style. I’m not an instigator or an agitator. I kind of pride myself on being a good problem-solver,” Romero said.