Paussa, Alcorta enter Basalt race |

Paussa, Alcorta enter Basalt race

Scott Condon
Aspen Times Staff Writer

A Basalt resident who got laid off by the town council in 2002 due to budget cuts is trying to rejoin the government ” this time as one of the bosses.

Nick Alcorta, the town’s former recreation director, was one of two residents to take out a candidate nomination petition for council on Friday. Also throwing his hat into the ring was Jim Paussa, who is active in various civic and environmental affairs.

Their addition means five candidates have now committed or are giving strong consideration to running for three council seats in the April 6 election. Mark Kittle, another former Basalt town government employee, and Bernie Grauer, a former newspaper reporter, have announced their candidacies. Auden Schendler, director of environmental affairs for the Aspen Skiing Co., also took out a nomination petition but said he is undecided if he will run.

Leroy Duroux and Anne Freedman are squaring off in the race for mayor. Both are current members of the council. Duroux will be forced off his council seat in April due to term limits. That doesn’t prohibit him from running for mayor.

Freedman is in the middle of a council term. She will keep that post if she doesn’t win election as mayor.

‘Sustain livability’

Paussa said he joined the race to help preserve the Basalt he knows and loves.

“When you have a place that’s as cool to live in as Basalt there are constant pressures from a lot of different angles,” he said. “I think I can sustain Basalt’s livability.”

Paussa said he has no “cut-and-dry position” on growth. It’s not as simple as saying he’s pro-growth or anti-growth, he said. He wants to keep numerous residents involved in the governing of Basalt, as is currently the case. If citizens stay involved to a high degree, they will dictate the appropriate level of growth for the town, he said.

However, he also noted “there is already” a significant amount of development that has been approved but has yet to be built. He said his research indicates there is about one million square feet of approved but unbuilt residential and commercial development. Enough, Paussa says, to sustain growth in Basalt for the next 20 to 30 years.

He said he isn’t running on a ticket with any other candidates. And he will avoid making endorsements, although he offered an observation about the mayoral race.

“Being born and raised here shouldn’t automatically qualify you to hold office,” Paussa said. “The interesting thing about Leroy (Duroux) and Anne (Freedman) is the town could take advantage of Leroy’s historic knowledge. You can ask him what happened (in Basalt) in 1966 and he knows.

“On the other hand, Anne moved here from a Chicago suburban hell and knows firsthand how a place can be ruined.”

Offers a different voice

Alcorta was the popular director of Basalt’s recreation program from 1997 until the position was eliminated during budget cuts in November 2002. Four positions in Basalt government were eliminated. Angry parents protested Alcorta’s layoff at Town Hall.

Alcorta said he knows it will appear to some people that he is running to seek revenge. “That is the furthest from the truth,” he said.

He and his wife, Debbie, recently decided they are going to stay in town after battling through some tough times. Nick not only lost his job, Debbie was forced out as the highly successful coach of the Basalt High School girls’ basketball team after she was charged with DUI.

Nick said their situation has stabilized. He started a business, Clinic Enterprises, which consults and coordinates for recreation programs throughout the valley. His interest in politics, as well as his wife’s, followed getting their feet back on the ground.

“If we are going to stay, the Alcortas want to have a say in what goes on in town,” he said. “The first thing we had to do is decide who would run.”

Nick said Debbie had so many things going on that it made the most sense for him to run. In his campaign, Alcorta will stress that he would consider issues from three primary views as a member of the council: How does the issue affect the town? How does it affect the people? How does it affect the youth?

As the parent of two boys, 8 and 5 years of age, he said he could bring a different perspective to the council. “I could provide a voice for young parents who are doing everything they can just to stay here,” he said.

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