Torre seeks third term as mayor of Aspen
They say the state of someone’s desk offers insight into their mind. Mayor Torre’s desk — and office — shed light into the mind of a true creative.
He is seeking his third term as mayor of Aspen. The city’s home charter limits mayoral terms to three consecutive two-year terms, though he would be able to run again after a two-year break. If his re-election bid is unsuccessful, he could run for mayor or City Council in 2025.
“My top priorities in this are maintaining a sustainable quality of life, a livable and affordable Aspen, improvements with our city government and administration, and (fostering) prosperous business. Those are my focus going forward. I think that I still have a lot of really great work that I can do for the community. And I’m asking for two more years,” he said.
Torre has a long history in city politics, having been elected to the Aspen City Council in 2003 and 2009. After five unsuccessful bids for the mayoral seat since he first ran in 2001, it finally stuck in 2019 when he beat opponent Ann Mullins in a runoff.
He said his experience with both positions within City Hall taught him that the commitment required of the mayor goes beyond demands of council members, and that he enjoys the juggle.
“Being a council member is like a player and such, but being the mayor is more of a coach or manager. You know, I really kind of try to coordinate three teams: City Council, city staff, and our community and citizens,” he said. “And so the role of the mayor is very much as the convener of those three bodies. Whereas the work of a council member is to really focus on the more of the issues at hand and the matter at hand.”
After visiting friends who lived here in the ’90s, Torre made it official, and Aspen became home in the ‘93-’94 season after growing up in Florida and living in San Francisco. He loved the people and immediately felt at home in the community.
He held down a few restaurant gigs, worked a variety of positions with SkiCo, and put his musical talent to work as a sound engineer in music venues. Now, he works as a tennis instructor and lives in a deed-restricted apartment in the core.
Torre, whether he wins re-election this time or not, will be remembered as the mayor who saw Aspen through the uncharted waters of the coronavirus pandemic and its lasting effects on “local character.
“What we see in Aspen, the pressures, and the economics that are going on here, have absolutely reduced the number of community gathering dining and conversation spaces that used to exist, where people connected with each other,” he said.
The town was changing long before COVID-19 drastically changed the economic and demographic makeup of Aspen, and he said responsibility for issues like commercial vacancy or high housing prices do not fall at his or the council’s feet.
“I think that that is a sentiment that you probably would hear from people in towns across this country, if not even the world. The world has changed over the last few years. I don’t think any responsibility lies on this council or, really, any of the previous (councils),” he said.
Instead, he pointed to a disconnect between the needs of the community and the needs of the economy in a rural, yet popular area.
“I think we’ve tried for so many years to set up a land-use code that encourages more of that development and more of that usage. But in the past couple of years, we have not seen the market really in line with our community ethics,” he said. “Add that in with the fact that we had the global pandemic, there were things and opportunities that maybe became challenges, and the pandemic maybe set us back in some different areas. But I give myself pretty high marks for what I’ve done over the last four years.”
He points to the open-space tax, broadening financial opportunities at the Wheeler Opera House, and the efforts to recognize the importance of mental-health care as some of the major successes of his tenure as mayor.
“Obviously, the STR tax was reflective of the survey that we took with our community, and then that passed over 60%. So, those things that really are reflected back from your community are great. Right here on my desk,” he said as he waved a thick packet from a pile of paperwork, “is the Affordable Housing Strategic Plan that was so necessary. I’m so glad that we got a document that really brings us all together talking about the same issue, in the same way, with the same challenges and opportunities available for everybody to know information on.”
He also emphasized that Aspen still boasts affordable spaces for locals to gather and grab a bite, like Zane’s Tavern, New York Pizza, or Aspen Public House — just not as many as there used to be. And the city is moving forward with opening a new affordable restaurant in the city-owned Rio Grande space formerly occupied by Taster’s Pizza.
Torre’s said his philosophy for approaching governance and leading the council is to follow community direction. He emphasized the importance of voter turnout to best serve his constituency.
“It’s an occupation that comes with a lot of compromise. You don’t get everything you want at this seat,” he said. “Whether you vote for me or not, I hope that people will participate and vote. The more votes that are counted, the better our democracy is reflective and representative.”
The municipal election will take place March 7. Aspen voters can confirm their registration through the Colorado Secretary of State website.
Ballots will be mailed out to active registered voters on Feb. 14, and early voting will begin in the City Clerk’s Office on Feb. 21. Ballots can be mailed or dropped off at the drop box in front of City Hall.
“I would be honored and super excited for two more years to work for my community,” Torre said. “And knowing that that would be the end of my ability to run for mayor, I really look forward to doing the work, and I go into it with a lot of enthusiasm. So I’m asking for people’s votes.”
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