Whitsitt, 3 new council members sworn in at Basalt

Scott Condon
The Aspen Times
New Basalt Councilwoman Jennifer Riffle shows her excitement after getting sworn into office Tuesday night. A standing-room-only crowd in excess of 50 people watched the proceedings.
Jeremy Wallace/The Aspen Times |


The Colorado Secretary of State’s Office said Tuesday it won’t look into complaints of possible impropriety in the administration of the April 5 election or allegations of voter fraud.

Basalt resident Mary Kenyon filed a complaint with the elections office of the Secretary of State shortly after the April 5 election.

Lynn Bartels, communications director for the Secretary of State’s Office, said the office doesn’t have jurisdiction over the Basalt election.

“We told her we had no control over municipal issues and to please contact the Municipal League, the (District Attorney) or a private attorney,” Bartels told The Aspen Times in an email.

Kenyon said Tuesday evening that she hasn’t heard back from the Secretary of State’s Office. Word that the office said it didn’t have jurisdiction was news to her, she said.

Kenyon said she has filed a claim of violation with the Eagle County District Attorney’s Office. A copy of the claim wasn’t immediately available but Kenyon said she would share her email to the DA with news media. She indicated many of the claims are the same as in the complaint to the Secretary of State.

Three new council members took office in Basalt, and Mayor Jacque Whitsitt returned for four more years after a swearing-in ceremony Tuesday night.

A standing-room-only crowd in excess of 50 people attended the event, matching the high level of interest in the April 5 election. Voters selected Auden Schendler, Katie Schwoerer and Jennifer Riffle by comfortable margins in the at-large race for three council seats. Whitsitt defeated Rick Stevens by a razor-thin margin.

Stevens, who was a councilman for four years prior to Tuesday night and a former mayor for 10 years, reflected on his public service.

“Thank-you for letting me do this for roughly 14 years, I guess, and see you around,” Stevens said.

Herschel Ross, who served on the council for four years prior to Tuesday, urged the new council to take advantage of a “golden age” with a talented staff.

In her public comments, Whitsitt noted how difficult and time-consuming this election was and how hard it was on the candidates and families. She thanked all candidates who made the effort to run.

The record turnout for a non-presidential municipal election in Basalt shows that people care about the community, she said. Town Clerk Pam Schilling had reported that 1,100 residents cast ballots, or about 54 percent of registered voters.

Whitsitt suggested that town residents might have different views on issues, but they share a desire to see Basalt thrive.

“We are not very far apart in our passion, I must say,” Whitsitt said.

Rob Leavitt, who left the board Tuesday after serving four years, is traveling and was unable to attend his last meeting.

Three members of the council are in the middle of their terms and were unaffected by this election. They are Bernie Grauer, Mark Kittle and Gary Tennenbaum.

The big issue for the council and the town remains the future of the Pan and Fork site. The Basalt Planning and Zoning Commission will present its ongoing work on that site and other downtown parcels to the new council at a meeting tentatively set for May 10, according to Town Manager Mike Scanlon.

The council also will meet in a retreat May 13 and 14 to set goals and priorities.

Scanlon said the council will be asked if it wants to revisit part or all of Resolution 9, passed earlier this year to give direction to the planning commission on downtown planning.

In the new council’s first formal action Tuesday, it affirmed the appointments of Scanlon, Town Attorney Tom Smith and Municipal Judge John Collins.

The council also selected Tennenbaum as mayor pro-tem.