At least two new faces will be on council
By Alissa Johnson
Four seats are up for election on the Mt. Crested Butte Town Council, with the new term starting April 2016. While two sitting councilmembers are running for reelection, there will be at least two new faces on council—mayor David Clayton and councilmember Gary Keiser are term limited.
Councilmembers Ken Lodovico and Nicholas Kempin, who were both appointed to vacated seats in 2015, have pulled petitions to run for election. And according to Jill Lindros, town clerk and designated election official, Mt. Crested Butte resident Janet Farmer has pulled a petition as well.
Only Mt. Crested Butte residents who return petitions with 10 signatures by Monday, January 25 at 5 p.m. will be on the ballot. The incoming council will have several projects to oversee in the next few years and, according to both town manager Joe Fitzpatrick and outgoing councilmember Gary Keiser, the responsibility to maintain the town’s financial footing.
Keiser came onto the council eight years ago, just as the real estate collapse and economic downturn took their toll on the town’s reserves. The council and town staff worked together over the next few years to restore reserves to 50 percent of the general fund. Managing finances will continue to be critical.
“We are almost full cycle with the economic downturn. We had a contraction there that we had to deal with. We did a good job cutting back and now there’s expansion, and we’re doing a good job of putting resources where they’re needed most,” Keiser said.
In addition to general governance, Keiser also sees three significant, ongoing projects that the council will influence: the Biery-Witt Center, completing the rec path, and road maintenance.
“Typically in the past what the town has done when things are tight is to not spend money on roads,” Keiser explained. Yet putting off repairs means roads deteriorate and become more expensive to fix in the long run. Keiser said the town has been setting aside money every year for road repair and developed a plan for maintenance.
“Having a long-range plan is important for residents and visitors,” he said.
Town manager Joe Fitzpatrick echoed much of what Keiser noted, including maintaining strong reserves.
“We had good leadership from the audit committee, who are Gary Keiser and David Clayton. They helped council and town staff rebuild reserves [after] the ‘07/’08 real estate collapse,” Fitzpatrick said.
He said issues such as affordable housing, continuing to stimulate summer business, and upgrading aging town infrastructure, like parks, will also continue to be important.
In general, Keiser said the town is in pretty good shape, with good staff and remaining councilmembers to move things forward.
“A resort community is constantly boom and bust. You have to manage the contraction when it happens and continue to plan for the future because some things take a long time to get done. When it’s booming, you have to manage the growth… be thoughtful, plan ahead and determine how to allow growth,” Keiser continued.
Perhaps the biggest challenge for incoming councilmembers will be the learning curve—something Kempin can attest to. He was appointed to the council in December last year.
“One of the reasons the appointment appealed to me was a way to get my feet wet and make sure it’s something I wanted to do. My time thus far has been getting up to speed,” Kempin said.
While he was familiar with the issues, he found the level of detail necessary to make decisions as a councilmember is much greater.
Mt. Crested Butte residents interested in running for one of the open seats must be registered voters and can pick up petitions from Town Hall. Only individuals who return petitions with 10 signatures by January 25 at 5 p.m. will be placed on the ballot.
Voting will take place via a mail ballot election.