Petito, Haver, Cowherd, Dujardin take council
by Mark Reaman
For the first time in Crested Butte history there will be an electoral run-off for mayor. Of the four candidates running this time, no one received more than 50 percent of the vote on Tuesday, November 7, so the top two vote-getters, Jim Schmidt and Chris Ladoulis, will face off in another mail election that culminates on December 19.
Schmidt received 331 votes on Tuesday; Ladoulis took in 296 while Paul Merck received 65; and Tracy Smith got 44 votes. Schmidt took 45 percent of the 736 ballots cast for mayor.
In the Town Council race, Jackson Petito outpaced his eight opponents by receiving 604 votes, or 23 percent of the total. Chris Haver followed with 432 votes, then Kent Cowherd with 376 votes and Will Dujardin with 374 votes. The two-vote difference between Cowherd and Dujardin results in Dujardin receiving a two-year term while the top three get four-year terms.
Rounding out the rest of the ballot, Kyle “Squirl” Ryan came in fifth with 334 votes. One vote behind Squirl was Candice Bradley with 333, Lisa Merck with 127 and Richard Machemehl with 54 votes.
“I am thrilled the town has given me this opportunity,” said Ladoulis. “It looks like a great new council and I look forward to working with them. The run-off will be a great chance for town to take a closer look at both Jim and me.”
Schmidt is grateful for the votes he received. “I want to thank those who voted for me. Hopefully I will win in December and I promise to do my best to serve the town that I love so much,” he said.
Petito, who took in the most votes by far, was also appreciative. “I am glad I was right about the town of Crested Butte,” he said. “I am glad so many seats were open because we had so many good candidates. We now have a great opportunity and I would be excited about the times even as a resident.”
Tax issues pass big
The two tax issues in the north end of the valley both passed handily. Issue 2A, a 5-percent excise tax on short-term vacation rentals in Crested Butte, passed 605 votes to 142—an 81 percent to 19 percent margin. The money raised through the excise tax, expected to be about $300,000 annually, is earmarked for affordable housing.
“The overwhelming support for the ballot measure reinforces the importance of affordable workforce housing for the community,” said Crested Butte town manager Dara MacDonald. “The Council will be discussing immediate and long-term uses of the funding after the first of the year.”
“A sustainable funding source has been the missing piece to the town’s affordable housing program,” added Crested Butte community development director Michael Yerman.
The Crested Butte Fire Protection District request for a mill levy increase also passed by a wide margin. Only 552 people, or 33 percent, voted against the request for the property tax increase, while 1,127 voted in favor. The $1 million a year raised through that 3.5 mill tax increase will go to help pay for paid firefighters and EMTs, along with housing.
“We’re extremely pleased and grateful by the vote of confidence expressed by the voters,” commented CBFPD district manager Mike Miller. “Tax increases are never popular and for the ballot issue to pass by a resounding 2-to-1 margin demonstrates the public’s support for our mission in the provision of high quality emergency services. The additional funding provides financial security that we’ll be able to adapt to the changes being experienced in the community.”
Gunnison county election official Diane Folowell said the Election Day process went pretty smoothly. “As expected it was a heavy couple of days up in Crested Butte on Monday and Tuesday,” she said. “But the ballot process went well. Final results will be recorded and made official after we do the canvas and the election audit on November 18.”
As for the unusual mayoral run-off election, ballots will be mailed out to registered voters between November 27 and December 4. Crested Butte town clerk Lynelle Stanford said these ballots will need to be returned to town hall by December 19.
The elected mayor will be seated at the first meeting in January. In the meantime, the six people elected to council will select a temporary mayor among themselves to sit in the middle seat until the elected mayor is sworn into office. “Once the new council has been sworn in on November 20 they will appoint an acting mayor,” explained Stanford. “As for the run-off election, voters can mail ballots back to Town or they can be dropped off at Town Hall. On Election Day, Town hall will be open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. for the election.”
The cost of the election is expected to be between $8,000 and $15,000.