Twice-elected council member says city leaders need long-term vision
Aspen City Councilman Steve Skadron became the first person on Tuesday to announce his candidacy for Aspen mayor in the May election.
Skadron, 50, was first elected to council in 2007 and reelected in 2011, when he won his seat without having to go to a runoff.
The most important thing a local elected official can do, Skadron said, is leave behind a vision for the next generation to follow. He said he has been greatly influenced by the late Eve Homeyer, who was Aspen mayor in the early 1970s, and was an ahead-of-her-time champion of local causes such as public transportation and environmental protection.
In a statement announcing his candidacy, Skadron listed a goal of keeping the “downtown core one of the world’s great urban spaces, by honoring the vision Homeyer set, which helped to define Aspen’s small-town character.”
Asked what he would like his legacy to be, Skadron said he “would like the definition of small-town character to mean something, and not just be a collection of words we throw around.” Some ways to do that, he said, are to honor mountain access and mountain views.
Skadron has voted in favor of lowering downtown building heights from 42 to 28 feet. He also voted against the Aspen Art Museum’s new downtown building over size and process concerns. In his two-page statement announcing his candidacy, Skadron said he would work to “continue establishing more continuity between the land use code and the [Aspen Area Community Plan] to take the guesswork out of the development process, so developers understand what is or is not acceptable.”
The thing Skadron said he is most proud of over his nearly six years on council is signing off on a balanced city budget with adequate reserves each year, despite going through the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression. He said he enjoys the budgeting process, when council spends about a month each fall reviewing the balance sheets of all city departments.
“The story of a city can be told in the numbers,” he said.
One decision he regrets, he said, was the city’s 2007 move to purchase for $18.25 million a 4.7-acre lumberyard across from the airport on Highway 82. He supported the buy at the time, which was made for affordable housing land-banking purposes, but he said he went against his “gut” in doing so.
“My gut told me it was too aggressive of a purchase,” he said.
Skadron is known for asking broad, philosophical questions at the council table as he considers the proposals that come before him.
“That’s just the way my head works,” he said.
The mayor and City Council, as defined in the city charter, are policy makers, while city staff is in charge of day-to-day administration. Skadron said he uses the broad questioning as a way to understand the thinking behind whatever is being proposed.
Skadron also said in his statement that he wants Aspen “to be the best-run small town in America by exercising strong fiscal oversight and creating a more effective decision-making process.”
He also said he wants to “preside over focused meetings, with impartiality, because minority or dissenting opinions should inform the public debate.”
Skadron is not likely to be alone in the mayoral field for long. His three City Council colleagues are all considering a mayoral run, while current Mayor Mick Ireland is mulling running for City Council, as term limits are forcing him to step down after six years as mayor.
Skadron has been an Aspen resident for 17 years. He is the principal of SpoonerSkadron, a marketing communications firm, and an adjunct professor at Colorado Mountain College’s Isaacson School for New Media, where he created and taught an e-commerce course last semester. He is an accomplished marathoner, Ironman triathlete and backcountry adventurist with extensive international travel experience, he said in his statement. He has an MBA with a concentration in finance from Boston’s Northeastern University, and a bachelor’s degree from the University of Minnesota’s Carlson School of Management. Skadron is originally from St. Paul, Minn.
The election is May 7, when voters will enter their choices for mayor and two City Council seats. A runoff election may be held a month later if the races are close. The first day to file paperwork to run for office is March 18. Prospective office holders must have lived in the city of Aspen for at least one year, and be able to find 25 Aspen voters willing to a sign a petition vouching for their candidacy. The final day to submit the petition is April 8.