There are two council members running for mayor who, if elected, would be giving up the last two years of their four-year term, leaving it up to elected officials to appoint a representative for Aspen residents.
The city’s election commission is contemplating rule changes so that in a similar scenario in the future, the voting public gets to make the choice and not Aspen City Council.
The issue was brought up last week by election commissioner Ward Hauenstein, who suggested that the home rule charter be changed so that appointments as a result of elections do not occur.
Councilmen Adam Frisch and Steve Skadron are running for mayor, and if either one of them win, they would be vacating their council seat, to which both were elected in 2011.
The city charter doesn’t specifically address how to handle a vacancy as a result of an election but it does state that the remaining council members shall appoint someone in the event that an officer resigns.
Regardless, the issue should be clarified before the May 7 election, said election commissioner Bob Leatherman.
And in the future, a change to the home rule charter may be put in front of voters that would ask them if they want to remove the responsibility of council to appoint and allow the electorate to vote in a candidate.
That could occur during a special election, or it could be decided by appointing the third highest vote getter in the previous election, Hauenstein said.
He said he doesn’t envision bringing the issue to voters for at least two years and it wouldn’t affect a municipal election for four.
“I just thought it was a valid concern,” he said. “I think it’s worthwhile to have a discussion.”
Leatherman agrees, and said he’d prefer that the people make the decision on their representation, rather than remaining council members selecting an appointee. That process, which starts with an open call to the public for applications, can morph into a heated political debacle.
“I’m sure we’ll do something, that the election commission will recommend some change or amendment to the charter to solve this problem,” he said.
The last appointment made by council was in early 2011 when Dwayne Romero stepped down to take a job in Gov. John Hickenlooper’s economic development office. With four months left on Romero’s term, council members appointed Ruth Kruger, who said she wouldn’t run for council in the upcoming election. She eventually ran unsuccessfully for mayor against Mick Ireland, the current mayor who is stepping down in June due to term limits.
The council also appointed Jackie Kasabach after councilman J.E. DeVilbiss died in 2008.