In a mayoral runoff election that may come down to style over substance, two candidates who concede that they share similar values made their cases for who would best lead the city during their first head-to-head meeting on Thursday.
Torre, 43, and Steve Skadron, 50, two Aspen City Council members who advanced to a June 4 runoff election out of a field of six in last week’s vote, taped an hour-long sit-down with local journalist Brent Gardner-Smith in the GrassRoots TV studios. The program, an extension of GrassRoots' “Probeline” series, will air throughout the next two-and-a-half weeks until the election.
“We share certain philosophical leanings, and I think that’s to the community’s benefit” Skadron said. “Where we differ is in management and skill sets. It’s a function of our experiences over time.”
Torre said he would prefer to talk about issues, but said Skadron keeps trying to turn the conversation back to leadership.
“For some reason, his suggestion ... is I don’t have as good of leadership skills as he does,” Torre said. He pointed to his varied experiences in Aspen, including working as a snowboard and tennis instructor, restaurant worker and event producer, as giving him a strong background in the community. Skadron owns a media and marketing consulting business.
They shared some riffs on what mayoral leadership means. Torre said the mayor has to be able to move the “[council] table forward together” and help heal a community that has become increasingly “fractionalized” and divided between City Hall and its critics. Skadron said the mayor is responsible for setting the vision and including fellow council members.
“Management is moving the community from A to B. Leadership is knowing where B is,” Skadron said.
There also was a good bit of discussion about the implications of an appointment process, should Skadron be elected. Since he is in the middle of his four-year council seat, if he wins the runoff, the four-person council led by Skadron will have to pick someone to serve out the remainder of his term.
Torre pointed out that electing him keeps both of their voices on the board.
“I look forward to working with Steve,” he said.
Skadron said that the mayoral vote shouldn’t come down to electoral strategy, and that the community should trust the council — with newly elected members Art Daily and Ann Mullins — to make a sound judgment on the appointment.
Skadron also said he’s been approached by people interested in the appointment who have asked him to back their application for the vacancy, including former candidates, in exchange for an endorsement. He did not say who.
“What I’m not interested in doing is horse trading,” he said.
The candidates also showed a difference in how they approach the campaign process. Skadron said the number of forums before the May 7 election — there were seven such events, plus numerous questionnaires and interviews — was concerning, because the over-saturation might discourage people from getting involved in politics. He described the process as “both extraordinary and exponentially onerous” compared to his two previous runs for City Council.
“I think we experienced forum fatigue,” Skadron said.
Torre said he was all for the forums, and having as much dialogue as possible.
“I think the rigors of trying to get the job of mayor come with the job, so I’m all for that,” he said.
The “Aspen Mayoral Roundtable” will air on GrassRoots TV — broadcasting on channel 12 in Aspen and channel 82 downvalley — at 6 p.m. on Friday, 10 a.m. on Sunday and 7 p.m. on Monday, plus future times to be determined later. The program also is available on demand at the GrassRootsTV.org website at http://www.grassrootstv.org/Show.aspx?ShowID=11660 .