Aspen City Council members and Pitkin County commissioners settled on their choices for citizen appointments to the reconfigured Aspen-Pitkin County Housing Authority board of directors on Tuesday and the consensus picks from the 10 elected officials are mostly existing members of the board.
Council members and county commissioners last week interviewed seven applicants out of a total of 32 that applied. From those seven, the elected officials were required to reach consensus on three to be voting members and one to serve as an alternate.
The top pick between both elected bodies was Carson Schmitz, a current APCHA board member and a banker at Wells Fargo in Aspen. John Ward, an existing board member and the regional president of ANB Bank, was the second top pick. Existing board member Rick Head, a real estate broker, rounded out the slate of voting members.
David Laughren, who worked in advertising and as the business manager of The Aspen Times for 11 years and helped Aspen Skiing Co. launch its free winter concert series, was the pick to be the alternate member.
Both the council and the commissioners discussed their choices in work sessions on Tuesday. County Manager Jon Peacock noted that compromise often comes down to what you can live with as opposed to what you want.
Aspen Mayor Torre echoed that sentiment.
“Not one person is getting what they saw as their vision, however there are 10 people deciding this,” he said, calling the decision a “well-done compromise.”
The citizen members will join a voting member and an alternate each from the council and the commissioners for a board with five voting members and seven total seats. The alternates are expected to attend most meetings and participate in discussions. The elected members from city council are Skippy Mesirow as the voting member and Rachel Richards as the alternate. Pitkin County will send George Newman as its voting member and Kelly McNicholas Kury as alternate.
The new board is to be formally seated on Aug. 1, disbanding the existing APCHA board that has seven voting members and one alternate, all of whom are citizen appointees, with some picks decided by the city and some by the county. The council and commissioners jointly agreed to reconfigure the APHCA board earlier this year to give it the final say on housing guideline changes, where those policy decisions are now recommended by the APCHA board but must be approved later by both elected bodies. Part of that change entailed putting elected officials on the new APCHA board.
While terms for all board members will eventually be four years long, the citizen appointees’ terms are starting off in a staggered fashion so that seats on the board will turn over starting in two years. Schmitz will serve a four-year term, while Ward’s will be three and Head’s will be two. Laughren, the alternate, will have a four-year term.
City council members noted with regret the lack of gender diversity in the applicants selected for appointment. Though the initial 32 candidates were close to a 50-50 split between men and women, only one woman, Elizabeth Stewart, an affordable housing resident who works at the Aspen Institute, made it to the interview round.
Mesirow argued that she should be on the board but that pick did not have support from other council members who noted her lack of experience on other citizen boards. Institutional knowledge was an important factor to consider, other council members said.
The alternates from the elected bodies — Richards and McNicholas Kury — will provide some factor of gender diversity, it was noted.
One of the candidates interviewed but not appointed, Peter Louras, has suggested creating an APCHA advisory committee out of the applicants who were not selected. Aspen City Council members said that’s an idea worth considering.
Both the council and the commissioners will have to approve formal resolutions at upcoming regular meetings before Aug. 1 to formally make the APCHA board appointments.