Races for five Pitkin County offices up for election this year are starting to take shape, with three incumbents seeking re-election, a new entrant in an open-seat commissioner’s race and a contested race for the assessor’s job left open by Tom Isaac’s retirement.
At Wednesday night’s Pitkin County Democrats assembly, former Aspen mayor and Pitkin County commissioner Mick Ireland announced his intention to run for assessor, as did Deb Bamesberger, who has worked in the assessor’s office for six years.
Kelly McNicholas Kury, who has worked in the county’s elections department for five years, came out at the assembly as a candidate for the District 2 county commissioner seat currently held by the term-limited Rachel Richards. No other candidates have yet to come forward for the seat.
District 1 County Commissioner Patti Clapper is planning to run for re-election and has yet to see a challenger.
Pitkin County Sheriff Joe DiSalvo is planning to run for his third term. While no one has filed paperwork indicating their intention to challenge DiSalvo, Aspen police officer Walter Chi announced last year that he plans to run.
Pitkin County Clerk Janice Vos Caudill is also running for re-election and is so far unopposed.
Anyone interested in running for any of the seats may pickup their nomination petition beginning April 9. Petitions must be returned by April 20 with 100 signatures from eligible county voters. Any race with more than two candidates will go to a June 26 primary, with the top two advancing to the November general election. While candidates regularly seek political party designations in county races, the elections are nonpartisan.
To review a candidate packet or for more information, go to www.pitkinvotes.com or contact the Pitkin County Elections Department at 429-2732.
Ireland, 68, who served for 13 years as county commissioner starting in 1993 and for six as Aspen mayor beginning in 2007, pointed to his background as a tax accountant and his record as a Pitkin County hearing officer, where he adjudicates assessed-valuation disputes, as qualifications for the job. The assessor’s office calculates the value of residential, commercial and personal property for taxing purposes and is required by state law to base those valuations on relevant market activity.
“I have acquired a keen understanding of how the assessment process works, and how it affects the local governments I have served and the taxpayers that make civil society possible,” he said, quoting from his remarks at the Democratic county assembly.
He said a potential amendment to the state constitution that would make it possible to tax second homes at a higher rate than someone’s primary residence is “worth exploring.”
“There are some reforms that could be implemented at the state level to protect full-time residents from excessive taxation, and I will evaluate these and work with partners on the state level to further fairness for the residents of this county and state,” he said in his assembly speech.
Bamesberger came to the county assessor’s office in 2012, having worked in real estate since 1992. She was initially hired in an administrative role but for two years has been in charge of appraising the value of taxable personal property.
Bamesberger, 60, said she has been considering running since Isaac, the longtime assessor, announced that he would retire at the end of his current term.
“I believe I can make a difference,” she said. “I would love to keep the office the friendly, helpful and fair office that it currently is.”
She said she would not make any big changes in the office as “everything is running so smoothly” with all state-mandated deadlines met.
After growing up in Pueblo, Bamesberger moved to the Roaring Fork Valley in 1979 and Pitkin County in 2000.
A political newcomer, she said that upon first taking her job in the assessor’s office, she never would have thought she would run for election to be in charge.
But recently, “I decided I wanted to do something new and exciting and challenging,” she said. When asked about facing a well-known political opponent, she said she felt her “qualifications speak for themselves. I am qualified and experienced.”
McNicholas Kury’s tenure in Pitkin County of five years has been spent working in the elections department of the county clerk’s office, where she was promoted from elections applications specialist to elections manager in 2016. She also sits on the city of Aspen Planning and Zoning Commission, where she said she tries to “be very reasonable with balancing the public interest with applicants’ desires.”
McNicholas Kury, 39, holds a master’s degree from University of Denver and served in the Peace Corps. She said she finds herself at “mid-career” and would like to move into more of a policy-making role, rather than an administrative one.
“I am intimately aware of the pressures of growth and have done extensive policy work on water protection,” she said in a press release announcing her campaign. “There are big issues facing the county. We need to have conversations about our culture of growth, our community’s health, and our commitment to conservation.”
She said she plans a listening tour with neighborhood caucuses and other community groups as she hones her campaign platform.
If elected, McNicholas Kury would stop aside from her job in the elections department, but said she plans to continue working there during the campaign. As elections manager, her main duties currently are training election judges, ensuring ballots will be printed and distributed properly, and making sure voting sites are set and accessible for the coming election.