Rachel Richards and Skippy Mesirow were elected outright to the Aspen City Council on Tuesday in a four-way contest for the two available seats this year.
Richards, who recently ended her third term as a Pitkin County commissioner and previously served as Aspen mayor and council member, was a clear winner with 1,729 votes, according to complete but unofficial results.
Mesirow, a relative newcomer to local politics who last fall successfully lobbied Aspen voters to move the election date from its traditional May date to March, also cleared the 1,228-vote threshold needed to avoid a runoff by pulling 1.433 votes.
Councilman Bert Myrin ran third with 1,215 votes, missing the runoff by 13 votes, while City Clerk Linda Manning garnered 1,076 votes with a fourth-place finish.
After the results were announced just after 8:30 p.m., an elated Richards spoke about her keys to victory with reporters. She said her longtime experience in local government was a likely factor in the win.
She said she felt that two candidates would emerge victorious and there would be no runoff. But she wasn’t sure who those two winners would be.
“I’m overwhelmed by this level of support, and humbled,” Richards said. “I know I have a lot of work to do now and I have a lot to live up to.”
She said despite the fact that people have not always agreed with her stance on various issues and projects, they continue to trust her decision-making abilities.
“You’re never going to get someone to agree with you 100 percent unless you’re looking in the mirror,” Richards said. “I’m a good decision-maker, and I’ll be thoughtful, patient and looking out for the long-term good of the community.”
Richards said she campaigned as hard as she ever has, from a personal standpoint, but didn’t have a very large working committee for this election.
“People were either already committed to other committees, or they were so burned out after the 2018 elections, and you just didn’t have a lot of people wanting to walk in the snow that we’ve had lately,” she said.
Mesirow, who lost a bid for council in 2017, said he felt confident about making a runoff and was surprised that he won a council seat outright. He said his campaign staff made 1,500 get-out-the-vote calls Tuesday.
“I’m always skeptical going in, because if you think you’re going to win, you’re guaranteed to lose because you’re going to stop working,” he said.
Mesirow credited a wide range of supporters for pushing him to the finish line, from young service industry workers and professionals to local political stalwarts like Pitkin County Sheriff Joe DiSalvo, former Councilman Art Daily and developer John Sarpa.
“It’s been the most heartwarming thing in the world to have people I grew up mythologizing, like [former Sheriff] Bob Braudis, and many others behind us,” he said. “It feels amazing.”
Turnout in the race was nearly 50 percent. Mesirow said there’s no doubt that holding the election in March instead of during the off-season contributed to the strong voter participation. More than 1,000 votes were cast in person at City Hall on Tuesday.
“That’s outstanding, almost a 20 percent increase in turnout from 2017,” he said. “That’s the biggest win of the night, even more than my win.”
The two new council members will be sworn-in to their seats in June.