Former Aspen Councilman Torre announced his bid for mayor on Wednesday, saying he sees the need for better communication, representation and leadership from the city’s highest elected position.
Torre, 49, has run unsuccessfully for mayor five times previously. He was elected to council in 2003 and 2009. While serving on the five-member body he often took on the role of government outsider.
“I’m running for mayor because my passions for the best interests of Aspen are still here,” he said. “I’m still called to action because of the issues and the candidates that are out there. I think I bring a level of experience and leadership that is very much needed right now.”
He filed his petition on Wednesday — the last day to declare intent for mayor or city council — and will face Adam Frisch and Ann Mullins, two sitting council members who previously declared their intentions for the seat. There is a fourth candidate for mayor, Cale Mitchell, who was set to run in 2017 before being disqualified because it was determined he had not resided within the city’s boundaries for at least one year.
Torre had considered running for council instead, but in the end, decided to go for the top spot.
“As I was considering running for council or the mayor, I had a lot of encouragement to run for the mayor’s office and that made a lot of sense to me as well,” Torre said.
He said despite his long record of being involved in local issues, it would be inaccurate for voters to consider him a career politician. He has served eight years on the council since his first successful election in 2003 nearly 16 years ago. He pointed out that he’s been out of office for the past six years.
“I run for office because I care about the issues and I care about my town,” he said. “To me this isn’t a popularity contest or a feather in my cap, or some kind of hobby. It’s a very serious job and I look at it that way. I’m asking Aspenites for a two-year chance to show some vision, creativity and leadership.”
Torre — who goes by a single name — was born in Silver Springs, Maryland. He grew up in St. Petersburg, Florida, and lived in New York City, San Francisco and Denver prior to settling down in Aspen some 25 years ago. He works as a tennis instructor, and is primarily employed by Smuggler Racquet Club in the summer and the Snowmass Club in the winter.
He said he’d rather be known for being effective than being elected. He said he’s not one to let naysayers stand in the way of his call to public service.
“I’m here once again to speak to the issues. I do feel I am the best candidate for the job and I intended to prove that over the course of the campaign,” Torre said.
He said there would be plenty of time during the two-month campaign season to discuss specifics about issues, but laid out a few of his concerns.
He questioned the city’s recent push for a new government complex via the fall ballot, when two options were laid out before voters in an advisory question. Torre said the ballot should have included a third option in which voters could have expressed opposition to both option A and option B. He called the outcome, in which a majority of voters expressed a desire for a new city government building near Rio Grande Park, a “lesser of two evils” choice.
He said communication at City Hall has been an issue, as evidenced recently by the fracas involving a planned affordable-housing project. The city, partnering with a private developer, needed the Aspen-Pitkin County Housing Authority to participate in the project in order to save millions of dollars through tax credits. But APCHA was not asked to join forces until early this month, and when the housing agency’s board asked for compensation for the administrative burden it expects to tackle, a city official went on a tirade following a public meeting, referring to the board as “extortionists.” Torre said the tense situation could have been avoided had the city made overtures to APCHA months earlier instead of at the last minute.
Torre said that as mayor, he would push for environmental stewardship to be a primary tenet of city government. He also wants to continue the city’s goal of bringing transportation alternatives to the table and wants to tackle the difficult questions involved in retaining working families with children and the elderly as part of the community.
Also on Wednesday, the field was established for two available seats on council. The candidates will be City Clerk Linda Manning, Aspen Planning and Zoning Commissioner Skippy Mesirow, Councilman Bert Myrin and Pitkin County Commissioner Rachel Richards. The two candidates with the most votes will be elected to the two seats.
In Aspen, mayors hold two-year terms and council members serve four-year terms. Mayors can be re-elected twice consecutively while council members can only be re-elected once consecutively. Mayor Steve Skadron, first elected in 2013 to succeed Mick Ireland, is term-limited from vying for re-election after voters supported him again in 2015 and 2017. Skadron defeated Torre in 2013 and 2015 and Lee Mulcahy in 2017.
Frisch is term-limited for running for re-election to the council seat he first won eight years ago; Myrin has served four years on council and therefore can seek re-election. Mullins was re-elected to council in 2017 and can serve out the remaining two years of her term if she doesn’t win the mayor’s race.
The municipal election will be held March 5, the first Tuesday in March, instead of its historic spot on the first Tuesday in May. In the recent fall election, Aspen voters moved the spring municipal election date earlier by two months following a push from a group led by Mesirow, who ran for council two years ago.
Mesirow and others contended that more people would participate in a March election when the town is busy than during the spring off-season when many service-industry workers and other local residents are traveling.
A runoff election for the mayoral and council races, if necessary, would be held April 2. In the mayor’s race, a candidate who receives 50 percent of the vote plus one vote is the automatic winner. A runoff would be held among the top two vote-getters if no one meets the 50 percent-plus-one threshold. In the council races, the threshold is 45 percent plus one vote.