How does Aspen remain authentic in a less authentic world?
This is the question I have asked myself since Katy and I moved to Aspen to plant our roots, to build a community, and to start and raise our family. While enjoying the honor of sitting on city council for the past eight years, this question has been foremost on my mind. I believe the next mayor, working alongside the council members and a dedicated, high-quality city staff, needs to lead through inspiration, dedication and communication to focus on this question. Our community’s concerns and aspirations — including our indispensable affordable housing program, our land use code that emphasizes sense of place, a healthy community and a continuation of our progressive environmental policies — are all affected by our answer.
From day one, l viewed my leadership role at city hall as elected community service. I have a proven track record of delivering, not just talking about, community goals, and would be honored to be able to continue to serve this community as everyone’s mayor. I have made some mistakes in the past; I am certain to make some in the future. I am not running to be a perfect mayor, but one who listens and learns from our community’s shared wisdom, and then delivers decisive and efficient action through our legislative process.
Of course, it is impossible to produce community goals single-handedly. Support from fellow elected officials and implementation by our dedicated staff are necessary elements of the process. However, community goals are typically initiated by individual members at the council table. I have been effective in introducing legislation during my eight years at the council table and am confident I can be even more so as your mayor. Some of my most successful initiatives that received support from my fellow elected officials and were effectively implemented by our skilled staff were:
- May 2012: Steered a proposed plastic bag tax to a ban on plastic non-reusable bags from our supermarkets.
- Fall 2012: Initiated a two-day, joint work session on affordable housing with the county, APCHA and the city to focus on a demand study, future needs, opportunities and challenges to the program.
- November 2015: Initiated the balanced and thoughtful downzoning of 2016 by bringing the mayor, city attorney, and director of community development together to layout my goals and a process for a moratorium, solidifying a two-story downtown, mandating second-tier spaces in new buildings, and adding further protections for our important view planes.
- Fall 2017: Spearheaded a tobacco tax to city council, which received 75 percent voter support.
To be an effective leader and to implement successful initiatives, I believe Aspen’s mayor must have their pulse on the true diversity of this community. That understanding of the diversity of the community will not come from only reading letters to the editors, listening to public comment for three minutes at city council meetings and reading staff memos. While it might take me a bit longer than most to shop at Clark’s Market, or enjoy dinner out on the town with my family, or do a bowl lap, I learn more from these encounters leading my daily life than I do sitting in city hall or reading memos. I have always been committed to being out and about and available to the community.
Besides our common desire to live in a small town focused on the outdoors, I believe there are 5,000 reasons why people move to town. This diversity needs to be better understood and appreciated with true humility and championed from the council table.
As Katy and I raise kids and experience our lives in Aspen, we have met and befriended so many different people, with different incomes, different needs, different reasons for moving here, and different longevities of living in town. From SkiMo races, to the Backcountry Marathon, to years of our joint non-profit board service with entities such as AVSC, Aspen Public Radio, Wildwood School, to hut trips and outdoor adventures, Katy and I have met so many unique individuals with unique stories and needs. From Felix’s theater and music, to Quintessa’s skiing, figure skating and lacrosse, we see a huge diversity of families and people working and living in our community. It’s been a generation or more since we had a mayor with young kids. It is time the diversity of our community, and the future of our community, is understood and represented.
I am humbled to be raising a family in this authentic town. It has been even more humbling to help lead our community forward. I ask for your vote for mayor this election season. I promise I will continue to listen, learn and lead.