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Council members consider mayoral bid

With the title of Glenwood Springs mayor up for grabs Nov. 3, at least two City Council members think they’d be good with a gavel.Council members vote from among their peers to fill the position. Dave Merritt said he plans to run, and Bruce Christensen is seriously considering making a bid as well.Whoever is elected will replace Larry Emery, who decided against running again for council. He has served on council for four years, and as mayor for the last two. Emery will be replaced by council newcomer Kris Chadwick, who was the only candidate to seek Emery’s Ward 2 seat.Another council veteran, Dan Richardson, also didn’t seek re-election. Dave Johnson, a city Planning and Zoning Commission member, was the only person to seek to replace him.Merritt, who is completing a four-year term, also is up for re-election but no one challenged him for his Ward 5 seat.Presumably, Glenwood’s next mayor will be one of its council veterans rather than Chadwick or Johnson. With Emery and Richardson’s departures, Merritt will be the longest-serving council member. Christensen joined council two years ago.So did Joe O’Donnell, Chris McGovern and Larry Beckwith. Beckwith and O’Donnell both said they’re not interested in being mayor.”That’s not a big goal of mine,” Beckwith said. “My personality doesn’t fit the bureaucratic mode.”McGovern declined to discuss the subject for the time being.”That will be an issue that will come up in November,” she said.Merritt said as far as he knows, only he and Christensen have voiced an interest in running for mayor so far.The powers of Glenwood’s mayor are limited. Although the city’s titular head, the mayor still holds only one vote on council. He or she also runs council meetings, presides over official city functions such as ribbon-cuttings, and often serves as a public voice and face for the city in other venues, including the media.Still, the position has more power than Beckwith thinks it should.”Being a mayor I don’t think should influence how things are. In fact I think a mayor should have less influence, but he does have certain powers that go along with the title,” Beckwith said.He said mayors can set council’s agenda.”They can have a tendency to break the rules if they want it and bring (an issue) up again and again until they have the satisfaction they want.”Mayors also tend to have more interaction with city staff than other council members do, further boosting influence, Beckwith believes.Merritt, who lost 4-3 in the vote to become mayor two years ago, said he hopes to work on building more consensus on council if he’s elected. He also wants to develop a more cooperative relationship with other governments in the area and larger region.Christensen said he’s still weighing whether to run.”I’m pretty interested. I’ve been approached by a couple of my colleagues about it,” he said.He said it would be healthy to have competition for the seat.”I think each of us brings something unique and different,” he said of himself and Merritt. “I think I may have skills that may be useful for the city.”Though less experienced than Merritt as a council member, Christensen said he has close to 20 years of experience in city service. He has been a member of the Parks and Recreation Commission and River Commission, and on committees that drafted the downtown plan, worked on the comprehensive plan and proposed a lighting ordinance.”I’ve spent way too much time doing city stuff,” he said with a laugh.Christensen also is executive director of Mountain Valley Developmental Services.Merritt is chief engineer of the Colorado River Water Conservation District. He said he served on the city Planning and Zoning Commission for about five years before being elected to council.Christensen has voted in the majority on issues more often than Merritt this year. But whether he would carry the majority if he runs against Merritt for mayor becomes harder to predict, especially with two newcomers replacing Emery and Richardson.Merritt isn’t exactly counting votes among other council members.”That never does much good anyways,” he said. “You talk to folks and see how it goes.”Beckwith said he’s not being courted by anyone hoping to get his nod for mayor. For that matter, other council members rarely angle for his vote, whatever the issue, he said.”Most of the council members have quit lobbying me because I’ll make up my own mind,” he said.Contact Dennis Webb: 945-8515, ext. 516dwebb@postindependent.com


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