Luis Yllanes appointed to Carbondale council
Heeding calls for Latino representation, the Carbondale town council appointed Luis Yllanes to the board Tuesday night. His appointment fills a vacancy left by former trustee Katrina Byars and completes the seven-member board.
Yllanes was born and spent most of his life in Miami. He has lived in the Roaring Fork Valley for eight years and in Carbondale for the last two.
At first, some trustees were hesitant to go with Yllanes because of the short time he’s lived in Carbondale. But ultimately his qualifications outpaced that concern. The board hopes Yllanes, who is Peruvian and bilingual, can help connect the town government to Carbondale’s Latino population.
Many community members have urged the board to become more diverse, to better represent the town’s diverse population. Yllanes said he is proud of Carbondale’s diverse community, but he added that the Latino population has a tough time connecting with the rest of the Carbondale community. He said that he is “keenly aware of how segregated this community is,” and he hopes to help bridge that gap.
“I hope that I can do the community justice and be able to represent them, listen to their thoughts and concerns. Given the political climate right now, it’s important to be sensitive to their concerns and needs,” he said.
Trustees also emphasized that they weren’t appointing Yllanes simply because of his ethnicity. He is the senior director of exhibitions, registration and installation at the Aspen Art Museum. The board hopes his 20 years of experience in art will help the Carbondale Creative District, Carbondale Arts and other such local organizations.
During his interview Tuesday, Yllanes described himself as an even-keeled problem solver and good listener.
“I was definitely surprised, but very honored and humbled to be selected from among a very qualified field of applicants,” he said later. The opening on the board drew six applicants in total. “I’m looking forward to finishing out Katrina Byars’ term and bringing some new perspective to the board,” he added.
Yllanes said he wants to figure out how to overcome the barriers keeping people, especially in the Latino community, from getting involved on various town boards and in local organizations. He suggested reaching out to Latino small business owners to get their perspective on drawing more participation from their community. Also, translating the board’s agendas into Spanish would help bridge the language barrier, he said.
Yllanes also volunteers in the area, including at KDNK and as a tutor for English In Action.
Byars left her position when she moved to Glenwood Springs. Yllanes is also the third member of the seven-member board to be appointed rather than elected. However, he’ll only serve eight months as he finishes out Byars’ term.
The board also encouraged the applicants not selected to keep putting themselves forward for a spot on the council, as five seats will be up for election in April. The number of open seats has largely been caused by several board members resigning before their terms were up, all due to moves out of Carbondale. One of the applicants asked the board what its biggest challenge has been over the last year, and the mayor quipped that it was keeping a full board.
The seats of Mayor Dan Richardson, along with trustees Frosty Merriott, Heather Henry, Erica Sparhawk and now Yllanes will all be up for election. Merriott is the only trustee who is term limited.