Rifle elects five to council; women hold majority
Unofficial Election results
Rifle City Council
Annick Pruett: 664
Joe P. Elliott: 615
Ed Green: 533
Theresa L. Hamilton: 478
Dana Wood: 456
Aaron Flesch: 425
Brent A. Buss: 423
City Ballot Question
RIFLE — It’s been a known fact for several months that Rifle City Council would look drastically different come September. With unofficial election results announced Tuesday evening, residents now know what that the new council looks like.
Voters elected five members to the seven-member council Tuesday, in addition to approving a ballot question allowing the city to borrow up to $5 million for road repairs and the street maintenance program.
Candidates elected to the council include: Annick Pruett, Joe Elliott, Ed Green, Theresa Hamilton and Dana Wood. Local business owners Aaron Flesch and Brent Buss failed to receive enough votes for a seat on council.
With 883 ballots counted, Pruett, administrative director of community relations at Grand River Health, received the most votes with 664 votes. Elliott, the only incumbent in the race, finished with 615 votes, followed by Green with 533 votes. Those three will serve a full four-year term, while Hamilton, director of districtwide services for Garfield School District Re-2, and Wood, LiveWell Garfield County coordinator, will each serve a two-year term.
The five elected to council were naturally excited Tuesday evening as unofficial results were announced. They join current Mayor Randy Winkler and Councilor Barb Clifton on council.
Elliott, who was appointed to council in the fall of 2014, now becomes the third most senior member on a council that up until Tuesday had more than three decades of combined service. While he conceded that it felt unusual, Elliott expressed enthusiasm at the thought of serving with so many new members.
“It’s good to have new faces,” he said. “That’s all part of the political process, taking new opinions, new energy … so that’s great. I’m all for that.”
The election could be historic in that it will be the first time in the city’s history that four women will serve on council at the same time — a point that Wood noted.
“It’s an exciting day,” she said.
John Scalzo, a longtime resident and former mayor, said he could not remember more than one woman serving on council at the same time, and certainly not four.
“That’s a majority,” Scalzo said.
Also of note in the election was the slim margin that voters approved the lone question on the ballot, with 448 casting a vote of approval and 435 voting no on the question. While the initiative will not increase taxes — it will allow the city to leverage existing revenue to borrow up to $5 million for street repairs, with a roughly $3 million cap on interest payments — several candidates noted that while they supported the measure, the slim margin by which it passed was significant.
“It’s telling council to be very careful when you ask us again, even on the needs,” Pruett said.
Typically low-turnout elections see a higher percentage of seniors, Green theorized, and while the ballot question was not asking for a tax increase or new tax, “when folks see an expenditure like $5 million they think of it as such,” he said.
Although the results are unofficial, outgoing City Clerk Lisa Hamilton said based on previous elections she did not expect much variation, if any, between Tuesday’s numbers and the official vote tallies.
Theresa Hamilton, who was elated to be given the opportunity to “give back” to the community, said voters faced a difficult challenge this election.
“The city couldn’t have gone wrong with any of (the candidates),” she said.
Although he hoped to win, Buss said he was grateful for the 423 voters who voted for him. As for whether or not he will seek public office in the future, Buss, who currently serves on the Garfield County Energy Advisory Board, said “never say never.”
“If the opportunity arises again and I think I can do a good job I may well do that,” he said.
Flesch could not be reached for comment.
The new council will meet for the first time at 8 p.m. Monday for an organizational meeting where councilors will appoint a mayor, who will then appoint a mayor pro tem. The first official council meeting is scheduled for Wednesday, Sept. 16.
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