Whitsitt wins battle for Basalt mayor; Stevens, Ross, Leavitt win council seats | PostIndependent.com

Whitsitt wins battle for Basalt mayor; Stevens, Ross, Leavitt win council seats

Jacque Whitsitt topped Glenn Rappaport in a battle of political veterans in the race for Basalt mayor Tuesday.

Whitsitt collected 418 votes to 341 for Rappaport. That’s a margin of 55 to 45 percent.

In the five-candidate race for three council seats, Rick Stevens, Herschel Ross and Robert Leavitt topped the field. Stevens collected 445 votes, Ross got 394, and Leavitt got 392.

Candidates Bill Maron and Lemuel Bolanos weren’t elected. Maron had 355 votes, and Bolanos had 288 votes.

Whitsitt said she had to work hard for six weeks to earn the victory.

“I think it was time on the streets and time on the phone and a lot of hard work by good friends,” she said.

Whitsitt and her helpers knocked on doors and called Basalt voters to try to get a feel for who her supporters were. Those identified as being in her camp were urged to cast ballots in a get-out-the-vote effort.

Whitsitt said she didn’t sense from talking to hundreds of residents that any one issue dominated their mood during the campaign. Residents of different neighborhoods expressed different concerns, she said. If there was a common theme, she said, it was a desire for transparency and an inclusive process in Town Hall.

“I think there’s a lot of people with a lot of good ideas out there,” Whitsitt said.

Rappaport couldn’t be reached for comment about the election.

Stevens, a former mayor of Basalt, acknowledged he was surprised at being the top vote-getter in the council race. He was a favorite with voters in 1996 and 2000 as mayor, but he also failed to win a council seat in the 2008 election.

Stevens said a popular slate of candidates ran an active campaign in 2008 and edged him out. He lost a council position by just nine votes, he recalled. He said it was almost impossible to tell why he gathered so many votes this time. In both 2008 and this year, he ran a low-key campaign, he said.

Basalt’s demographics have possibly changed, he noted. He is well-known among people who have lived in town for a long time and among those who rode out the recession and slow recovery. Stevens runs a construction company.

Ross, like Whitsitt, said the people he talked to during the campaign “weren’t very issue specific.” They expressed a variety of concerns, said Ross, a dentist in Basalt.

When asked during the only candidate forum held during the campaign what he would do to spur Basalt’s economic growth, Ross said there were so many projects getting developed or in the approval process that priming the economic pump wouldn’t be necessary. Whole Foods Market and a surrounding commercial area is opening this summer. A plan to redevelop the Pan and Fork Mobile Home Park with a nonprofit campus and commercial center has been submitted. In addition, the Aspen Valley Medical Foundation is working on a plan for a continuous-care neighborhood for seniors.

Ross stressed during his campaign that he was “hardened by the fires” as a former Pitkin County commissioner and Snowmass Village councilman and would be able to turn down developments that aren’t appropriate for Basalt. He re-emphasized the point Tuesday night after the results were in.

“If there’s something that isn’t right, you say, ‘No, come back with something else,'” he said.

Leavitt, a ski instructor, hinged his campaign on improving relations and cooperation with Basalt’s school district, whose schools his children attend. That issue resonated with a lot of voters, he said. He, his family and his friends drove that message home.

“It’s small-town politics. We know a lot of people. They told their friends” to vote for him, he said.

Leavitt said there will be residents who disagree with his positions over the next four years, but he said he wants to assure them he will listen to their opinions and discuss all issues with them.

Town Clerk Pam Schilling said 774 voters cast ballots, or about 31 percent of all registered voters. However, the registered-voter list doesn’t reflect people who have moved away recently, so the actual number of active voters is likely lower.

The turnout was lower than Basalt experiences when there is a tax question in an election and higher than other elections that feature council races, Schilling said. A ballot question on a proposed ban on plastic grocery bags might have driven voter numbers, she said.

Election results are expected to be certified today. The new council members take office April 10.


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