Close council race unfolds
Four new members seated among slate of six hopefuls
Originally published 2013-05-16
In a close Gunnison City Council race Tuesday, only 30 votes separated four of the top vote-getting candidates.
According to unofficial results, Richard Hagan, Stu Ferguson, Carolyn Riggs and Anne Steinbeck received the highest vote totals among the slate of six candidates.
As the highest recipients of votes, Hagan (448) and Ferguson (431) will serve four-year terms. Riggs (420) and Steinbeck (418) will each serve two-year terms.
Hagan is a retired high school principal who moved to Gunnison in 2008 from Montrose. Ferguson, co-owner of GL Computers, previously served as Gunnison’s mayor from 2003 to 2011 but opted to return to the less partisan realm of city government after an unsuccessful County Commissioner bid last year.
Riggs is the current chair of the city’s Planning and Zoning Commission and owns the Brick Cellar Bar & Bistro in downtown Gunnison. Steinbeck is a retired director of the county’s Human Services Department.
In this year’s election, the four newly elected councilors edged out current City Councilwoman Sharon Cave (who received 411 votes) and Stephanie White (255). Cave’s term on council began in January, after she was appointed to replace Jonathan Houck following his successful County Commissioner bid last November. White, who graduated from Western State Colorado University this past Saturday, ran on a platform of bolstering relations between the city and Western.
Small-town economics took center stage in many of the candidates’ platforms this spring.
While Steinbeck professed following her victory Tuesday that the success of local businesses is not the city’s torch to bear, she said she’ll support initiatives that aid local establishments. She added that she’s also cognizant of the impact taxes have for businesses and residents alike.
“If there’s a way we can budget to help during this time I’d like to see it done,” Steinbeck said.
Hagan, who knocked on numerous doors across Gunnison throughout his campaign, said late Tuesday via e-mail that the most pressing concern raised by residents was a need for economic development.
“Gunnison is a great place to live, but we need to put a laser focus on creating good paying jobs and I think council can have an effect in that area,” he added.
Riggs also said she’s focused on strengthening Gunnison’s business community, including helping to make downtown more pedestrian friendly. She noted that there’s been interest expressed among some for creating a corridor between Western’s campus and downtown.
“I’d like to enter into a more serious dialogue about making that happen,” she said.
Ferguson said one priority on his plate is ensuring that the city’s cash reserves are replenished for rainy days down the road. Aside from that, he believes that leadership and experience are qualities he brings to the table.
“Clearly, my reason for running was not because I felt somebody else did a poor job,” he added. “I did and do believe that one of the things I can contribute is that I have more experience than anyone else on council. I think that’s one area I can make a contribution.”
The four newly elected councilors will join current Councilman Bob Drexel.
In total, 2,738 ballots were issued during this spring’s city election, of which 815 were returned and verified — equating to voter participation of about 30 percent. Results will become official after being verified and certified by the Election Commission May 17.
The new council’s re-organization meeting — at which the positions of mayor, mayor pro-tem and board assignments are determined — will take place this coming Monday, May 20, at 7 p.m.
(Will Shoemaker can be contacted at 970.641.1414 or firstname.lastname@example.org)