BY PETER JONES
Left at an impasse with a deadlocked City Council, Englewood has opted to hold a special election, rather than appoint an interim replacement for a departing councilmember.
The District 1 election, which will cost the city approximately $15,000, will be held in early May, leaving the city without a mayor or direct District 1 representation until then.
The typically seven-member council, which selects the mayor from within its ranks, was reduced to an evenly divided six members last month with the departure of Mayor Joe Jefferson, who resigned after being elected last November as municipal judge.
Since then, the philosophically split council—often divided 3-3—had been unable to reach agreement on the type of candidate that should replace the long-serving Jefferson, who represented Englewood’s northernmost District 1.
Four finalists emerged from an original pool of nine applicants, with a different two of the four staunchly preferred by each of the three-member camps.
“I think both sides are honestly having a fundamental disagreement on what the role of the councilperson is and what our focus ought to be,” District 3 Councilmember Laurett Barrentine said. “In all fairness, I think each side is honest and sincere in their commitment to pick the best people.”
Barrentine, a leader in the sometimes-controversial Englewood Citizens for Open Government, had joined fellow conservatives Rita Russell, Englewood’s mayor pro tem, and District 4 newcomer Dave Cuesta, a professed budget hawk, in one of the two camps.
According to Barrentine, her group favored budget-oriented candidates with experience on the city’s boards and commissions while characterizing the opposition’s preferences as more geared to “social services” and “environmental” issues.
The first group’s top picks were Andrea Manion, a former accountant for Arapahoe County government, and Carson Green, president of CyGen Technologies and a former chair of the Englewood Board of Adjustment and Appeals.
The second camp on the council includes at-large Councilmember Amy Martinez, District 2’s Linda Olson and at-large newcomer Cheryl Wink, who says her de facto group used a grading methodology to reach its consensus.
“The candidates selected by Amy, myself and Linda seemed to have a much better understanding of all of District 1,” Wink said. “There was a breadth and depth of professional skills and tools that would contribute very well to the skills and tools that are already existing among council.”
Wink’s group preferred Othoniel Sierra, a member of the Citizens Alliance for a Sustainable Englewood, and businessman Scott Danford, a member of the board of directors for the Greater Englewood Chamber of Commerce.
Facing an irreconcilable impasse on Jan. 24, the council voted 5-1 to settle the issue in a special election, with Wink, who had unsuccessfully advocated hosting a public forum for all the candidates, as the lone holdout.
“I think it’s important that the seventh member be an independent thinker,” Wink said. “What I don’t want to see is the seventh member as a member of one camp or another.”
Barrentine was a strong supporter of letting District 1 voters settle the deadlock.
“District 1 didn’t get to pick me,” the District 3 councilmember emphasized. “I think they’re better off going without representation for 90 days and having someone the district picks that they believe represents them, rather than going two years and having somebody that the council has agreed to that may not be the best fit.”
The majority of the council also agreed that the council should wait to choose its mayor until the full seven-member council has been seated.
“What if the seventh person is the best choose for mayor?” Wink said.
What’s more, the philosophically divided council may have had difficulty agreeing on a mayor anyway, and Wink says the 3-3 divide is likely to rear its head again in coming months.
“I think we’ll more than likely be split on a lot of issues for the next several months, which is unfortunate for the city,” she said.
Barrentine is less concerned, noting that rules dictate an issue fails in face of a tie vote.
“Government isn’t known for speedy progress, and that’s a good thing because we don’t want kneejerk reactions going on. If we’re that divided, maybe it’s something that needs to take more time and more thought,” she said.
In the meantime, Wink, who lives in District 1, says she intends to be increasingly cognizant of her residency as she fills her at-large role on council.
“I have District 1 support and people here have been reaching out to me over a number of different issues,” she said. “I feel I can at least serve that role for the interim.”
The May election will not be limited to the council’s four finalists. Interested candidates may pick up election materials at the Englewood City Center.
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