BY FREDA MIKLIN – GOVERNMENTAL REPORTER
On June 1, the Littleton City Council voted unanimously to appoint Mark Rudnicki, an architect and 28-year resident of the city who served on the planning commission for 19 years, including four as chair, to join the city council for the next six months. He will fill out the remaining at large term of Karina Elrod, who resigned from the council as of May 9 because she and her family are moving to Europe.
Eight people applied for the position. As part of their interviews, all applicants were asked by Mayor Jerry Valdes if they “would be willing to attend council meetings and other events in person and about their current understanding of the city’s unified land use codes, because they will be “a significant council activity in the next six months.”
During his interview with the council, Rudnicki said that the number one issue facing the city is its infrastructure, noting, “Littleton has been skating for years—developers putting in streets, sidewalks on their dime, and the city hasn’t done much to upkeep that infrastructure over the years. It’s time to pay the piper…and there’s no budget for it.” He also expressed a strong desire to finish the work he had done on the unified land use codes as a planning commissioner before being term-limited.
Asked by Mayor Pro Tem Scott Melin whether he had a position about asking the citizens to approve a sales tax increase, something the council is considering, Rudnicki said he could be in favor of it if it were dedicated to infrastructure and the tax contained a sunset date. He was non-committal when answering a question from Councilmember Kelly Milliman about whether, if appointed, he planned to run for a full term in November.
At his swearing-in on June 1, Rudnicki said, “I appreciate the council allowing me the chance to continue to serve the community. I’m happy to be able to help finish the work on the Unified Land Use Codes.”
One of the other applicants for the city council vacancy was Jason Henderson, a lawyer who served as vice-chair of LIFT (Littleton Invests for Tomorrow Urban Renewal Authority, canceled in 2020) and who currently serves on the city’s Historic Preservation Board. Henderson said he was “not intensely familiar with Littleton building codes or the u-land use codes.” He talked about a future for Littleton that includes, “growth that reflects the beauty that people want to sustain.”
Another candidate was Pete McClintock, a 7-year board member of Western Welcome Week, who previously served on the city’s board of appeals. He noted that he had spent a long time in the oil and gas industry, emphasizing that context was crucial when analyzing data with the memorable analogy, “If you have 50 men and 50 women, you could easily draw the conclusion that the average person has one testicle.”
Another applicant for the position was Iftin Abshir, a doctoral student with a degree in chemistry who is former chair of the Littleton Next Generation Advisory Committee and a current board member of the South Metro Land Conservancy. Abshir ran for city council from district four in 2019.
The remaining candidates were Christopher Bischoff, a systems engineer who said in his interview that he was not familiar with the unified land use codes; Joe Greiner, a four-year resident and advertising and marketing executive who said he was interested in becoming involved in the community; Gretchen Rydin, a therapist and crisis counselor at All Health Network; and Carolyn Wolvin, a sales executive at a local HVAC systems firm and a member of the board of adjustments who has served as general contractor on a major remodel.
Following the completion of all eight interviews, the six sitting council members decided to conduct straw polls until they achieved at least a majority (four) of votes for one candidate. Before the straw polling began, Mayor Valdes announced that he thought the best two candidates were Rudnicki and Henderson but, he said, “I’m strongly going to go with Mark Rudnicki because he’s coming with a code experience which is huge what we need right now (sic).” Councilmembers Kelly Milliman and Patrick Driscoll agreed that Rudnicki was the best choice. Councilmember Pam Grove and Mayor Pro Tem Scott Melin advocated for Jason Henderson, about whom Melin said, “I like his dedication to the city, I like his enthusiasm, I think he’s gonna come with creativity…” Councilmember Carol Fey said she favored Pete McClintock, “because of his vast business experience…and his experience with Western Welcome Week.”
When the first poll was taken, the council voted as they had indicated they would, three for Rudnicki, two for Henderson, and one for McClintock. In the second vote, Fey switched her vote to Henderson, resulting in a three-to-three tie for Rudnicki and Henderson. After that, Driscoll said about Henderson, “I sat on the LIFT board. That board was stagnant and that board did absolutely nothing and that’s why that board failed, and Jason (Henderson) was part of that board.” The final straw poll vote was five to one, with Rudnicki receiving the vote of everyone except Melin.