At-large race draws largest field | SteamboatToday.com

At-large race draws largest field

Brandon Gee

— Of the five City Council seats up for election this fall, the race for the at-large seat is the only one to draw more than two candidates. The at-large seat is a two-year seat, as opposed to the other six council seats, which carry four-year terms. Candidates for the at-large seat may reside anywhere in the city, while other candidates must live in the districts they want to represent.

The at-large race presents three candidates with varying degrees of political experience. Towny Anderson is running as an incumbent City Council member, Cari Hermacinski is a Steamboat Springs planning commissioner, and retired librarian Dave McClure is a newcomer to politics. McClure conceded that might be a disadvantage.

“It’s a disadvantage because I’m not part of the network that has developed over the years, so I’m an outsider in that way,” McClure said.

McClure said he would make up for the inexperience with commitment. Being retired, McClure said he has plenty of time to devote to the issues and to listening to the concerns of constituents. As a councilman, McClure said the door to his woodshop would always be open to anyone who wanted to come in and talk over coffee or a beer.

One of McClure’s focuses would be education. He said Steamboat schools need to expand their curriculum, particularly to include vocational education for students not meant to go to college. McClure said he also would like to see Steamboat establish a living wage law.

Hermacinski said her educational background in law, business and social work as well as her perspective as a business owner and her long-term commitment to Steamboat Springs make her the best candidate. She has concerns with the way the council is currently run. For example, Hermacinski said she thinks council operates too often in executive, or secret, session.

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“I think government should be open and accessible, especially at a time when we’re experiencing so much change,” she said.

Anderson, the incumbent, said he made a promise when running in 2005 to set a different course for the council, putting community interests ahead of development interests. And although he thinks the course has been changed, Anderson said he is running again in hopes of firmly establishing it.

“What’s motivating me is I’m contributing to a change that the community has asked for and that for some people can’t happen soon enough,” Anderson said.

Anderson thinks continuing growth, especially on the west side of Steamboat, will be the most important issue facing the next City Council.

“The growth that we’re experiencing is manageable, but it takes political will,” Anderson said.

The candidates gave differing reasons for why they are running for an at-large seat as opposed to one of the council’s four-year seats. Anderson said his wife asked that he run only for a two-year seat and that he is honoring her request. He also said he has no interest in running against City Council President Susan Dellinger in District 1, which would have been his option. Hermacinski said that having two young children and a business made the smaller time commitment a better decision for her.

McClure said he wants to represent the whole city as opposed to one district. He also said he “wants to get things started,” which he thinks he can do in two years.

The candidates

Towny Anderson

Age: 56

Occupation: Community development consultant

Political experience: Two years on Steamboat Springs City Council, local planning commissioner in Vermont, worked in Vermont governor’s administration

On the issues:

Transportation: The citizens of Steamboat have made very clear that a bypass is unacceptable, and, with that in mind, we have to make serious commitment to public transit.

Historic preservation: “The community surveys have told us resoundingly that citizens want to protect historic resources and that they would be willing to do that through regulations. … It is a legitimate goal of government to preserve the resources of the community for the greater community good. I understand that some folks don’t agree with that.

Cari Hermacinski

Age: 37

Occupation: Lawyer

Political experience: Four years on Steamboat Springs Planning Commission

On the issues:

Transportation: “I don’t think the bypass is the solution.” Believes traffic should be addressed with “a lot of little solutions,” such as being more bike-friendly, constructing roundabouts and exploring the possibility of a passenger train from Craig to Steamboat.

Historic preservation: “I would not have voted for the moratorium. I believe a moratorium should only be enacted when something is going to affect the health, safety or welfare of the community. : Property rights are hallowed ground, especially when you’re talking about homes. :At this point, on privately owned structures, I wouldn’t want to make it mandatory unless the community is willing to pay for it.”

Dave McClure

Age: 53

Occupation: Retired University of Tennessee librarian

Political experience: None

On the issues:

Transportation: “I consider traffic a non-issue. … I would encourage public transportation and, as a matter of fact, use it myself.”

McClure thinks other solutions, such as a bypass, are too extravagant.

“It’s just not feasible. We’re going to have to live with it, and people are going to have to decide for themselves how to get around it. There are much more important issues.”

Historic preservation: “I’m a firm believer that, if it’s your private property, you can do whatever you want with it. I would hope you would preserve it, but that’s your call.”

– Compiled by Brandon Gee