Three of five seats are up for grabs during the April 6 Durango City Council election, and already new candidates are signing up to compete.
Councilors Dean Brookie, Chris Bettin and Melissa Youssef are ending their four-year terms on City Council. Since the candidate process opened Thursday, six people have expressed interest in running for their seats. Youssef is also interested in running for re-election.
“I thought about (running) very carefully,” Youssef said. “I still care about the businesses and residents in this community, and I see this position as a way to help people thrive.”
Bettin said he will not run for re-election.
“I truly wish I had the time to commit to council, but alas these last four years away from my family and my work have been all I can commit to at this time,” he said. “It’s been an honor to serve the community, and I hope to be supportive of those who run and those who are elected.”
Brookie is term-limited and cannot be re-elected. He said he was looking forward to more free time after his term ends.
“It’s been a productive eight years,” said Brookie, who served as mayor during the Gold King Mine disaster in 2015 and the coronavirus pandemic response. “I feel good about the contributions I’ve been able to make, but also look forward to getting back to my professional practice and having more personal time.”
As of Friday, the list of residents interested in running for council included Lisa McCorry, Frank Lockwood, Harrison Wendt, Seth Furtney, Jessika Buell and Victoria Mordan.
With the departure of Brookie and Bettin, the council will lose some of its institutional knowledge, Youssef said.
As working professionals, the two councilors also balanced careers with their council duties.
“They’ve done a really good job with that, but we will lose their perspective on operating businesses in our community right now,” Youssef said.
With three seats open on a five-person board, that majority opinion could shift. The council is a nonpartisan entity, and councilors strive to make unified decisions. But councilors can occasionally split into majority and minority opinions as they debate different issues.
When perspectives differed, Brookie and Bettin were often in alignment.
“What Chris and I had was a little bit of a historical perspective and, at times, a business focus, me less so than Chris,” Brookie said, adding that they both tended to focus on issues from a broader, higher-level perspective instead of “micromanaging the minutiae.”
Candidates must gather at least 25 signatures from verified, registered electors to appear on the ballot, according to the city website.
Candidates can begin circulating their nomination petitions Jan. 20 and must return the petitions to the city clerk by 3 p.m. Feb. 9.
To run, people must be registered electors who are at least 18 years old by April 6 and who have been residents of Durango (or a territory recently annexed to Durango) for 12 consecutive months before April 6.
The three people who receive the most votes will start four-year terms beginning April 20.
Future councilors will have plenty of issues to address, including the coronavirus pandemic and the city’s recovery process.
The new council will be responsible for executing the strategic plan, which is being developed by the current council, Youssef said.
That includes addressing common themes such as affordable housing, attracting good paying jobs, water and water facility issues, assuring core services are provided and collaborating with community partners, she said.
The new councilors will also need to make decisions about a broad array of issues and to understand municipal government, legal issues and the business community, Brookie said. Candidates who focus on a single issue are often less successful at addressing the variety of issues that come before council, he said.
“I hope that ... somebody keeps in mind, truly, the long-term vision of what we become as a community, both physically and sociologically,” Brookie said. “I’m looking at what we’re going to be 40 years from now ... and how we’re going to create that DNA for who we become.”