IGNACIO –The town of Ignacio elected a new mayor Tuesday, four months after former mayor Ena Millich resigned from her post. Voters chose Stella Cox, the town’s mayor pro tem, over fellow town Trustee Alison DeKay by a 66-to-51 vote in a special election.
The 117 votes cast represent 27 percent of the town’s registered voters.
“I’m nervous and excited at the same time,” said Cox, who has lived in Ignacio her whole life and who works as a court administrator for the Southern Ute Indian Tribal Court. “Now I hope I can do what (voters) expect me to do.”
Cox said she hoped she could promote unity between the Town Board of Trustees, the administrative staff and the community after what has been a tumultuous year.
Former mayor Ena Millich resigned in February after months of rising tensions between her and town staff.
Millich relentlessly criticized numerous town practices including the hiring of various employees, budget management, fund transfers she said were not approved by the trustees and the Town Board’s compliance with open-meetings laws.
The former mayor also clashed with town staff members and some fellow board members on ways to cut expenses and build revenue after an accounting error revealed the town’s general fund had $555,000 less in it than thought.
For their part, town staff members crafted their own letter outlining grievances against Millich.
“The monetary cost of the Mayor’s requests, investigations, frequent and lengthy meetings, constantly changing budgets, attorney fees, and demands is becoming quite sizeable,” the letter said. It said Millich’s behavior had eroded the new and improved image the town has been trying to create for itself.
The April 2012 mayoral election was another cause of the rocky relationship between mayor and staff. Millich won the election by one vote, but only after the town first declared the election a tie.
The result was reversed after a provisional ballot initially deemed invalid was later counted. Millich accused town elections staff of denying citizens the right to vote.
The La Plata County’s clerk and recorder office took a bigger role in overseeing Ignacio’s special municipal election this year after last year’s issues, County Clerk Tiffany Parker said.
Parker was at Ignacio Town Hall Tuesday afternoon to help out wherever she could, and one of her employees helped train the town’s election judges.
Last year’s elections revealed “there were areas of improvement from last year,” Parker said. “We didn’t have that communication piece.”
Cox’s term as mayor will expire in April 2014.