Artist paints down the middle in run for City Council seat


Artist paints down the middle in run for City Council seat


Editors' Note: The Herald is running profiles of each of the six City Council candidates this week. The stories, which started Monday and will finish Saturday, are available on the Herald's website.

By Jim Haug

Herald Staff Writer

Kristen Smith owns two cats, a Siamese tabby named Feller Buncher and a Siamese red point named Cosmo Kramer.

As an artist, she said she's gotten into a “theme” of painting portraits of feline subjects, but she doesn't want to be stereotyped as a cat artist.

“I do dog (portraits), too. Durango is definitely a dog town,” said Smith, whose paintings have been displayed at Steamworks Brewing Co. and the Velvet Monkey Hair Studio.

In her run for Durango City Council, Smith is careful to stake out the middle ground.

“I'm not too far to the side of being a tree-hugger, and I'm not a developer,” Smith said. “I'm not a real-estate agent. I'm not a retiree. I don't have an agenda.”

Smith said she does not “have a background in politics.”

“I grew up in a working-class family outside of Detroit. My mother was a social worker. My father worked for General Motors,” she said.

Smith, 29, moved to Durango in 2002 and graduated from Fort Lewis College in 2006 with a bachelor's degree in studio art. She earned a teacher certification in 2008 and has taught in Durango School District 9-R as well as at Durango Arts Center.

She works as a server at the Ska Brewing Co.

“I feel like I'm in touch with the residents here,” Smith said. “I live and work here. I enjoy the environment here, as well.”

Smith considers Durango as “a secret little spot we've got here.”

“It's a little secluded, but naturally, Durango is going to grow,” she said. “It's just inevitable, so the city needs to have policies that foster healthy growth and continue to support businesses that provide a living wage here and promote polices that preserve our beautiful environment.”

Smith advocates a slow but deliberate approach to local issues.

About the contentious subject of accessory dwellings, Smith said, “We should not really be rushed into making a decision.”

“We do need affordable housing here, but we want to maintain the quality of life that we enjoy. We don't live in a densely populated area, and we don't want it to become a densely populated area,” she said.

As far as the city managing Lake Nighthorse for recreation, Smith said, “That's another one I think we should wait on. I don't think we're quite there yet.”

She suggested other government entities eventually might take interest, although the state and federal Bureau of Reclamation already have passed on the responsibility.

“We've got the county, city and the state and the federal government,” Smith said. “There are a lot of voices that could come in. I don't think the city necessarily needs to take the reins on managing that quite yet.”

The candidate also has sought a middle position on whether there should be any restrictions on plastic bags.

“I don't think I would propose an outright ban or a fee,” she said. “I think I would propose a lenience on city sales tax if we were to have people bring their own bags.”

When asked whether organic treatments are necessary for public parks, Smith said, “Not necessarily, (but) maybe.”

Council election is mail-in

Voters must select from six candidates to fill three seats on the five-member Durango City Council. Ballots will be mailed to city voters Friday and must be returned by April 2, the last day of the election.

The three top vote-getters will serve four-year terms and be sworn in to office at the regular council meeting April 16.

Councilors are elected on an at-large basis. Terms of office are staggered, so two councilors would be elected during the next election cycle in 2015.

Running for office this year are architect Dean Brookie, Durango Premier Vacation Rental owner Keith Brant, incumbent Christina Rinderle, Ska Brewing Co. server Kristen Smith, technology journalist Jordan Golson and former Durango school board member Floyd Patterson.

For more information, visit or call the city clerk's office at 375-5010.

For voter registration, call the La Plata County Clerk and Recorder's Office at 382-6294.

Live streaming of candidate forum

The Durango Herald will stream live the City Council candidates forum that will be held from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. today at City Hall. To watch, visit It also will be broadcast on television on City Span 10.

The League of Women Voters of La Plata County is sponsoring the debate and will be taking written questions from the audience in the council chambers at City Hall.

Six candidates are competing for three seats on the council. They are Keith Brant, owner of Durango Premier Vacation Rental; Jordan Golson, a technology journalist; incumbent Christina Rinderle; architect Dean Brookie; former Durango 9-R School District board member Floyd Patterson; and Ska Brewing Co. server Kristen Smith.

The mail-in election will be decided April 2.

Artist paints down the middle in run for City Council seat

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