Mayor rides out eight-year glitch
Vail Mayor Ludwig Kurz’s decision to remain in office and complete his term may have steamed some of his detractors, but it also points to a glitch in the electoral process – a glitch created by the oddball, uncompleted term of a former mayor long ago.Earlier this month, amid rabid speculation on whether Kurz would step down before or on Election Day, Nov. 4 – adding his seat on the council to the four already on the ballot and saving the town the time, trouble and expense of holding a special election – Kurz announced he would stay on and complete his term.”I’ll take the heat for what I’m doing, but I feel very strongly it’s the right thing to do,” says Kurz, who is term-limited and cannot run again for the council unless he sits out for two years.”Sense of authority’Kurz’s decision to remain on the council until February has angered some of his detractors, who say he is serving his ego more than the town. Some have gone as far as to say the mayor’s decision to remain at the head of the council’s table is just another sign he intends to help shepherd development projects through the approval process for the town’s largest employer, Vail Resorts, as long as possible. They point to his job as community relations director for Beaver Creek Resort Company – something they long have claimed is a conflict of interest.Kent Logan, a retired businessman who declared his candidacy for town council last month, says the mayor’s office is in need of change.”What’s missing has been leadership. That should be embodied in the office of mayor,” says Logan. “But the way we have it now doesn’t instill the sense of authority.””The right to serve’Nevertheless, Kurz has held his ground, saying he believes he owes it to his constituents to serve the maximum eight consecutive years allowed under the Town Charter and has had a lot of support in doing so.One of Kurz’s supporters, apparently, is Kevin Foley, resident manager of the Lifthouse condominiums in Lionshead and a former town councilman who served with Kurz for six years until deciding not to run for re-election in 2001.”Ludwig’s just doing what he was elected to do,” says Foley.Suzanne Silverthorn, the town’s communications director, says what Kurz is doing is well within the town’s election rules.”Ludwig has the right to serve those eight consecutive years,” Silverthorn says.Depending on who replaces Kurz in the special election Jan. 27, he or she only would be filling the unexpired portion of Kurz’s term, or a year and three months, and would have to seek re-election in November 2005.Foley, always one to see the lighter side of things, says that contest could become quite a spectacle.”If we get some new playmates in November, it could make things really interesting in January,” says Foley.By staying on, however, it’s doubtful Kurz will retain his title as mayor after Nov. 4. After all, the mayor and mayor pro-tem are elected to two-year terms from among the council members as the first order of business in their first meeting following an election. While Kurz says he intends to remain on the council and complete his term, he’s stated no intentions of asking his fellow council members appoint him as mayor for just under three months.Changing the charterStill, the out-of-sync term on the council created by Osterfoss’s resignation could come back to haunt Vail’s electoral process.After all, while Kurz’s replacement will be elected to complete his term, which ends in November 2005, that new council member could be re-elected several times and ultimately face the eight-year term limit.”It really was just a circumstance created by Osterfoss resigning. Nobody’s really at fault here,” says Kurz. “But it might behoove us to look at the Town Charter and see what we can do to keep it coming up again.”Town Clerk Lorelei Donaldson says getting rid of it the odd-ball term would require a change in the charter – something only the voters can authorize – and that would require a special election, along with the associated costs, estimated at about $9,000.To prevent the glitch from happening again, possible changes to the charter could include eliminating term limits altogether or adding language that would not allow a council member to run for re-election if he or she would be unable to complete that term, Donaldson says.”Until now, this has never come up,” says Donaldson. “I’m still doing some research on what other towns in Colorado have done.”In the end, perhaps the whole affair will lead Vail to change the way the mayor is selected altogether. Instead of being appointed by his or her fellow council members, perhaps someday the mayor of Vail ultimately will be elected directly by the voters, as they are in many large U.S. cities, such as New York, Los Angeles and Denver.The History- 1996 -Ludwig Kurz, a native of Austria who moved to Vail decades ago to work as a ski instructor, was elected in a special election Jan. 30, 1996, to fill a mid-year term on the Town Council following the Nov. 27, 1995, resignation of Peggy Osterfoss. Kurz received 221 votes; a second candidate, E.B. Chester received 141. Kurz was sworn in on Feb. 6, 1996. His term of office ran to November 1997.- 1997 -The next year, in the regular elections of November 1997, Kurz was the second-highest vote-getter, winning a four-year seat on the council.Meanwhile, Rob Ford, the top vote-getter was elected to a four-year term and was named mayor for two years by the Town Council.- 1999 -Two years later, in November 1999, Ford resigned, fulfilling his two-year term as mayor but leaving his four-year term uncompleted. The November regular elections, in which four seats normally would have been up for grabs, also were used to fill Ford’s position, and the council voted to name Kurz as mayor for two years, with then-Councilwoman Sybill Navas to serve two years as mayor pro-tem.- 2001 – As Kurz’s four-year term on the council expired, he again ran for re-election in the regular election of November 2001, earning enough votes as third-highest vote-getter for another four-year term on council. The council again elected him as mayor for the next two years, with Rod Slifer as mayor pro-tem.Because Kurz was first elected Jan. 30, 1996, to fill the unexpired term of Osterfoss – and because the Town Charter says a council member can only serve eight consecutive years at a time – Kurz can serve two years and nine months of his current four-year council term, or until the eighth anniversary of the day he took office.Connolly decides not to runby Stephen Lloyd WoodCandidates for Vail Town Council aren’t exactly beating down the door of the Town Clerk’s Office to file their paperwork.At the end of the business day Monday, only two potential candidates picked up nominating petitions.In fact, the list of potential candidates who had expressed interest in running decreased by one. Stephen Connolly, who last week said he was “absolutely interested in running” and in August said he was “exploring the possibilities,” said Monday he’d decided not to run, after all.”In the end, I have not been able to comfortably accept the time commitment with the restrictions of my current job,” Connolly said in an e-mailed statement. “It just does not allow the flexibility of a desk job. I have also started a new endeavor of my own and will need to apply time to this project.”Connolly, a former director of the Vail Chamber and Business Association, said he would remain involved with the “grass-roots marketing projects that have been brewing for the last couple of weeks.”Gang of sixConnolly’s departure trims the list of people who have expressed an interest in running for the four seats available on the council in the Nov. 4 elections to six. They are:- Mark Gordon, 40, lead foreman with Vail Mountain’s communications center in Lionshead.- Bill Jewitt, incumbent councilman and co-owner of Bart & Yeti’s bar and restaurant in Lionshead.- Kent Logan, 59, a retired investment banker and art collector.- Nino Licciardi, chairman of the board of the Vail Recreation District.- Greg Moffet, incumbent town councilman and owner of Vail-based TIGA Advertising.- Rod Slifer, incumbent councilman and co-partner in Slifer, Smith and Frampton Real Estate.”Brave and courageous souls’Of the apparent lack of interest in taking on the incumbents, Jim Lamont, a former Vail planner and executive director of the Vail Village Homeowners Association who attends virtually every Town Council meeting, said: “Sometimes it can be such a horrific, confused situation, often nobody wants to be tarnished by it. Those that do are brave and courageous souls.”The deadline for filing the petitions, which require the signature of at least 10 registered Vail voters, is Oct. 3. Candidates for Vail Town Council must be:- U.S. citizens.- Registered to vote in Vail.- At least 21 years old.- A Vail resident for two years immediately preceding the election.Vail’s elections this year are not coordinated with any other election, meaning Vail voters will be using two ballots – one to elect four members of the Vail Town Council and another issued by Eagle County for participation in state and county questions.- Council members receive a salary of $500 a month. The mayor receives a salary of $1,000.