RV park opponents top Minturn race
Hawkeye Flaherty, who lost his mayor seat two years ago by only two votes, overwhelmingly gained it back Tuesday with support from 68 percent of Minturn voters.
Flaherty beat out incumbent mayor Earl Bidez with 209 votes to the latter’s 96.
Voters, fueled by debate over the council’s plans for an RV park, voiced their disapproval of the project by supporting the project’s biggest opponents – Flaherty and businessman Tom Sullivan, who garnered the most support of any council candidate with 209 votes.
“I think it’s time to redirect Minturn’s energies,” said resident Mike Skallion, who said he expressed his opposition to the RV park by voting for Flaherty and Sullivan.
Of the town’s 780 registered voters, 308 – or 39 percent – participated in Tuesday’s election.
Incumbent Jerry Bumgarner was re-elected with 205 votes and newcomer George Brodin earned a seat with 139 votes, edging out challenger Randy Milhoan by four votes. Incumbent Ron Spohrer finished a distant fifth.
The park, envisioned as a way to bring more tourist traffic and sales tax revenue to town, is still in the preliminary stages. Negotiations between the council and developer, Rocky Mountain RV Resorts, were largely keep confidential until last week, when residents learned that the project had more than doubled in size, from 40 RV units and 15 cabins to 100 RV units and 40 cabins.
Several candidates and residents asked the council to put the issue to a public vote but the council refused. Voters appear to have voiced their opinion anyway, by voting out Bidez and fellow incumbent and RV park supporter Spohrer. Milhoan had also voiced support for the idea.
Katie Gingrich, a seven-year Minturn resident, said there are better ways to bring business to Minturn.
While Gingrich is concerned about her hometown’s economic future – sales tax revenue has dropped in recent years – she said she also worries that an RV park will bring pollution, harm wildlife and congest traffic.
The RV park, and the election, has created quite a buzz, she said. Most people she knew were planning to vote. “It definitely seems like most people are very passionate about what they are voting on and who they are voting for,” she said.
Flaherty Tuesday night expressed appreciation for his opponent.
“I have nothing but respect for him,” he said. “I appreciated the job he’s been in … and I respect his commitment to it.”
He agreed that the election had become more about the RV park plan than about the candidates.
“I appreciate everyone’s support and you know, I don’t think it was an election between Earl and (my) attitude toward the town,” he said. “I think it was just an election over whether people wanted an RV park or not.”
Staff writer Tamara Miller can be reached via e-mail at: firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling 949-0555 ext. 607.
Gordon “Hawkeye” Flaherty, 68 percent
Earle Bidez (incumbent), 31 percent
Tom Sullivan, 68 percent
Jerry Bumgarner (incumbent), 67 percent
George Brodin, 45 percent
Randy Milhoan, 44 percent
Ron Spohrer (incumbent), 25 percent
* Top three vote-getters win four-year terms.
Registered voters: 780
Ballots cast: 308
Turnout: 39 percent