On Tuesday, May 6, the Dillon Town Council approved the appointment of Ben Raitano to fulfill a two-year vacancy on the board.
The vacancy was created in April when then-Councilman Kevin Burns was elected mayor. Raitano served on Dillon’s council from 1994 to 2008, winning three elections and serving two appointments during that time. He also served as a trustee in the 1980s before Dillon became a home rule municipality.
“Ben’s a great guy and he’s known for being thoughtful, objective, interested in talking to all stakeholders and finding resolutions to issues that work for everyone,” said Burns. “Ben also brings a great sense of historical context. He understands where we were, where we are and where we want to go.”
Raitano took the oath of office in front of about 40 local residents during Tuesday’s town council meeting. However, the majority of the attendees were there to show their support for Lake Dillon Tavern, which faced charges it violated liquor laws. (It was later cleared of six of the seven charges.)
Still, in the interest of transparency, Councilman Tim Westerberg decided it was important that the audience understood Raitano was selected after an appropriate search process.
“For the benefit of the studio audience, I just want everyone to know that we put Ben through an arduous interview process,” he said. “We didn’t just pull somebody in from off the street.”
Raitano took a break from public service after 2008 due to being term limited. When the time came that he could run again, Raitano opted not to because of a job transfer to Breckenridge. He said Thursday he thought at the time the commute would make it difficult to attend meetings regularly.
But Raitano was transferred back to Dillon before the April election. Although he was eligible to run again for local public office, he decided again not to run.
“I wanted to see how the election went,” Raitano said. “I like the three town councilmen who were seeking re-election (Westerberg, Mark Nickel and Erik Jacobsen) and I didn’t want to upset the chemistry of the current board, but I knew if Kevin won a vacancy would open up.”
Acting town manager Carri McDonnell said Raitano was one of two applicants for the vacancy. She said she’s looking forward to working Raitano back into the town fold, because he is one of Dillon’s longest tenured employees.
“Ben served well over the years and I think he’s a great addition to our council,” she said. “He always had Dillon’s interests at heart.”
Raitano echoed similar sentiments, citing how important public service is to maintaining the separation between policy makers and policy enforcers.
“Being a council member is very important because they set the policy for the town, introduce legislation and make sure staff is carrying out those policies in the best interests of the community,” Raitano said. “Without a council, bureaucrats would be the policy makers and also serve as the policy enforcers, which is bad for the community.
“It all comes down to doing what’s right for the residents because they ultimately are the decision makers. They’re the ones who get to choose who they elect to office.”