Four candidates in the running for open Breckenridge Town Council seat |

Four candidates in the running for open Breckenridge Town Council seat

Residents fill council chambers in Breckenridge for the annual State of the Town address in May 2017. Breckenridge Town Council is expected to appoint a replacement for Elisabeth Lawrence, who left her position with the town to become a Summit County commissioner, in March.
Eli Pace /

The last time Breckenridge had a seat to fill on town council, there were nearly enough applicants to field the starting lineup for the offensive and defensive sides of a 22-player football team.

Now, as council’s again tasked with appointing another replacement, the same wealth of candidates has not yet materialized, though there’s still some time remaining before the 4 p.m. Thursday deadline.

That’s how long anyone who’s interested in being on Breckenridge Town Council has to summit a letter of interest, which basically serves as his or her application for the open job.

Once the field of candidates has been solidified, Breckenridge Town Council is expected to narrow the list of applicants down to a group of finalists during its Feb. 12 meeting before making the appointment on March 12. And town leaders are going to do things a little differently this time around.

The newest vacancy on Breckenridge Town Council was precipitated by Gov. Jared Polis’ decision to tap Summit County Commissioner Dan Gibbs to head the Colorado Department of Natural Resources.

With Gibbs leaving his role with the county, it created a void that Elisabeth Lawrence, a Breckenridge Town Council member, was appointed to fill last month. However, that also meant Lawrence would have to leave her council post.

As of Monday morning, an open records request revealed that four people have turned in letters of interest to take Lawrence’s seat so far. They are Emily Wahl, a former vice president of a Fortune 500 software company; Leigh Girvin, the former executive director of Continental Divide Land Trust; Steve Gerard, a retired judge of 32 years; and Jessica Morse, a town employee in the recreation and public works departments for the last 11 years.

Breckenridge was put in a similar position last spring when Mike Dudick, a former town councilman and the CEO of Breckenridge Grand Vacations, vacated his council seat to pursue his company’s designs on a new hotel and condos at the base of Peak 8 and to get into local workforce-housing projects.

After Dudick resigned, 21 people lined up to take his place.

Ultimately, Breckenridge Town Council landed on having Dick Carleton, a longtime local with a lengthy list of community involvement, serve out the remainder of Dudick’s term, which expires in April 2020.

On Monday, Breckenridge Mayor Eric Mamula said council will tackle its next appointment under a slightly different protocol, though the underlying rules to fill the vacancy remain the same.

Instead of taking the full list of applicants and having council members seek to meet with every one who wants to speak with them before the vote, each council member will now vote for his or her top three candidates next week. That will cut the field down to a pool of finalists — perhaps as many as five or six, the mayor said — and each finalist will then get the opportunity to address council members with opening remarks before council poses questions of the candidates and makes its decision at the March 12 meeting.

For a new member to be seated, he or she will still need to win a simple majority among the six voting council members.

“The rules are still the rules,” Mamula said. “This is just a different way to go about it.”

Should the town get over a dozen applicants like it did last spring, the new process should help streamline the appointment and give the finalists a chance to address council during a public forum. Should the number of candidates remain at four, Mamula said council should still be in a good position to handle the appointment with the new format, which mirrors the way the county handled Gibbs’ replacement last month.

Reached over the phone, Lawrence said she will miss working on town council and with Breckenridge town staff greatly, though she believes the town has “a plethora of talented people” who would serve Breckenridge well on council.

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