Kelly Owens joins Breckenridge Town Council, replacing Elisabeth Lawrence
Breckenridge Town Council returned to full strength Tuesday night with the appointment of Kelly Owens, selected from a pool of five finalists to fill an open council seat.
Hours before its regular meeting, council began Tuesday afternoon’s work session with opening statements from each of the five finalists, drawn at random order, before posing five prepared questions.
The finalists were Steve Gerard, Leigh Girvin, Hal Vatcher, Emily Wahl and Owens. All described coming from very different backgrounds but possessing extensive histories of community involvement.
Questions of the candidates ranged from what they felt could be the town’s greatest challenges and opportunities over the next decade to their own accomplishments and what they’d bring to town council.
All five got to answer each one of council’s five questions. Afterward, they gave closing statements in reverse order and council returned later in the night to render a decision during its regular meeting.
In her introduction, Owens recalled how she and her husband moved to Summit County about 10 years ago right after earning her master’s degree in biology from the University of Denver.
The Colorado native has been coming to Breckenridge since the 1980s, she said, but didn’t move into the area until landing her “dream job” with SE Group, which had her analyzing impacts of ski area development on biological and human resources. Additionally, Owens referenced her involvement with the board of the Little Red Schoolhouse and serving on the county’s planning commission, where she worked on short-term rental regulations and a new master plan.
Owens said she left SE Group in August to focus on her family, and at that time, began looking for other ways to contribute to the town.
“I came up with the following things,” she told council of her reasons for applying. “I’m a biologist who has a lot of experience analyzing the impacts of development. I have experience with the public and working with a team, and I’m a mom of a 1-, 4- and 6-year-old living in deed-restricted housing with the tuition-assistance program.”
The vacancy was a result of Gov. Jared Polis’ decision to tap former Summit County Commissioner Dan Gibbs to lead the Colorado Department of Natural Resources. With Gibbs out, former Breckenridge Councilwoman Elisabeth Lawrence was appointed to fill the opening in January and that created the opening on Breckenridge Town Council.
Altogether, 10 people applied to fill the open position. The lineup was reduced to five finalists last month, including a former judge; open space and conservation activist; a first-generation American who achieved lofty goals in the corporate and volunteer environment; another man who also rose the corporate chain despite not having a college degree; and Owens, a community-minded mother with a master’s degree and a background in analyzing the impact of developments in ski resorts areas.
The appointment required a simple majority — at least four votes — of the six seated council members, and the lowest vote-getters were eliminated after each round of voting. In the first round, Wahl, Owens and Girvin all received votes while Gerard and Vatcher were eliminated. In the second round Owens was declared the winner with five votes.
Afterward, she was sworn in so she could begin serving in the role before the next meeting in two weeks.
“I’m just thrilled to be able to represent the families, people living full-time and also our wonderful visitors so I’m pleased to be a member of the council,” Owens said after the meeting.
As the mayor told the applicants before the decision was made, four council seats and the mayor’s position will all be up for election in 2020, and he hopes all of the applicants consider a run for office next year.
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