Hayden cancels town elections due to lack of candidates
Adding insurance benefits for councilmembers hopes to make serving "more feasible"
Hayden won’t have an election for Town Council in November as just four candidates have surfaced for the four offices available — mayor and three council seats.
As a result, the town canceled its coordinated election with the Routt County Clerk and Recorder’s Office earlier this month, and the four candidates will assume their roles in the first meeting following Election Day on Nov. 8. That includes current Town Council member Ryan Banks ascending to the role of mayor.
Joining Banks on Town Council will be incumbent council members Casey Bowman and Trevor Gann, as well as new member Ryan Lucas.
“Being on the council for the last two years, I learned a lot about how municipal government works and being a part of it — it’s really an honor,” Banks said. “I’m lucky to become mayor of Hayden in a town like this with so much going on, so much energy in town. … We’re doing great stuff out west, so look out.”
Banks said helping oversee development of the Northwest Colorado Business Park near the Yampa Valley Regional Airport and continued improvements at the Hayden Center will be top priorities for Town Council over the coming years. Creating better access to the Yampa River in Hayden is another goal of his, Banks said.
Outgoing Mayor Zach Wuestewald said that when he decided he no longer wanted to continue in the role, Banks was an obvious choice to replace him.
“He’s got great ideas, very level-headed, forward-thinking, cares about the community — all the things you want in your mayor,” Wuestewald said. “He’s committed to Hayden and the valley.”
Town Manager Mathew Mendisco said state law allows towns to cancel an election if the number of candidates aligns with the number of open positions, which it does in this case.
The town budgets about $10,000 for elections during election years, but Mendisco said Hayden generally doesn’t spend that full amount. Canceling the election will save the town about $5,000, he added.
“We’re still a (ballot) drop-off site for West Routt,” Mendisco said, meaning that voters can still submit a mail ballot or cast their vote in person at Hayden’s Town Hall between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m. Nov. 8.
Banks also said he wants to increase community involvement on council because while it may be easier not to have to run a campaign, it “kind of (stinks) to not have any competition for mayor.”
“Same with our council seats,” Banks said. “We had three people and that was it, and we’re really hoping to increase involvement that way and make it more attractive to people.”
When the council members are officially seated in November, they will have the opportunity to sign up for the town’s health insurance program for the first time. The change was unanimously approved by Town Council on Sept. 15 as an incentive to serve, as the position doesn’t pay much.
Currently, the mayor is paid $1,800 a year, and council members make $1,200. Town Council also discussed raising pay, though that would be a more drawn-out process that could require a change to the charter, which restricts council members from giving themselves a raise.
Town Council could approve an increase that would start with the next term, but because council terms are staggered, that would result in a period where some council members made more than others. Because of this, council opted for the benefits.
Mendisco said the idea of offering insurance benefits aligns with what the city councils in Steamboat Springs and Craig are already doing. This would cost the town between $75,000 and $80,000 a year if all seven Town Council members were to take the the offer. The benefits would apply to council members but wouldn’t include their families.
During the discussion about offering benefits on Sept. 15, Wuestewald said residents are often surprised when they hear what he makes as mayor. He said this issue has been discussed in previous council meetings as well.
“It’s not about being lucrative to make money,” Wuestewald said. “There are so many people that when I tell them what I make as mayor they are flabbergasted.”
Gann said there likely are residents who would like to serve on council but cannot because of the significant time commitment for so little pay.
“In my mind, it’s not to make it more lucrative, it’s to make it more feasible,” Gann said.
To reach Dylan Anderson, call 970-871-4247 or email danderson@SteamboatPilot.com.
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