Our View: Recent election shows Steamboat voters seek new faces, perspectives
Voters in Steamboat Springs who were hoping for a change certainly got it last week.
A portion of the 48.4% of registered Routt County voters who cast their ballot Nov. 2 did so with a specific conclusion in mind. They wanted to see new faces and a differentiation in voices. Their selections decisively strayed from supporting candidates who once held office or seemed to represent what Steamboat has been used to for years — officials who have a longstanding familiarity in town. Voters instead opted for candidates with perspectives that appeal to a broader group, particularly the working class and people concerned about the environment.
Local voters elected three females — including the youngest council member in Steamboat’s history — and the first person of color to Steamboat Springs City Council.
So what do the recent election results tell us? First, if you want to keep Steamboat for everyone, you better turn out at the polls. And people did in droves. Their commitment to civic responsibility on Election Day contributed to a turnout higher than the national average and set a local record for any election in the past four years.
At issue: In record turnout, Steamboat Springs voters elected three candidates to City Council with new faces and diverse backgrounds.
Our View: The Nov. 2 election results reflect a shift in voters’ views that has been building momentum for several years. Voters wanted change — and they have certainly gotten it.
• Logan Molen, publisher
• Lisa Schlichtman, editor
• Bryce Martin, assistant editor and digital engagement editor
• Ana Gomez, community representative
• Kelly McElfish, community representative
Contact the Editorial Board at 970-871-4221 or lschlichtman@SteamboatPilot.com.
Many new people flocked to Steamboat during the pandemic in what’s been called “mountain migration.” But it wasn’t solely venture capitalists or millionaires seeking to live where they love to vacation; it was families and young professionals coming to establish roots and join a community. This change in the electorate could be one impetus for the divergence in views.
It’s clear: There’s a shift going on.
Let’s also consider the issues at stake. With affordable housing and short-term rental regulation being two of the biggest matters facing Steamboat, voters opted for candidates with no apparent connection to real estate or property management.
Two of the defeated candidates had previously served on City Council, both as its president. Name recognition and prior service wasn’t enough to get them elected, again.
Believing she wasn’t going to win based strictly on her name, Dakotah McGinlay, the youngest candidate — and winner — took her campaign to a true grassroots level. She canvassed the neighborhoods, walking up and down city streets, knocking on doors to meet the members of her community and explain why she believed she should earn their vote. Despite her age, McGinlay personally knows the issues facing locals, specifically with affordable housing as she is a renter.
And Ed Briones, the sole winning male candidate for City Council, is of the working class. He seeks to retain the community character of Steamboat and isn’t necessarily someone entrenched in any particular interest. Instead, as he’s made clear in public appearances, he wants to serve his community and offer a fresh viewpoint.
The more diverse a board, the more it represents the entire community. As a result, you’re more likely to have better outcomes because you have more perspectives. Having a majority of council members from one industry or background would be concerning.
It’s clear from the number of contested races that this was an important election. Many of the campaign issues were top of mind for the average person. Voters realized their support for a particular candidate could directly impact their daily lives.
This shift is reminiscent of 2018, when the majority of voters cast their ballot in opposition of the Yes2Air program, which would have increased city sales tax from 4.5% to 4.7% to subsidize air service into the Yampa Valley. Proponents of that measure included myriad local businesses and Steamboat Ski & Resort Corp. Just like last week’s results, that, too, was a surprise defeat as voters questioned whether they should be funding more tourism at a time when rents were rising and traffic was becoming more congested.
In that same election, Beth Melton edged out seasoned incumbent and former Steamboat City Council member Cari Hermacinski by almost 1,000 votes to join the Routt County Board of Commissioners. Two years later, longtime Routt County Commissioner Doug Monger, whose family has lived in the valley for more than a century, was defeated by Tim Redmond, the former mayor of Hayden. Voters again opted for new faces rather than long-established locals.
The Nov. 2 election seemed to cement the string of small swings that have popped up in the past several years. If we couldn’t completely recognize it then, we can now. Change is here.
And now the hard work begins.
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Steamboat Fit is flexing its muscles this month after completing an expansion that doubles the space of the boutique fitness studio, located in Sundance at Fish Creek.