Step Up and Serve panel discusses running for City Council and the value of community volunterism
Steamboat Springs City Council has four positions open for reelection this November, and one current council member and two former council members joined City Manager Gary Suiter and young professional Michael Marchand to speak on a panel moderated by Steamboat Pilot & Today editor Lisa Schlichtman on Wednesday night to discuss qualifications to run for council, lessons learned during their time with the city and the importance of getting involved in the community.
The panel was co-sponsored by the Public Policy Committee, a subcommittee of the Steamboat Springs Chamber Economic Development Council, and Pilot & Today.
Marchand, a real estate associate at Steamboat Sotheby’s International Realty and a member of several community organizations and boards, emphasized the power that can come from making your voice heard and participating in community activities.
“If it wasn’t for my getting involved, certain doors wouldn’t have opened for me, and I wouldn’t have developed this intense connection that I have to Steamboat and the passion I have for our community,” Marchand said. “With Steamboat being such a close-knit community, you’re not just a small fish in a big pond here; we’re a really powerful community.”
For those specifically interested in running for City Council, current Council President Jason Lacy and former council members Bart Kounovsky and Jon Quinn spoke to potential candidates about the importance of compromising with other council members, reading up on complex issues and being willing to accept criticism from other community members.
“You’re going to make decisions where people aren’t always going to be happy with you,” Kounovsky said. “Maybe some of your good friends aren’t going to be happy with you, but the greatest reward is the thanks you get from community members by and large.”
Lacy said giving back to the community and helping shape it is a rewarding experience despite the sometimes challenging aspects of the role.
“Community involvement is something I believe each of us owes to the community in general,” Lacy said. “We have a beautiful place to live, but without the people and being a part of helping the people in your community, it’s not as meaningful unless you contribute.”
Quinn said council members should stay connected to the community and serve as a representative for what community members want.
“It’s about learning the issues, becoming educated about them and voting your conscience,” Quinn said. “It’s not about knowing everything; it’s about being an effective learner.”
Over the past 10 years, City Council has seen 10 uncontested races to represent the city’s three districts and one at-large position. Candidates are required to be age 18 or older and live in their districts at the time they file their candidacy for office. Lacy, who has run two successful council campaigns, said campaigning typically begins at the end of August and runs until Election Day.
“It can be pretty busy if you’re really committed to running a strong campaign,” Lacy said.
The panelists agreed the time commitment required to serve on council is significant.
As a general rule: Council meets three times per month, but council members are also expected to serve on various boards and committees and are expected to respond to constituent emails and phone calls, as well as read up on issues before meetings, which can sometimes include hundreds of pages.
“It is often hours of work to get yourself prepared for a meeting,” Quinn said. “Don’t underestimate the time commitment going into it.”
Suiter, who has worked in Steamboat for five years but has worked for various municipalities on the Western Slope for decades, said potential council members should also note that council serves as a high-level policy-making group. If community members are more interested in day-to-day operations, Suiter encouraged them to apply for city positions.
“The council’s job is a distinct policy role,” Suiter said. “Those are some of the key roles of council members.”
Those interested in running for council in a specific district need to gather 25 signatures, while those running for the at-large position need 50 signatures. Signatures are delivered to City Clerk Julie Franklin.
For information about the 2021 Steamboat Springs City Council election, visit SteamboatSprings.net/703/election-information.
To reach Alison Berg, call 970-871-4229 or email aberg@SteamboatPilot.com.
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