Tony Connell wins race for Steamboat Springs City Council
Steamboat Springs — Tony Connell easily won the only contested seat on the Steamboat Springs City Council.
After winning with 59 percent of the vote on Tuesday night, it won’t be long before the local businessman has a chance to make an impact on the city from the council dais.
Come Tuesday, he and new council member Scott Ford will have to help a deeply divided council try to pass a first reading of the city’s 2014 budget and weigh such things as pay raises for city employees and a $2.5 million expenditure next year on a new police station.
“What an opportunity,” Connell said after celebrating with family and friends. “Most of the time, the new council members don’t have this opportunity. (The budget) is baked in, and for the next year, you don’t have much say. It’s kind of exciting to have an opportunity to have an impact right off the bat.”
In previous years, incoming council members have had a more limited role on approving the budget, usually coming in to sign off on a second and final reading.
But because the current council nearly was split on the pay raise plan and the police station funding, council members failed to pass a first reading of the budget last week as scheduled.
Connell — the vice president of Connell Resources, an infrastructure construction company with offices in Steamboat Springs and Fort Collins — emerged victorious in what proved to be a low-key election cycle for the City Council in which four seats were up for grabs but only one was contested.
Connell defeated local attorney and accountant Clark Davidson, and Connell will replace Cari Hermacinski, who was term limited after serving two terms on the council.
Walter Magill will start his second full term after running unopposed.
Kenny Reisman switched seats and ran unopposed for a two-year term in the at-large seat.
Scott Ford ran uncontested in District 2.
Connell has a long history of public service and has been eager to bring his business experience to the council.
He currently serves on Yampa Valley Medical Center’s board of trustees. He also has served on the Steamboat Springs Planning Commission and on a local transportation committee for the Colorado Department of Transportation.
Connell emerged victorious in a contest that saw two candidates drop out before Election Day.
Retired building contractor John Fielding, who campaigned on a platform of reforming city government, withdrew last week because of a family crisis.
Businessman Toby Spikes withdrew before the ballots were printed and threw his support behind Connell.
Unlike some previous City Council elections in Steamboat, Connell and Davidson kept the race civil and didn’t directly attack each other at any point during the campaign.
Connell said they agreed on more things than they disagreed.
At an election forum last month, the two men did reveal they had some different perspectives on the city’s proposed pay raise plan that has been debated heavily by the current council.
Connell said the city’s approach of looking at comparable communities and arriving at a percentage raise might not be the best approach.
“I do believe there are some market-rate increases that should be done,” Connell said. “But … going position by position and looking at only mountain towns is probably not the way to go.”
Asked about the pay raise plan at the forum, Davidson was more supportive of the city’s proposed raises than Connell.
“I think a vast amount of city employees deserve raises,” Davidson said. “I don’t think they need to be jumped up a lot — it should be done over time. City employees in some departments make plenty,” others not.
Davidson said Tuesday night that it was “an honor and a privilege” to campaign for the council.
“I’m sad I won’t have the job, but I’m looking forward to enjoying Steamboat, including probably skiing more than I otherwise would have.”
He said he plans to become the treasurer of a local nonprofit.
Connell and Ford will be sworn in alongside Reisman and Magill at the start of Tuesday’s council meeting.
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The Routt County Board of Commissioners on Tuesday denied Sheriff Garrett Wiggins’ request to hire another deputy that would serve as a school resource officer in two schools in the Steamboat Springs School District.