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As the dust continues to settle from the municipal elections, two clear factions showed their outlines at a recent Englewood City Council meeting — and the soon-to-be-seated District 1 councilmember may be the straw that tips the scale.
A 3-3 split emerged among the six current councilmembers at the Jan. 16 meeting during discussion on who should fill the seat vacated by now-Municipal Judge Joe Jefferson. Whoever prevails as the representative from District 1 — which roughly encompasses the city's northwestern and downtown areas — is likely to break an ideological tie largely defined by the split between councilmembers Laurett Barrentine and Linda Olson.
The successful applicant will also play a key role in which councilmember is chosen by council to be mayor.
“Every single candidate had amazing qualities that they brought to this,” said Councilmember Rita Russell, mayor pro tem.
Several councilmembers expressed praise for a wide array of the seven Englewood residents in the running to fill the District 1 seat. Initially, nine applied, but two have since dropped out of the process. Council voiced its preference for four of the seven remaining candidates.
City council has until Feb. 7 — 30 days after Jefferson stepped down — to appoint the new member. Englewood could have opted for voters to make the call in a special election, but City Manager Eric Keck explained why it wouldn't be ideal.
“Ballpark, (it would cost) $15,000 for a special election,” said Keck, adding that early May would be the soonest an election could take place, with the winner possibly taking office mid-May.
That could leave the council with a likely 3-3 split on polarizing issues, no direct District 1 representation and no mayor seated for months. Council can technically choose a mayor without a seventh member seated, but that's "highly unlikely," and the council prefers to make the appointment before selecting a mayor, Keck said.
If city council can't decide who to appoint by majority vote before the deadline, though, a special election would be triggered.
However it happens, the new representative will enter a divided environment — carried over from the last city council — between returning councilmembers Amy Martinez and Olson, and Russell and Barrentine. The latter pair espouse strict constructionist views — in other words, they focus on the exact wording of laws — and the former pair tend to be more open to interpretation. The latter also are averse to what they characterize as cases of wasting taxpayers' money, while Olson's and Martinez's arguments indicate they are more comfortable with government spending.
Of the two new members, Dave Cuesta, in arguments at meetings and in District 1 preferences, has aligned himself with Barrentine and Russell, and Cheryl Wink with Olson and Martinez.
The split was reflected in the declaration of whom each councilmember preferred for the open District 1 seat. Olson, Martinez and Wink all said Othoniel Sierra and Scott Danford are their top two choices, while Barrentine, Russell and Cuesta gave Andrea Manion and Carson Green as their top two.
Sierra is a member of the Citizens Alliance for a Sustainable Englewood (CASE), a group that asked the city last summer to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by 30 percent by the year 2025. He's a senior sales executive for a company called IHS, and he's also worked for Carlson Mortgage Company.
Danford is a board member of the Englewood Chamber of Commerce and a franchise owner and marketing consultant for Welcomemat Services, which provides direct-mail packages with marketing materials from local businesses to new residents of an area. Before that, he had a career across several telecommunications companies.
Manion is a youth mentor for Goodwill Industries and the owner of Manion and Associates LLC. She prepares tax returns for corporations and individuals and offers accounting services. She was a tax analyst for Xcel Energy and an accountant for Arapahoe County. The city budget and saving for infrastructure needs are among the most important issues for Manion.
Green is president of CyGen Technologies, a company he helped build that sells software to businesses. He is the former chair of the Englewood Board of Adjustment and Appeals, a quasi-judicial board that reviews variance requests and appeals of the city's zoning regulations and building codes.
Other candidates include Danna Liebert, a former documentary producer; Hilary Lenz, program director for A Little Help, a nonprofit that helps provide services to seniors; and Mark Hessling, production manager for Social Capital Advertising.
City council interviewed candidates the week before the meeting, and video recordings of those interviews are accessible on Englewood's website in the “city council agendas and minutes” section.
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