Aragon to end 36-year run as mayor

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    Staff Writer

    Ross Aragon
    Ross Aragon

    This year Pagosa Springs’ voters will be asked to decide several important issues ranging from amenities on Reservoir Hill to positions on town council.

    Mayor Ross Aragon, during the public comment portion at the end of Tuesday night’s town council meeting, announced that he will not run for re-election this April, after 36 years of service in his current position.

    “It’s time,” the mayor said. “Thirty years is a long time and I’m going to go out on the positive. It has been very interesting, but there is also a little stress involved, too. Anyway, I want to thank everybody for their support.”

    Thirty-six years ago, on April 4, 1978, Aragon defeated Glen Edmonds by a 260-212 vote, which at that time was one of the largest voter-turnouts in town history. Edmonds was not only the mayor in 1978, but also the editor and publisher of The Pagosa Springs SUN.

    “I have been one of the few,” council member Don Volger reacted to the mayor’s announcement this week, “who has worked with the mayor over his entire career. We haven’t always agreed, but one of the things I would like to say is I have very much appreciated his service to this community, both personally as a resident and as an employee.”

    For many years, before he became a town council member, Volger was the chief of the Pagosa Springs Police Department.

    “I have benefitted from his leadership,” Volger continued. “Over the years we have become, surprisingly, very close friends. I, for one, will miss him.”

    Volger struggled to contain the emotions in his voice.

    “One of the things I learned, finally,” Volger concluded, “is even though I may disagree with the mayor his heart was always with the best interest of this community, which he loves. He viewed it as his family, and that is going to be missed by all of us.” Volger turned to address the mayor directly. “Thank you so much for your service.”

    While several other council members nodded their approval of Volger’s comments, no one else chose to speak.

    In an earlier e-mail to SUN staff, town clerk April Hessman explained that, besides the mayor’s seat, the three district seats on town council — currently held by Kathie Lattin, Darrel Cotton and Don Volger — are also up for election this year.

    Hessman went on to explain the procedure for anyone interested in becoming mayor or running for one of the town council seats, “The candidates can pick up the petition packets on February 14th through the Town Clerk and can begin circulation February 17th.  They have to be returned signed to me by March 7th.”

    According to a timeline provided by town attorney Bob Cole, applications for absent voter ballots may be filed with the town clerk at this time. In addition, any petition to submit a charter amendment, signed by at least 5 percent of the registered electors of the town, had to be filed with the town clerk by Jan. 8.

    Hessman reported yesterday that a group of concerned citizens, led by Christine Funk, have been circulating a petition to change the town charter so that the mayor and town council seats would no longer be volunteer positions—the mayor would be paid $300 per month and the councilors would each be paid $200 per month.

    As of press time there was no word if Funk’s petition had gained enough signatures and been turned in before yesterday’s deadline.

    “Ballot questions initiated by the council need to be completed by Ordinance for first reading on February 20th,” Hessman continued. “Ballot questions submitted by the public must go through my office for a petition.” Any citizen-initiated petition for a non-charter related ballot issue must be turned into the town clerk by January 31.

    Town council conducted a work session on Jan. 3 to discuss several possible charter amendments and ballot initiatives, including setting term limits, eliminating districts, granting town business owners who live outside of town limits the right to vote in municipal elections and constructing a treetop zip-line course on Reservoir Hill.

    Last April, citizens of the town voted by a wide margin to change the town’s charter so that no mechanized recreational amenities could be placed on Reservoir Hill without specific approval of the voters.

    Before that election, the Town Tourism Committee had presented a business plan to town council that included a chairlift, an alpine coaster and a zipline course, amongst several other amenities designed to attract and retain tourists.

    Certain members of the TTC would still like the town to consider at least part of the plan, and have asked parks and recreation commission chairman Mike Musgrove to discuss the zipline proposal at their Jan. 14 meeting, and make their own recommendation to town council on the matter, with an eye towards putting it on the ballot in April.

    March 10 will be the last day a citizen can register to vote, and to be eligible they must resided within the town limits for at least 30 days prior to the election. On March 28 absentee ballots will be mailed out and April 4 is the last day to request one.

    The election will be held on April 8.

    ed.fincher@pagosasun.com