A contentious Littleton City Council election that largely centered on how candidates would approach growth and development ended with two incumbents voted out and all four contested seats won by newcomers to government.
A slate of candidates that drew endorsements from business leaders, real estate groups and the firefighters' union won big Nov. 7, with Patrick Driscoll winning the District 1 seat occupied by Bill Hopping, who decided not to run for re-election. Kyle Schlachter and Karina Elrod, both members of the LIFT urban renewal board, took the two at-large seats up for grabs.
A slate of candidates associated with the Sunshine community activist group had less success. Carol Fey won handily over District 3 incumbent Phil Cernanec. But longtime Councilmember Doug Clark lost his re-election bid for an at-large seat, and Carol Brzeczek lost her at-large bid. Kama Suddath, who appeared at community forums alongside Sunshine-associated candidates in the campaign's final weeks, lost to Driscoll in District 1.
Steven Esses, the only candidate not associated with a slate, finished a distant third behind Fey and Cernanec in District 3.
The new council will be sworn in at the Nov. 21 meeting.
After the election, as before, the big issues on the minds of candidates were growth, roads and traffic.
“I've done a lot of listening to citizens, and I want to keep up that positive energy,” Schlachter said. “That'll kick-start the visioning process that we need to revamp the comprehensive plan. If we have a solid, modern comprehensive plan, that'll help us improve zoning and allow us to craft intentional plans for our light rail stations, areas around them, and key corridors.”
Elrod spoke more generally about her start on council.
"There will be priorities we set as a council, a budget that will again be under review and plans that must be set into motion," Elrod said in an email. "My goal is to firm these up quickly and follow through on executing on them."
Driscoll said his first orders of business in District 1 will be to address Columbine Square, a long-abandoned shopping center at Belleview Avenue and Federal Boulevard. He'd also like to focus on keeping momentum rolling on beautifying downtown.
“I also definitely want to start meeting with city employees,” Driscoll said. “I want to work on their behalf and let them know they'll be heard. That's been lacking on the prior city council.”
Fey also cited a desire to change the culture on council.
“My number one hope is to get a spirit of unified city government and citizenry. It seemed to me as a citizen that the council has spent an inordinate amount of time infighting. They seemed to be very up front about not agreeing and avoiding getting things done.”
Fey said she wants to prioritize taxpayer money for road repair and ensure citizen input in development projects.
Candidates who didn't make the cut said life goes on.
“My life will stay the same as it was,” said Brzeczek, who has spearheaded local initiatives against the city's urban renewal authority. “I want to see urban renewal abolished, neighborhoods protected with good zoning, and a public decision on a possible fire department merger.”
Phil Cernanec, the city's former mayor, said he'll look for other ways to serve the community.
“I'm a Rotarian, and the Rotary Club is involved with the community pretty closely,” Cernanec said. “I expect I'll be involved with senior issues and business issues as well. I'm interested what happens with transportation.”
Cernanec said while the election didn't go his way, he gave it his best.
“I felt good about what we had to offer,” he said. “I felt we ran an honest campaign and had a high level of integrity.”
Clark, who has served on council four times in the past 20 years, said the campaign was a swirl of issues.
“The fire union was flexing their muscles,” Clark said. “The Realtors and business people are still agitating for urban renewal.”
Neither Clark nor Cernanec would rule out running for public office in the future.
Esses, a softball coach retired from a career in public health, said he was encouraged by the support he got, even without a big team or donations.
“Right now I'm just glad I got through it,” Esses said. “I'm glad I participated and made a difference in people's thoughts.”
Suddath did not respond to requests for comment by press time.