Littleton has a new mayor — elected by the new city council's first split vote. Councilmember Jerry Valdes, who represents District 2 and was recently reelected to his third and final term on city …
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Littleton has a new mayor — elected by the new city council's first split vote.
Councilmember Jerry Valdes, who represents District 2 and was recently reelected to his third and final term on city council, was selected by his fellow councilmembers to serve as mayor in a 4-3 vote, facing off against newly elected at-large councilmember Scott Melin.
Councilmember Pat Driscoll nominated Valdes for mayor at the Nov. 19 council meeting, moments after new councilmembers Melin, Pam Grove and Kelly Milliman were sworn in.
Councilmember Karina Elrod then nominated Melin.
In prepared remarks, Melin lobbied for election to the mayor position.
“It may seem unusual for someone who has just been elected to council to accept a nomination for mayor,” Melin said in part. “I'm a good active listener, a coalition builder, respectful, creative, hardworking, a strategic thinker and personable… I'm able to write and deliver a thoughtful speech. I'm able to process information quickly and to advocate for the best idea. I will never avoid a good idea because of personal animosities. Last, selecting mayor isn't about whose turn it is to be mayor. The job is too important and candidates must be considered on their merits.”
In prepared remarks of his own, Valdes responded:
“The learning curve as a new city council (member) is very steep,” Valdes said, in part. “Like any new job, it takes time to settle into the position… I've had the honor of being elected three times to serve the citizens of District 2 and the city of Littleton. I have the knowledge, experience and time to represent the city… Now that I'm retired, I have the time to commit to the mayor position 100%.”
Valdes drew yes votes from councilmembers Driscoll, Carol Fey, Grove and himself. Councilmembers Elrod, Melin and Milliman voted against him.
But the split votes weren't over. The council's next action, to elect a mayor pro tem, drew another division.
Milliman nominated Melin for the pro tem position, while Valdes nominated Grove, a newly elected at-large councilmember.
Grove made her pitch, touting her years of experience on the city's Historical Preservation Board:
“During that time, I became very familiar with how to work with the city and citizens, the needs and issues of stakeholders of our community, including how the business community and property owners feel about Littleton,” Grove said. “I've navigated some very difficult waters through that process.”
Melin stood by his earlier remarks.
Melin won out, drawing yes votes from councilmembers Driscoll, Elrod, Milliman and himself.
Valdes, 63, is the council's most senior member. Elrod's nomination of Melin for mayor is not the first time a fellow councilmember has endorsed another candidate over Valdes.
In October, councilmember Fey sent out an email — from her personal account — endorsing a slate of candidates, including Jane Ozga, one of two challengers for Valdes' seat.
Elrod said later that her nomination of Melin was not a rebuke of Valdes, but a move to recognize the newness of the council. Aside from Valdes, every councilmember is either new or two years into their first term.
"I have the utmost respect for Jerry (Valdes)," Elrod said. "I nominated Scott (Melin) out of awareness of how many new faces we have, and wanting them to be part of council. People are engaging."
Elrod praised Valdes' long career in city politics, beginning years ago on the Planning Commission, but said that public service like his might become a thing of the past.
"I'm not sure we'll see 12-year (city council) tenures like his anymore," Elrod said. "I'm not sure the dynamics of our politics are that way anymore. We operated with a lot of institutional knowledge, but we can't count on that anymore. The city doesn't stop because council turns over."
Valdes seemed unfazed by the vote, and said divided opinions can produce good results.
“I don't think we should always vote 7-0 and say hail to the king,” Valdes said. “I think it's good to have a challenge. It makes everybody better. It's an honor being chosen as mayor, and an honor getting elected three times. I've had opponents over the years who made me think more about what we want to accomplish. I want to see the seven of us getting things done together.”
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