Westminster gets first look at new council

With new councilors seated, group splits on mayor pro tem job

Posted 11/20/19

Westminster said goodbye to two outgoing City Councilors, seated two new councilors and reaffirmed Anita Seitz as the mayor pro tem at their busy Nov. 11 meeting. That last part, selecting the mayor …

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Westminster gets first look at new council

With new councilors seated, group splits on mayor pro tem job

Posted

Westminster said goodbye to two outgoing City Councilors, seated two new councilors and reaffirmed Anita Seitz as the mayor pro tem at their busy Nov. 11 meeting.

That last part, selecting the mayor pro tem for the next two years, turned out to be the most difficult part of the evening.

Councilors needed 17 ballots — 17 different chances to vote — to break a three-way technical tie between Seitz and council colleagues Kathryn Skulley and Dave DeMott for the pro tem job.

“Just remember, that will be the hardest thing you will do in all of 2019,” Municipal Judge Tiffany Sorice, on hand to swear in the new councilor and the mayor pro tem, said before giving Seitz her oath of office.

Voters selected Seitz, Rich Seymour and Lindsey Smith out of a group of eight seeking the three open at-large seats on council at the Nov. 5 election.

Leaving office

Incumbents Sheela Mahnke and Michele Haney came in fifth and sixth, respectively, out of the field of eight, losing their seats. Both had served short terms, beginning less than a year ago after City Councilors Maria DeCambra, Shannon Bird and Emma Pinter all resigned their seats to take other government positions. DeCambra was hired by Governor Jared Polis after his 2018 election. Bird was elected to the State Legislator and Pinter to the Adams County Commission.

Councilors picked Mahnke to replace DeCambra in December and Haney and John Voelz to replace Bird and Pinter in January. Voelz’ term is set to expire in 2021.

At the Nov. 11 meeting, Seitz had good things to say about her former colleagues.

“Clearly tonight, I want to focus on the two individuals to my right,” Seitz said, regarding the outgoing councilors. “Prior to ever setting foot on the Westminster City Council dias, they already have contributed so much to this community.”

The city gave the two mounted of the photos of the city as mementos to their service.

The old council took a break, giving Mahnke and Haney a chance to swap seats with incoming councilor Seymour and Smith, and the three winners — Seitz, Seymour and Smith — were sworn in by Sorice.

Pro tem

Once seated, councilors voted by secret ballot their choice for mayor pro tem. That’s the councilor that agrees to lead meetings and act as mayor if Mayor Herb Atchison is unable.

Choosing took a straightforward method: Each councilor and Mayor Atchison was given ballot with all of the six councilors names, and asked to select their choice for the pro tem job. The candidate receiving a four-vote majority would be sworn in.

The first ballot came back with DeMott receiving three votes, and councilors Seitz and Skulley picking up two each. That process was repeated 15 times with the exact same result until Skulley and her anonymous supporter flipped to support Seitz on the 17th ballot.

The balloting took a break after the tenth ballot, with City Clerk Michele Parker leaving to print more ballots and councilors huddling off-mic behind the council dias to discuss their options.

After the 11th ballot resulted in the same 3-2-2 tally, Athchison asked the three candidates to explain why they deserve the job.

Seitz, who has been on the council longer than the other two and had the highest vote tally in the Nov. 5 ballot, said she deserved it.

“I have served as Mayor Pro Tem and as Mayor Pro Tem I think I have done a good job and I don’t see any reason I should lose that job,” she said.

Skully said she represented balance on the council.

“I think it’s really important to have somebody in the position of mayor pro tem who can really bring us all together,” she said. “Somebody who can listen to everybody and meet with everybody with an open heart and an open mind and try to make sure we work together. Unity is very important to me.”

DeMott noted that voters had placed two more conservative members on the council, and assuming both Seymour and Smith were the two supporting his drive, represented a new voting block on the council.

“But the reality of what the mayor pro tem is, you are a heartbeat away from being the mayor,” DeMott said. “You need to be able to step up and fill those shoes, a very important job. I have shown with my service that I always keep an open mind and do what is best for the City of Westminster.”

After the 12th vote came back with the same result, Atchison said councilors would stop after 20 ballots, picking up the matter again at the Nov. 18 meeting.

“It must start with this piece of business,” he said. “Until we get this set aside, we cannot move on to the next order of business. So I hope we can get this handled tonight.”

It took five more votes, but councilors did settle the matter.

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