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Garey elected President in 4-3 vote signaling a new direction for Steamboat Springs City Council

West elected Pro-Tem, despite not voting for herself.



The new Steamboat Springs City Council elected a president and president pro-tem in a pair of 4-3 votes on Tuesday, signaling a shifting dynamic that could see this council make very different decisions than the last.  


Council member Gail Garey was elected council president after garnering four votes to council member Joella West’s three. In the next vote for Pro-Tem, West nominated Council member Michael Buccino, who had not sought the president’s role. But member Dakotah McGinlay nominated West — who despite not voting for herself — was elected Pro-Tem in the same 4-3 vote.


Council members Garey, McGinlay, Amy Dickson and Bryan Swintek joined in the majority for both votes, with West, Buccino and newly elected Steve Muntean on the other side.


“I really am excited about this next council and the potential that we have in terms of what we can accomplish in two years,” Garey said. “We’ve got a great group of council members coming to the council with diverse perspectives and I’m definitely looking forward to continuing to have robust discussions. I think that’s the best way that we can get to making decisions that serve the best interest of our community.”


“This is how democracy works,” West said, adding that she sees the Pro-Tem role as largely administrative. “We’ve got a great council. … This is not a council that is going to flip, that is going to be a council that tries to reverse or change the things that have been done. A lot of heavy lifting over the last two years, but now we have to finish the jobs.”


In nominating West, McGinlay said she felt the pair in council leadership would act to balance each other.


“I think that you and (Garey) will help balance each other in a way that could be necessary on this next chapter of our council journey,” McGinlay said.


Caption: New Council Members Amy Dickson, left, Bryan Swintek and Steven Muntean, right, were sworn in on Tuesday. (Dylan Anderson/The Yampa Valley Bugle)


Buccino, who said he did not pursue the president’s role because of other commitments, said he found the Pro-Tem vote “bizarre,” though he didn’t feel scorned.


“I’ve not seen someone nominate someone else and vote for someone else but then get the position for something that they didn’t even want to get in the first place,” Buccino said. “It’s just bizarre, I don’t know how else to explain it, but I’m not disappointed. I like who we have, I think that we have a good opportunity.”


“I just want to facilitate an open debate, to have dialogue, to have the time to have those conversations and not shut people down. That’s what I cherish,” Buccino continued. “The fact that we are going to be able to have that with (Garey) and (West), I don’t need the title.”


When asked why she supported West over Buccino for Pro-Tem, Garey said she agreed with McGinlay, noting that West would be a good balance. When asked why not Buccino, Garey said her and West would be a great team.


“We share different perspectives and I think that will serve council as a whole going forward,” Garey said.


Council votes are often not black and white, and members are constantly on different sides of issues. Still, with some issue like sustainability, the previous council had often gone the less sustainable route, leaving Garey and McGinlay on the short side of the vote. That dynamic showed clear signs of shifting Tuesday, when new members Dickson and Swintek joined Garey and McGinlay in a decision to revisit the last council’s building code decision in regard to snowmelt systems.


The previous council approved codes that differ from the county at large, putting few limitations on new gas-powered snowmelt systems. Council appears poised to reverse that decision next week and install codes aligning with Routt County.


Swintek, who was elected to council in an uncontested race last week, said he felt Garey was right for president because she represented a different point of view from the previous council.


“I feel like (Garey) brings a totally different point of view from the prior council,” Swintek said. “I wouldn’t necessarily agree with her on everything, but I think that it would be interesting to see what will leadership on council that has a very different point of view, what would that look like?”


Top Photo Caption: Council members Gail Garey and Joella West were elected President and President Pro-Tem of Steamboat Springs City Council on Tuesday. (Shannon Lukens/Courtesy)

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