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Shift by Stewart to Paonia mayor creates vacancy

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Photo by Tamie Meck The Paonia board of trustees will need to appoint someone to complete trustee Charles Stewart's term after he is sworn in as mayor next Tuesday. Citizens and some trustees spoke in favor of appointing Chelsea Bookout, one of nine cand

After newly elected trustees and mayor Charles Stewart are sworn in next Tuesday, the Paonia Board of Trustees will need to appoint a person to the board to complete the remaining two years of Stewart's four-year term. Just how that appointment will be made has yet to be determined, but several citizens and some of the sitting trustees believe the decision should be left up to the voters, and not to the board, to decide.

Karen Budinger, William Bear and Bill Brunner were elected to fill the seats being vacated by Ross King, Eric Goold and Amber Kleinman. Candidate Chelsea Bookout narrowly trailed Brunner in the election, coming in fourth, if you will, out of the nine trustee candidates, and just two votes behind Brunner. If the appointment is based on election results, Bookout will be appointed to the board.

During the visitor portion of the meeting, Paonia resident Shawn Larson, Bookout's husband, stated that as a voter he would like to see the board honor the will of the people. Goold echoed Larson's position.

Bookout then addressed the board. Considering the circumstances of this election, she said she would also like to see the will of the people honored. "In an election this close ... the fact that this conversation is even being had is a little troubling," she said. Bookout added that she represents the opinions of others who were unable to attend the meeting, "Namely the (175) people who did vote for me ... I'm just here simply to say that the voice of the people should be heard."

King replied that it's incumbent on the board, per town rules, to make the determination. "That would be based on the board's collective wisdom," said King.

"I would suggest that the board's wisdom be based on the peoples' voice," replied Bookout.

In comparing this situation to two years ago when three candidates petitioned to run for three seats, the election was canceled and the three were deemed elected by state statute. "If it's left up to the arbitrary decision of the board that they get to pick who serves on it, that is not a democracy," said Goold.

"That being said," said Kleinman, "I think it is appropriate and just that the people who voted are the people who decide who serves on this board."

No formal decision was made on how the selection will be made.

Also at the meeting, Derek Holt, a Life Scout with Paonia Boy Scout Troop 477, spoke to the board about his Eagle Scout project to build bleachers at the Apple Valley Park tennis courts. The property is owned by the town, and North Fork Pool, Parks and Recreation District oversees operation of the courts.

Holt plans to locate the bleachers on the north side of the courts, and estimates the cost at about $800. He has received approval from the recreation district and sponsorship from local banks and Don's Market, which his family owns. He is actively seeking one more sponsor. Holt asked the town to contribute a concrete pad onto which the bleachers could be anchored and stabilized.

With little money in the budget, town manager Jane Berry suggested that gravel serve as a temporary base, and the town can budget for a concrete pad next year.

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North Fork
Paonia, Trustees
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