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Town prepares to call special election in at-large mayor issue

Council will discuss officially calling a May vote at its February meetings

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Castle Rock's town council knows the town will hold a special election asking voters to approve changes to the town charter, which it says are necessary in order for Castle Rock to move to an at-large mayor system.

What they still don't know is how much that election will cost or who will run it.

Voters approved implementing an at-large mayor system in November, as well as cutting the number of districts from seven to six. The town is now forming a transition plan to get that done, such as deciding when the first at-large mayor will be elected and when redistricting will occur.

Prior to November, the town's mayor was appointed by the seven-member town council. An at-large mayor is one who's elected by the town's registered voters.

The first order of business, town attorney Bob Slentz has said, is cleaning up the charter's language to reflect the new at-large system. That should be done before the first mayoral election, he said, but any changes to the charter must be approved by the voters.

So, the town is preparing for a special election slated for May 15 asking voters to approve corrections to the charter's wording. Town staff will bring ordinances and ballot questions for council to review at its Feb. 6 meeting in order to call the election.

Councilmembers debated Jan. 16 whether to have the town run the special election with Douglas County's assistance, or ask Denver or Arapahoe counties to take the lead. Douglas County is unavailable to run the election because it will be installing new software and equipment during that time, town clerk Lisa Anderson said, although the county offered its assistance in manpower if Castle Rock decides to conduct the election itself.

Anderson said Jan. 16 she had inquired with Denver and Arapahoe counties but had not yet received a response. She could not confirm with council if one or both of the counties would be willing to help or how much it would cost for them to do so.

The last time Castle Rock ran its own election was in 2014, when voters approved open carry, and it wasn't easy going. Results took more than a week to come in and the town faced lawsuits over the process.

Slentz said the town may be less likely to receive a legal challenge this time around if they have another entity conduct the election — an option several councilmembers at first preferred.

Councilmember George Teal asked if having Castle Rock run the election with Douglas County's help was still the more efficient and affordable option.

Anderson is continuing to research the issue before council makes an official decision, a town spokeswoman said.

In addition to discussing the May 15 special election, council reviewed recommendations from a citizen committee for how to transition to the at-large system. Council approved forming the citizen committee in December. The seven-member group met Jan. 9 to discuss a timeline for enacting the changes.

They recommended the first at-large mayor election be Nov. 6, and suggested the town complete redistricting in 2018 as well.

As for qualifications to be mayor, the committee recommended candidates should be a U.S. citizen, a registered elector and have lived in Castle Rock for at least one year.

Council is still discussing one of the committee's recommendations, which was to require a candidate to gather 10 signatures from each district in order to get on the ballot. The current requirement is for candidates to gather 25 signatures from registered electors in total.

“I feel very comfortable,” Town Manager David Corliss said of the citizen committee Jan. 16, “that they had good information in regards to making a good decision.”

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