After six hours and 78 rounds of voting for the next mayor pro tem, Westminster Councilor David DeMott received just enough votes early Tuesday for the number two spot on City Council.
The battle for mayor pro tem followed the swearing in of Westminster’s new mayor, Anita Seitz, who took up the mantle after former Mayor Herb Atchison unexpectedly resigned from his post May 5. Atchison’s departure left an even split on council, leading to the seemingly endless meeting that began on Monday and ended on Tuesday and which exposed deep local political divisions.
There have been alliances on council among Atchison, Seitz and Councilors Kathryn Skulley and Jon Voelz. On the other side, DeMott and Councilors Rich Seymour and Lindsey Smith are aligned.
Atchison, Seitz, Skulley and Voelz were the target of a recall campaign, with recall organizers citing the four councilors’ support for existing water rates. DeMott, Seymour and Smith have advocated for lowering water rates, garnering them support from the Westminster Water Warriors, the recall group.
A recent recounting of recall petitions found enough valid signatures to trigger recall elections for Atchison and Voelz. Atchison resigned soon after, resulting in the appointment of Seitz, who was Atchison’s mayor pro tem.
Right before taking the oath as mayor at the Monday meeting, Seitz addressed the polarization head on. “We are all living through a time of pronounced division at the national level, and even here in Westminster,” she said. “I recognize that my colleagues are my equals and that together, we have the ability and the responsibility to put the needs of the city before our own.” What followed that speech, though, was very different.
When it came time for council to select a new mayor pro tem, the first vote tally was three votes for Seymour and three for DeMott. Rounds two through nine followed suit, prompting council to discuss who they were voting for and why, even though the ballots were anonymous. DeMott, Smith and Seymour revealed they were voting for DeMott, while Seitz, Skulley and Voelz were voting for Seymour. That sent a couple messages: Seymour was going to stick with DeMott and Smith, even if that meant voting against himself, and that Seitz, Skulley and Voelz would avoid voting for DeMott at all costs.
The divisions between Seitz, Skulley and Voelz with DeMott are multi-faceted, from their differences around water rates and thus, the recall campaign and what it represents, to the perception that DeMott has a contentious relationship with some city staff, including with City Manager Don Tripp.
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