FREMONT COUNTY, Colorado — Voters in Florence will hold a special election Tuesday to select a new city council. The community has not had a council since late March when six of the seven elected board members resigned.
Mayor Paul Villagrana is currently the only remaining member on the council. A total of eleven candidates are running for the vacant seats. The city is divided into three wards and two council members are elected from each ward.
"They will fill the seats until 2023, and then if they desire to run for the regular um term, then they'll have to run again after 2023," Villagrana explained.
It has been a turbulent 12 months in city government beginning with the termination last summer of former City Manager Mike Patterson. He was subsequently arrested at Denver International Airport on felony charges of stalking and misdemeanor charges of sexual contact without consent and providing alcohol to a minor.
One former council member told News 5 in March that the stress of the job led to her decision to leave. Others cited a lack of transparency from investigations looking into Patterson's corruption.
Villagrana acknowledged it was a heavy burden on his fellow council members.
"These six good people took a lot of heat from a lot of people," he said.
Villagrana explained that the city has operated during the past four month within the budget approved by the previous council be fore they stepped down. However, a number of pressing issues are awaiting the new board including the selection of a new city attorney.
Kaitlin Turner, the most recent city attorney and the former 11th Judicial District Attorney, was appointed by Governor Polis in June to fill a judicial vacancy in Fremont County.
"They are going to have to be well educated and they're going to have to be really able and willing to get their noses into the ordinances and find out what applies to city, what applies to zoning," Villagrana said.
He also shared his deep gratitude to the city staff for their professionalism during a difficult transition.
"The people of Florence remind me of a football team because they all hang together and they are truly professional in what they do."
There will only be one polling place open for the election, the Emergent Campus on Maple Avenue. Ballots were also mailed to voters.
The mayor expects the city clerk will certify the results by August 11 and hopes to see a special council meeting scheduled to swear-in the new board on August 15.
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