Politics

Taos Ski Valley elects Brownell new mayor by single vote

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In the closest political race in the region, voters in Taos Ski Valley elected sitting councilor Christof Brownell over longtime mayor Neal King by only one vote.

Out of 83 total votes, Brownell garnered 41 to King's 40. Renato Frimm, an economics professor who also ran for mayor, received 2 votes.

Reached by phone the morning after the election, Brownell told The Taos News, "I'm feeling excited, almost like winning a close ski race by a second."

He added that because the vote is so close and canvassing of the election won't take place until Friday (March 9). "I don't want to get too happy yet," he said.

Brownell is the son of two ski valley fixtures who for more than three decades ran the Thunderbird Lodge. He still manages a small property in the village but is primarily a self-employed musician with a "one-man band."

Big changes are afoot in the ski valley. Several years ago, the family that founded the ski area sold it to a billionaire hedge fund manager. Under new corporate ownership, infrastructure improvements (from a new hotel and ski lift to a bevy of recently-laid utilities) and developments have come with full force to one of the smallest municipalities in the state, with only 129 registered voters.

Brownell said that, as mayor, he wants to be more inclusive of "the extended community that's not in the voter base."

"A lot of people who work up in the ski valley or have second homes here don't vote up here, and I want to represent them as well," he said.

In addition to working with Taos Ski Valley Inc. and keeping a close eye on the developments the company is leading, Brownell hopes to improve communication with the village's residents.

King could not be reached as of press time. TSV clerk Ann Wooldridge told The Taos News a recount would only occur if a candidate requested it.

In the race for council, municipal government newcomer Jeffery Kern, along with sitting councilor jay Christopher Stagg, both won with 44 votes each.

Kathy Bennett, who was first elected to the council in 1998, received 36 votes while Roger Pattison received 32 votes.

Stagg works as the senior vice president for public affairs for the ski valley, where he's been employed for 45 years.

Tuesday's election was, by far, the biggest turnout in recent memory. During the 2014 race for mayor, only 31 people turned out, a 25 percent voter turnout. The 2010 race saw even less participation, with 19 voters casting ballots, a 16 percent turnout.

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