Pitts set to join council months after it booted him from planning commission

Six months ago, Bill Pitts was kicked off the Grand Junction Planning Commission based on elected officials’ concerns that he had acted unethically.

In a month, it appears he’ll join the group that gave him the boot.

Pitts, a real-estate agent and longtime local businessman, edged out retired banker Sam Susuras and Planning Commission Chairman Roland Cole on Tuesday night for the Grand Junction City Council at-large seat being vacated by Doug Thomason, who chose not to seek a second term.

Final unofficial results showed Pitts tallying 2,817 votes, or 35.3 percent — 31 votes more than Susuras. Cole finished third with 2,324 votes, or 29.1 percent.

City Clerk Stephanie Tuin said the margin isn’t enough for a mandatory recount.

Pitts was out with his family celebrating his birthday and had no idea how the election had turned out until he returned home and found several phone messages waiting for him.

“All you can do is your very best, and I had some good people helping me,” he said.

Two other contested races were not as close.

District D Councilwoman Bonnie Beckstein held onto her seat, fending off a challenge from longtime former Councilman Reford Theobold. Beckstein received 4,434 votes, or 54.2 percent, compared to 3,711 votes for Theobold.

Realtor and former Colorado State Parks director Tom Kenyon routed retiree Ken Sublett for the District A seat. Kenyon garnered 4,613 votes, or 61.6 percent — nearly 1,800 more votes than Sublett. Kenyon will replace Jim Doody, who decided against seeking re-election.

Also, unopposed District E Councilwoman Teresa Coons won re-election.

The four council members will be sworn in next month and serve four-year terms.

They will immediately face a bevy of challenges. Declining sales-tax revenue prompted the city to slice $6 million out of this year’s budget.

City leaders are trying to craft a scaled-back plan to build new public safety buildings that will be palatable to voters.

And council members this summer will adopt the city’s first comprehensive plan, an initiative that will significantly alter how Grand Junction grows in the next 25 years.

Pitts joins a council that cut short his seven-year tenure on the Planning Commission in October. Council members concluded he acted inappropriately by writing letters to city planners opposing zoning changes for two developments near his home. Pitts noted he had recused himself from considering the applications as a commissioner but also claimed he had a First Amendment right to speak out against the projects.

Pitts insisted the issue is in the past.

“I’m not vindictive, certainly,” he said. “They did what they felt they had to do. I did what I felt I had to do. I stand by my convictions. They stand by theirs. I won’t have any problem going in to work with them.”

Cole said he was disappointed to put so much money and time into his campaign, only to see it come up short.

Susuras said he wishes Pitts and the other victors well and hopes “the personalities will mesh.”

Beckstein said she thinks voters selected her based on her experience and her belief that this economic downturn, while serious, isn’t as dramatic and devastating as the one the Grand
Valley experienced in the mid-1980s, when Theobold came onto the council.

Theobold, who spent 18 years on the council, spent much of his campaign questioning and criticizing city officials about issues ranging from the budget to public safety.

“I tried to make a case for a lot of fiscal issues, and obviously they didn’t resonate,” he said. “I don’t know if that’s because they didn’t agree with me on those issues. Clearly, I was not their choice.”

Neither Kenyon nor Sublett could be reached for comment.


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