Basalt councilman Bill Infante this week formally announced his candidacy for mayor of Basalt, A local resident since 2015, Infante, 58, was elected to council in 2018 along with Ryan Slack and Gary Tennenbaum and would leave with two years remaining on his term should voters promote him to the top job.
The seated council would have a choice for how to select his replacement if Infante becomes Basalt’s next mayor, according to Town Clerk Pam Schilling.
“If Bill were to win, his council member seat would be vacated. Council would have to appoint a new member to complete his term or call a special election to fill the vacancy for the remainder of the term,” Schilling said by email.
Infante is the second candidate to throw his hat into the mayoral ring, following former town manager Bill Kane’s declaration late last year. He is married to Betina Moreira Infante, a contributor to this publication, and they have two grown children, both of whom attended Colorado Rocky Mountain School in Carbondale.
In fact it was the offspring who led the way for their parents to move to the Roaring Fork Valley five years ago.
“Our history goes to two-and-a-half decades of living overseas,” Infante said, noting his experience working for both the state department and the United Nations.
“We had worked around the world and never owned a house,” prior to buying a home on Ridge Road in 2015. The family’s current business is importing cashmere and yak fiber blankets and throws that are knit and woven in Mongolia. They are sold locally at establishments including Aspen Outfitting and the Goop pop-up.
“We fell in love with the Valley and the people and we were very rapidly embraced,” he said. Infante credits some of that natural acceptance to the welcoming attitude of CRMS’ school community.
Soon after, Infante started his initial foray into local public service and became a familiar figure in the audience at town council meetings.
“I spent a fair amount of time at council meetings before the 2016 election, listening and learning about our community and their preference and appetite for the issues,” he said.
As is true this year, multiple seats were up for grabs in 2018. In 2020, councilmembers Katie Schwoerer, Jennifer Riffle and Auden Schendler’s terms are up, as is that of Mayor Jacque Whitsitt, who is term limited.
About Slack and Tennenbaum, his colleagues who also were swept into office two years ago, Infante said there’s no groupthink in play.
“We don’t all vote together,” Infante said. That said, he added that independent decision making also goes hand-in-hand with the understanding that “We are pulling in the same direction.”
Strategic plan as road map
Infante said he will use the strategic plan that elected officials worked on in late 2018 and into 2019 to inform his way forward.
“That very certainly is similar to the kinds of framework I was very familiar with in the American government,” Infante said, adding that he was surprised heretofore there was none in place.
Among its other attributes, Infante said it speaks to the importance of connectedness and unity within the community, “then it moves on to issues that are associated with our economy and business environment.”
Infante said his knowledge of finance and budgeting have been part of his contributions as a council member.
Mayor Jacque Whitsitt agreed, and wrote in an email that, “Both Bill and Katie Schwoerer have strong finance backgrounds. Katie and I have worked together longer and more closely on town finance issues because we have been on council together two different terms.” Schwoerer hasn’t yet said publicly whether she will run again.
Infante said he’s pleased with the transparency that’s been evident in the current council and staff, adding that even though he wasn’t originally a supporter of the TABOR refund for reasons that include “It’s a $2.3 million debt hanging over our town,” the process to determine the error came about due to “greater accountability and transparency. We have made our finances far more transparent” as a result.
“I find it very exciting when I can say, ‘we have our finances firmly under control,” he added.
Mayor Whitsitt said she is supporting Infante’s opponent, Bill Kane, to be her successor. He is both a longtime friend and someone with whom she has worked on boards and projects in the past, Whitsitt added.
Of Bill Infante, the current mayor said by email, “Bill is political and is a great campaigner. We have agreed on a number of things in his first two years on council.”
Whitsitt added, “I admire anyone with the gusto to run for office.”
Knowledge and the arts
During a 45-minute conversation, Infante stressed his recognition and admiration for Basalt’s “knowledge-based institutions” Rocky Mountain Institute and Aspen Global Change. He termed them as “globally significant. They are exporting ideas around the world.”
And maybe, just maybe, these heavy hitters deserve a little more appreciation than has been shown heretofore, he suggested. “We have such a wealth of knowledge and experience and every opportunity to capitalize on them,” Infante said.
Arts and culture are also worthy of support and recognition, he added, noting the talent of local artists including but not limited to Tania Dibbs and Dick Carter, plus the multitude of designers and architects in our midst.
Enhancing broadband capacity, “helping businesses do their business,” would augment those local services as well as build on the connectivity idea, he suggested.
In Infante’s vision, connectedness with contiguous and farther flung counties is key. So too is access to affordable child care, affordable housing and promoting regional energy initiatives.
Infante mentioned a seminar in which he participated last October which brought together the public sector with private industries including Holy Cross Energy. He said Holy Cross “shares a vision to make the town more resilient,” which is especially important in the aftermath of the Lake Christine Fire.
The councilman also praised the regional housing efforts promoted by Bill Lamont and David Myler. “Basalt has not been particularly well integrated on issues of regional importance. These are the kinds of things we need to get behind up and down the Valley,” he said.