The Cortez City Council has four new members on board.
Despite all the turbulence and disruptions caused by the coronavirus pandemic, the Cortez municipal election on April 7 proceeded as expected, and with high tournout.
And this spring, city residents voted in Rachel Medina, Arlina Yazzie, and David Rainey to four-year terms, and Amy Huckins and incumbent Sue Betts to two-year terms.
It was one of the most crowded races in recent years, with 14 candidates vying for five open seats.
The city also saw a 35% voter turnout, with 1,725 of the total 4,843 sent-out ballots returned, said to City Clerk Linda Smith.
For the Cortez City Council, the top three vote-getters in a municipal election serve for four-year terms, while the fourth- and fifth-place candidates will serve two-year terms. Voters were allowed to vote for up to five candidates, meaning a total of 7,314 votes were cast.
This year, according to the unofficial results, Medina earned the most votes at 860 (11.8% of votes cast), followed by Yazzie at 707 (9.7%) and Rainey at 653 (8.9%).
Two-year terms will be served by Huckins and Betts, who earned 618 (8.4%) and 610 votes (8.3%), respectively, according to the unofficial results.
The abstract of the ballots will be completed April 17 to confirm the election results, according to Smith. The new councilors are set to take their oath of office on April 28.
Even with the effects of the coronavirus and social distancing, candidates took advantage of several opportunities for voters to get to know them, both through video-recorded forums and through Q&As published in The Journal.
Rachel Medina is currently a GIS specialist for Montezuma County and sits on the Cortez Planning and Zoning Commission, previously serving on the city’s Parks and Recreation board. She said she ran because she is committed to seeing Cortez grow positively. She aspires to be a forward-thinking councilor who is knowledgeable about city services and plans for the future.
“I’m really excited to take on this responsibility and help our community through the trying times that we have ahead of us,” Medina said. “And I’m really excited to work with this group of people, I know that they’re all dedicated to this community, so I think we can do great things.”
Arlina Yazzie is an outreach specialist at Cortez Integrated Healthcare and previously served as a youth activities coordinator and mentoring case manager at The Piñon Project Family Resource Center. She said she ran for council because she wants to help the city grow and thrive and see herself represented in the decision-making process.
David Rainey is retired, but works as a substitute teacher throughout Montezuma County, previously working as an art director, Starbucks store manager, and a community college teacher. He said he decided to run for council because he values community involvement and felt he had the aptitude and skills needed to work with other councilors and community members on challenging issues.
“I couldn’t be more pleased, especially with the new electees,” Rainey said. “I think it’s going to be a great team and we can work together.”
Amy Huckins is a manager of the WildEdge Brewing Collective along with operating a small personal training business, and previously worked with at-risk youth in the Alaskan wilderness. She said she ran for City Council because she wants to be a strong voice for the community and the next generation.
“I’m just overcome and overwhelmingly confident, and have an excited feeling about this new council,” Huckins said.
Sue Betts is a retired Cortez police officer who has been on the City Council for the past two years and sits on the Historic Preservation Board and the board for Mesa Verde Country. She said she ran for council because she wants to make a difference and preserve the city for future generations to come.
“I would like to say thanks for everybody who supported me, and to let the people of this community know that we’re really proud of them, and if they see a problem, to please come and talk to us,” Betts said.
Now that the election is over, the new City Council will look decidedly different in a few weeks.
Alongside the newly elected members, Mike Lavey and Orly Lucero are the only other current councilors (besides Betts) who will remain: The terms for Mayor Karen Sheek and Councilors Ty Keel and Gary Noyes are all up this April, but Sheek and Keel are term-limited, and Noyes opted not to seek reelection this year.
Former Councilor Jill Carlson announced her resignation in December, with two years remaining on her term, meaning the council has been operating with a vacancy since then. Once the new councilors are sworn in, the Cortez City Council will be back up to its full seven members.
Nine candidates did not earn a spot on the council this time: Stephanie Carver, Jason A. Witt, Raymond Ralph Goodall, Rafe M. O’Brien, Justin Vasterling, Geof Byerly, Joe Farley, Bill Banks, and Leroy A. Roberts.