Brainard Swears In, GJ Gets New Mayor
KREX News Room
GRAND JUNCTION, Colo. - With the shake of a hand and a healthy applause, Rick Brainard became the first of Grand Junction's 2013 new council members.
"I'm looking forward to the full city council being together," said Brainard. "It's a disappointment that two of them aren't here today but they will be here on May 22. I'm looking forward to that."
Not without opposition, the beleaguered businessman was also flanked by supporters like Mesa County Republican Party Chair Ruth Ehlers and current council member Sam Susuras.
"The voters chose four really good council members. I look forward to working with them," said Susuras.
It took about 10 minutes to swear in Brainard (At-Large), Harry Butler (District E), Marty Chazen (District D), and Phyllis Norris (District A). Despite some protesting during that time, Brainard says the event is an opportunity to right the past.
"It is an important issue for me and it will be an important issue for me for as long as I'm in the public eye," added Brainard. "I want to help. I don't expect anybody to invite me to the country club just for saying it. I know its going to take doing it. But that's okay. I expect to do it."
Brainard also opposed the city council's controversial move to elect a new mayor (Susuras) and mayor pro-tem (Chazen) during a meeting directly after the oaths of office. Normally, that vote is taken during the first official meeting of the new city council. In addition, members Jim Doody and Bennett Boeschenstein were unable to attend due to vacation leave.
"There's two sides to that," explained Brainard. "On one side, the two that aren't here have known this date for a long time and chose to not be here. The other side is, I'm a big believer in the high road and I think what's happened in the past has happened in the past. What we need to do is look forward and that means all seven of us being in a room, voicing our opinions on the issues."
"We have board meetings coming up this week. If we don't have a mayor and a mayor pro-tem and we don't appoint board members to those boards, we wouldn't have a voice on those boards. We need to be there," said Susuras.
Butler abstained from voting in a new mayor and mayor pro-tem. All three of the other new members, as well as Susuras, voted for Susuras as mayor and Chazen as mayor pro-tem.
Councilmembers also made another unprecedented move: they reinstated ties with the Grand Junction Chamber of Commerce.
But not all new members were in unison. Again, Butler stood against the fold and voted 'no' on the reversal.
"City Council is a nonpartisan position. When the chamber stepped up and did all the endorsements and everything, it caused division in the council. That that division is still there. I think that division needs to be healed for us to go forward and serve the citizens of Grand Junction," Butler said.
Norris said the chamber has always held a political affiliation.
"They're one voice," she said. "They're not the only voice, but they're a huge voice for business and I think we need to be involved."
It's one of several issues current city council members are at odds over. In a surprising move during the previous council's last meeting on May 1, Doody proposed to cut ties with the chamber because of political conflicts. That motion was supported and carried in a 4-2 vote. Only Susuras and previous District A seat holder Tom Kenyon voted against it.
Officials warned councilmembers the measure would be overturned as soon as the new members were sworn-in.