Aurora City Council interviews 5 for at-large seat; Tim Huffman withdraws


AURORA | Five applicants for the vacant at-large seat on the Aurora City Council got to make their case to the body they could potentially serve Monday night. Council members are expected to make a decision on the position at the July 23 meeting. 

Council members originally selected six applicants from the pool of 17 to interview. But Tim Huffman, a former Aurora police officer and former city council candidate, pulled his application from consideration earlier in the day. It’s unclear why. The applicants interviewed were: Tom Tobiassen, Margaret Sobey, Jonathan Scott, Johnny Watson and JulieMarie A. Shepherd Macklin. 

The candidates answered questions mostly pertaining to the city’s growth, similar to what city manager candidates were asked over the weekend. Council member Francoise Bergan asked the five how the massive Aerotropolis development near Denver International Airport could impact Aurora. Everybody said that future development could be huge for the city. Shepherd Macklin said it could rival the Denver Tech Center and downtown Denver in terms of economic development, with lots of room for office space. 

“I think if it works how it’s supposed to work, then it’d be great,” Sobey said.

Council member Crystal Murillo asked the candidates how they’d approach competing interests, such as economic development and affordable housing in her ward. Tobiassen said that was a regular challenge he had to overcome as a member of the Regional Transportation District board, and that bringing all the parties to the table and listening is often times the best route.

Council member Nicole Johnston asked each member if they were familiar with the city’s civil service commission, a quasi-judicial board that provides disciplinary appeals and establishes rules and regulations consistent with the city charter for the police and fire departments. The commission drew controversy last week as it reinstated Lt. Charles DeShazer after being fired by Chief Nick Metz in September for making a racist remark after an officer-involved shooting in Denver.

Watson said he disagreed with the commission’s decision. 

“It was a bad decision, there’s no way around saying that,” he said, adding that perhaps the commission felt that it was the only decision it could make and that the council should look at the policies that guide the commission.

Candidates Sobey and Scott said they didn’t know in-depth about the commission. 

Mayor Bob LeGare asked candidates whether they would run in 2019 when the seat is up for re-election. The seat was LeGare’s prior to him being appointed to mayor after the death of Steve Hogan. LeGare said prior to his appointment he would not run for mayor in 2019. 

Most candidates said it’s something they have thought about. Tobiassen said he learned a lot in running for the at-large seat in 2017, mostly that a campaign manager could do a lot of good. He lost to Dave Gruber by less than 50 votes.

Scott said he was unsure whether he would and Shepherd Macklin said she had already started thinking about that process, but hasn’t made any officials moves yet. 

Council members will vote on candidates July 23. The chosen applicant is slated to be sworn in on August 6.