Aurora city council heating up early with new, familiar contenders for five seats

Five city council seats are up for election this fall, two of which will inevitably be filled by newcomers as the incumbents are barred from running again due to term limits

AURORA | Ballot counting machines have barely cooled in Arapahoe and Adams counties, but that hasn’t stopped potential candidates for Aurora City Council seats from ramping up their campaign efforts leading up to the municipal election in November.

More than a dozen Aurora residents have formally initiated the process of running for municipal office, a procedure that begins by pulling the required packet of information from the city clerk’s office.

Five city council seats are up for election this fall, two of which will inevitably be filled by newcomers as the incumbents are barred from running again due to term limits.

Both Renie Peterson of Ward II and At-large Councilman Brad Pierce are term-limited. City election rules dictate officials cannot serve more than three consecutive four-year terms in a row.

The seats up for election this year are in Wards I, II and III, and two At-large seats.

In Ward I, incumbent councilwoman Sally Mounier is currently running unopposed, according to the most recent list of people who have declared intent to file formal candidacy with the city clerk’s office.

Marsha Berzins, the incumbent councilwoman in the Ward III, faces a trio of challengers: Hashim Coates, vice-chairman of the city’s human relations commission, former At-large City Councilwoman Debi Hunter Holen, and a man named Robert Hargrove, have all declared intent for candidacy in the city’s centrally located ward.

In the city’s sweeping northeastern Ward II, Glenn Ressmeyer and Bernard Celestin have both declared their intent to run for council. While Ressmeyer, a sales associate at Microcenter, has not formally run for office before, Celestin, a former civil service commissioner in the city, ran for the Ward II seat previously in 2013.

The largest pool of potential candidates is in the race for the city’s two at-large seats. Currently, eight people have declared their intent for those two spots.

Incumbent councilwoman Barb Cleland has declared her intent to run for a third consecutive term, as have a gaggle of both new and familiar figures: Abel Gebre Laeke, Brian Arnold, Timothy Huffman, PK Kaiser, Russell Wagner, Allison Hiltz and Dave Gruber.

Both Kaiser, a small business owner, and Arnold, a teacher at Denver Public Schools, have run for elected office multiple times in the past.

Hiltz, a research analyst at the National Conference of State Legislatures, Laeke, an insurance salesman and small business consultant, Huffman, a retired patrolman for the Aurora Police Department, Wagner, a utilities operator at the Coors Brewery in Golden, and Gruber, a cybersecurity consultant and retired colonel in the U.S. Air Force, have not run for a city council seat before.

All at-large candidates who are formally certified by the city clerk later this year will appear on the November ballot. The two candidates who earn the most votes in the city win the respective seats.

In races for a specific ward, candidates must gather 50 certifiable signatures from residents in that ward. In at-large races, candidates must gather 100 signatures from residents across the city. The first day to circulate petitions is Aug. 9, and a final list of signatures must be turned in to the city clerk’s office no later than Aug. 29, according to Janice Napper, who serves as the assistant city manager and the city clerk. Signatures will be verified in September.

Candidates are required to submit their first campaign finance reports in August.

To run for municipal office, candidates must be registered voters, U.S. citizens, at least 21 years old, a resident of Aurora for at least one year leading up to the election and, in races for a specific ward, a resident of that ward for at least one year.

Convicted felons are barred from running, as are current city employees.