Fort Collins City Council picked Melanie Potyondy from a pool of eight applicants for the vacant District 4 seat.
Potyondy will fill the seat left by former Mayor pro-tem Kristin Stephens, who assumed her new role as Larimer County commissioner on Tuesday. Council voted last week to name council member Ross Cunniff as new mayor pro-tem.
Potyondy, a school psychologist, is one of at least seven people who’ve said they plan to run for the seat in the April 6 municipal election. The winner will be sworn in for a full four-year term after the election. District 4 represents southwest Fort Collins, including most of the city south of Drake Road and west of College Avenue.
Potyondy quickly emerged as a top contender for the District 4 spot as council began deliberations at a public meeting on Tuesday. Council members who supported Potyondy cited her strong community support — over 50 community members sent emails or spoke in her favor at council meetings in the last week — her expertise in mental health issues, and her emphasis on environmental sustainability and neighborhood livability.
“Her level-headedness in being able to approach problems and talk about our priorities really stood out to me,” council member Emily Gorgol said.
The other top finalist was Erin Hottenstein, a former journalist, nonprofit founder and vice president of operations at Public Speaking for the Professional. Council members also gave nods to applicants Jessica Dyrdahl, assistant director for student government at Colorado State University, and Shirley Peel, founder of Christian Core Academy. All three are also planning to run for the seat in April.
Council voted 5-1 to appoint Potyondy to the District 4 seat. Council member Ken Summers had named Hottenstein as his top pick, but he said his “no” vote was meant not to contest Potyondy’s appointment but to emphasize that the volume of impressive candidates made it a tough choice.
At her Jan. 6 interview with council, Potyondy said she views COVID-19 response as the most pressing issue facing Fort Collins.
“It’s impacting every facet of life in Fort Collins — health, housing, child care and education and commerce,” she said. “… I tend to see COVID as a lens through which we can view council’s established priorities. It’s become an excellent indicator of what Fort Collins has in place that’s working really well, and it has also kind of shone a spotlight on our weak points.”
She said some of her top priorities on council would be preserving community character by supporting local businesses and cultural resources; working to provide housing for all; supporting access to social services, employment and medical care; and holding environmental sustainability as a “guiding principle.”
Asked by council to identify which of council’s current priorities is most important to her, Potyondy named affordable and attainable housing, which she said she views as an integral component of council’s equity and inclusion goals.
Affordable and attainable housing is “where our inequities are particularly gaping here in Fort Collins, and it also really underlines all of the other council priorities,” Potyondy said, relating housing back to economic development, mental health and access to city resources. “We have populations of Fort Collins that we’re meeting the needs of very well, and we should be proud of that. But we do have gaps in the continuum that are either only partially addressed or missing currently. … We’ve done a really nice job as a city to identify gaps, and we need to address them.”
Jacy Marmaduke covers government accountability for the Coloradoan. Follow her on Twitter @jacymarmaduke. Support her work and that of other Coloradoan journalists by purchasing a digital subscription today.