Shirley Peel leads District 4 City Council seat for southwest Fort Collins

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City Council District 4 seat candidates Jessica Dyrdahl (top left), Erin Hottenstein (top right), Shirley Peel (bottom left), Melanie Potyondy (middle) and Sidna Rachid (bottom right).

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Shirley Peel leads the Fort Collins City Council District 4 race with 30.22% of the vote as of early Wednesday morning, but Melanie Potyondy is trailing closely with 29.82%.

“First of all I’m exhausted, second of all I’m just stunned actually,” said Peel early Wednesday. “I’m still processing the whole thing, but I’m super grateful and super excited.” 

Peel, the founder of Christian Core Academy, ran on a platform of local business recovery and was the only candidate who did not identify as left-leaning or progressive. She also wanted to create a “smart growth” strategy for Fort Collins to accommodate what she considers “inevitable” population growth.

Peel would be the only conservative on council if her narrow lead holds up. 

“When we started this race we knew it was a long shot and we took our shot and were successful,” she said. She plans to prioritize “getting our businesses back and running and making sure that we’re moving our city forward in the best way possible.” 

Shirley Peel

Peel had endorsements from former council member Gino Campana, developer Steve Schroyer and Bask Salon owner Kelly Schroyer, state Sen. Rob Woodward, and former District 4 council member Kurt Kastein.

With the margin between Peel and Potyondy so small, a recount could be necessary. The mandatory recount window is one-half of 1% of the top candidate’s total votes.

As of Wednesday afternoon, Potyondy was unsure if she would ask for a recount, but said her and her team would weigh the options once all the votes are in. 

“It was disappointing that the numbers didn’t give me the definitive green light to keep representing D4,” said Potyondy — who has held the council seat since January — in an email. She was appointed to replace Kristen Stephens, who moved to the Larimer County Board of Commissioners.

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Potyondy ran a progressive campaign focused on equity, access and environmental stewardship and had raised the most of all District 4 candidates — $16,719 as of April 2. She had also received major endorsements, including Stephens and mayoral race winner, state Rep. Jeni Arndt.

Melanie Potyondy

“It is absolutely clear that southwest Fort Collins voters want progressive leadership, but the number of candidates in the race was impactful on the outcomes,” said Potyondy.

Five candidates — the most since 1999’s mayoral race — vied for the District 4 seat representing southwest Fort Collins. 

Jessica Dyrdahl, assistant director of Colorado State University’s student government program, also challenged Potyondy for the seat. She hoped to improve city relations with young people and prioritized COVID-19 relief and the city’s Housing Strategic Plan in her campaign. She received 13.58% of the district’s vote. 

Erin Hottenstein, a former journalist who now coaches people on public speaking and communication, she prioritized the city’s COVID-19 response and recovery, affordable housing, sustainability and diversity and equity issues in her campaign. She had 21.59% of the district’s vote. 

Sidna Rachid, a retiree who has worked with American Civil Liberties Union of Colorado and Front Range Forum, said one of her main priorities in the campaign was pushing for more eviction prevention and increased aid for the city’s homeless population. She had 4.8% of the district’s vote. 

Molly Bohannon covers education for the Coloradoan. Follow her on Twitter @molboha or contact her at mbohannon@coloradoan.com. Support her work and that of other Coloradoan journalists by purchasing a digital subscription today.