Bluff town council candidates participate in public forum
by Zak Podmore
The most common phrase uttered at a May 2 candidates forum for Bluff’s first town council was, “I agree.”
Two mayoral candidates and six running for four council seats in the upcoming election on June 26 spoke for nearly two hours about their vision for the newly incorporated town of Bluff.
Each candidate introduced themselves before answering pre-selected questions in a conversation that rarely felt like a debate.
Marcia Hadenfeldt, co-owner of Far Out Expeditions and librarian, told the audience she is running for mayor after serving as chair of the San Juan County Planning and Zoning board and as secretary for the Bluff Service Area, each for a decade.
Write-in candidate for mayor, Ann Leppanen, joked her campaign would hinge on whether or not she can teach people to spell her last name.
Before moving to Bluff, Leppanen served as a judicial officer for ten years in Minnesota, where she also presided over family court and practiced law. For the last three years, Leppanen assisted with the incorporation effort.
Half of the candidates for town council are hotel owners: Jennifer Davila (La Posada Pintada Inn), Luanne Hook (Recapture Lodge), and Amer Tumeh (Desert Rose).
The other three council candidates – Jim Sayers, Brant Murray, and Linda Sosa – all bring experience with local politics in Bluff and elsewhere.
Murray and Sosa were co-chairs of the incorporation committee, and Sayers worked in education for 38 years in San Juan County and Gallup, NM.
The first question of the evening was whether or not Bluff should write ordinances to become an International Dark Sky Community like Torrey, UT and Flagstaff, AZ.
Most candidates spoke in favor of retrofitting lighting for dark sky compliance. Tumeh said he supports the ordinances for residential areas, but he is concerned they could create safety issues in commercial developments.
Candidates largely agreed on the need to provide affordable housing in town, and all said they’d strive to forge a good working relationship with the county and the Navajo Nation.
There was some debate over how town water rights should be handled. Bluff currently has a complicated and contentious water management system that is overseen by a water works and a water board.
Five of the eight candidates who participated in the forum will serve on the town council after elections. Another forum is scheduled for May 15.
A full recording of the first forum is available at www.IncorporateBluff.org along with a schedule of upcoming events. The San Juan Record will run profiles of the candidates before the election.