RIDGWAY – Pat Willits is stepping down as Ridgway’s mayor after 12 years. And now he wants to be the county commissioner for District 3.
Willits made his official announcement yesterday (March 14) at an event at Backstreet Bistro in Ouray. He will be running to fill the seat vacated by Heidi Albritton, who is term-limited. In a statement, Willits said he is running as an “unaffiliated independent” against Republican (and also a former Ridgway mayor) Don Batchelder. “I choose to run as an independent because I am an independent person. I also think in a small county like Ouray, partisan politics sometimes gets in the way more than it helps.”
As an independent, without a party affiliation, Willits needs to petition to get on the November ballot, as prescribed by state law. The 60-day petition period begins in early April. Willits will need around 50 signatures, as a percentage of the votes cast in the last general election. He told The Watch the signature gathering will give him “lots of one-on-one time with people. I plan to do more listening than talking for the next couple of months. Not campaign so much as sit down with folks and hear what their concerns for the county are.”
Willits list his “day job” as Executive Director of Trust for Land Restoration, “a state-wide, not-for-profit organization that helps communities deal with an assortment of abandoned-mine issues.” He has also been “a couple-nights-a-week bartender at the Colorado Boy, since they opened on December 26, 2008.”
Lately, Willits has been a key component of a group in Ridgway, now calling itself the Chautauqua Society, that aims to turn the historic Sherbino Theater into a community arts and performance space, something akin to the Wright Opera House in Ouray.
Willits is 59, married with two children. He moved to Colorado from Southern California in 1976 and to Ridgway in 1997.
“I want to be a county commissioner because I believe I have the skills and understanding to help guide the county through these tough economic times and come out the other side with a county we can still be proud of, with neighbors we can still be friendly to and look each other in the eye.”
Twelve years ago, Willits wrote in his prepared statement, “I became mayor of a good town with a decent town government. I leave it as an excellent town government, not perfect but pretty darn good. I certainly don’t take or deserve all the credit for the improvement. Good government is a team sport, but like Reggie Jackson, I like to think I am the straw that stirs the drink. What I brought to the mix as mayor, and will bring to the job as county commissioner, are what some people might call my ‘people skills,’ plus a college degree in political science and public administration, more than 20 years of management experience in the private sector, a high degree of personal integrity and a deep and abiding belief in the value of treating each other with politeness and respect.
“What we’ve done in Ridgway we can do county-wide. Ouray County is a good county. Together we can make it even better.”