Jackson’s governing body will see two new councilors next year, with one retiring and the incumbent ousted by opponents.
After finishing third in the primary election and the barbershop poll, Jonathan Schechter was “utterly blown away” to top the race with 2,178 votes. Behind the executive director of the Charture Institute, the second-highest vote-getter was Jackson architect Arne Jorgensen, with 2,040. National committeewoman for the Democratic National Committee Jessica Sell Chambers and incumbent Councilor Don Frank won 1,812 and 1,628 votes, respectively.
“I think it is a true shame that two of us had to lose,” Schechter said. “All four of us would have done a great job.”
Schechter looks forward to working with the rest of the councilors, noting the shift he’ll have to make from campaigning on his own personal platform to holding office beside other elected officials.
“The reality is I am joining a team,” he said. “You can’t get anything done as an individual unless you can persuade your colleagues.”
He and the other candidates gathered at Hole Bowl to await the election results. At one point a stray pingpong ball rolled in front of him, and he picked it up and returned it to the players.
“That’s the kind of public servant I’m going to be,” he said jokingly.
Jorgensen said it was “not quite sinking in yet,” but he is excited to advance the community’s objectives alongside his fellow councilors and county commissioners.
“I will continue working on my goals of valuing our people and valuing our place by bringing affordable housing to Jackson Hole, maintaining the uniqueness of our town’s character and protecting our conservation legacy,” he said.
He acknowledged that the town has already set its priorities, guided by the Comprehensive Plan, and that he plans to first work through those initiatives.
Frank, who has served on the council since 2013, said the “appropriate reaction” to the outcome of an election, his own loss included, is to support the new councilors. He said he has known both Schechter and Jorgensen for a long time and will “always be available” to them.
He reflected fondly on his years in office.
“My council service has been the finest education that I can ask for,” he said, “and it’s been very satisfying to understand how all the puzzle pieces fit together and understand more about how we make our community strong and healthy.”
Mike Gierau, the state representative who won a state Senate seat Tuesday, noted the difficulties of running as someone voters associate with the problems they see in government.
“It was tough for Don Frank,” Gierau said. “As the only incumbent, anything anyone was mad about in the town got taken out on him.”
Chambers, the only woman in the race, congratulated the winners but urged them to consider the women in their community, “because our lived experience is different from theirs.”
With one woman on the council and another being replaced on the Teton County Board of County Commissioners, local government is down to two women in elected office. Chambers questioned whether the male councilors could properly represent women, suggesting there may be no substitute for women in office.
“I hope they’re up for the challenge,” she said.