The town of Jackson saw its first two 2020 campaign declarations Monday, when the mayor and a current councilor announced their intent to swap places in the upcoming election.
Jackson Town Councilor Hailey Morton Levinson, who has served on the council for seven years, will run for mayor in November. Mayor Pete Muldoon will cede the position but still plans to pursue a seat on the council.
Morton Levinson is a Jackson native, mother of two young children and innkeeper at the Inn on the Creek, her family’s business. With that resume, she said, she’s uniquely positioned to serve the people of Jackson, and in particular its working class.
“I am running for mayor to represent our working families,” she said in a press release. “I know what it’s like to work hard, live paycheck to paycheck and worry about childcare and housing. Our voice matters, and it’s the community that makes Jackson the place we know and love.”
She has also been the only woman on the council since 2017, and, at 34, is the youngest member by more than a decade.
“I feel that it’s just really important to keep that voice and that demographic represented,” she said.
Muldoon agreed. Though the 47-year-old admits “there’s a part of me that likes being the head of government, and I like the title,” he added that “that’s a part of me I should probably take and bury under a mountain somewhere.”
He knew Morton Levinson wanted the position. In fact, she said, she planned to either run for mayor or not run at all. So Muldoon decided that “what’s important is we have a good council and we operate as a team. It was important to me that we keep that team going.
“I think it’s my turn to give that support to someone else,” he said. “She brings a perspective to our council that we can’t afford to lose.”
Though the mayor does have a few additional powers and responsibilities — leading meetings and setting agendas, for example — he or she is largely on a level playing field with the rest of the council. The mayor’s vote counts the same as anyone else’s.
The position differs most in its symbolic import: it’s the figurehead, “the face of the council,” Muldoon said.
“You’re the person that everybody assumes is responsible for everything,” he said. “They’ll come to you with their concerns. There’s power in that.”
Muldoon said Morton Levinson is “exceptionally well-prepared” to lead the town as mayor.
She was first elected in 2012, then re-elected in 2016, and has twice served as vice mayor. Over that time, as examples of the council’s accomplishments, she pointed to the passage of major initiatives like the Integrated Transportation Plan, updates to the town’s zoning and workforce housing projects.
But she feels a stronger connection to a handful of other votes that embody what she values most about Jackson: tenant protection measures; the ban on single-use plastic bags, which she spearheaded; and the nondiscrimination ordinance, which made it illegal to discriminate against someone based on their sexual or gender identity.
“They affect people more in everyday life,” she said, “and are symbols of the way we want our community to be: inclusive and accepting.”
In the past year, she and Teton County Commissioner Natalia D. Macker — as the only women on the council and commission, both of whom have young children — have also led a push to increase childcare support.
“For so many of our working families, me included, the pressures are obviously housing and transportation,” she said, “but then childcare is probably the next big one.”
Serving as mayor since 2017, Muldoon has approved measures to address the region’s housing and transportation challenges. Most recently he has turned his attention to fostering a climate advocacy movement in Teton County, and the council is likely to vote next week to become carbon neutral by 2030.
“I will work toward supporting Hailey as mayor, and continuing the good work the council has done,” he said. “We’re on a great track, we are starting to act strategically with a long-term focus. I think it’s important that we do that, and I’m the most prepared and qualified person that will run for council.”
Also up for election is Councilor Jim Stanford, who has yet to say whether he will pursue a third term.