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Durango swears in new mayor, chief of police

‘This job takes a tremendous amount of time, energy, focus, dedication,’ former mayor says
Councilor Jessika Buell takes the oath of office before assuming her role as mayor of the city of Durango on Tuesday. Former Mayor Melissa Youssef returned to her status as a city councilor to begin her eighth and final year on City Council. (Christian Burney/Durango Herald)

Change was in the air Tuesday at Durango City Hall where Councilor Jessika Buell took her seat as mayor and Brice Current officially assumed the role as chief of police for the Durango Police Department.

In Durango, the mayor’s position is largely honorific. The mayorship is a rotating position, with the gavel traditionally being passed each year to the next highest vote-getter. The mayor presides over meetings and is often the chosen dignitary at ribbon-cuttings and other ceremonial events.

The mayor is not directly elected and has no more voting power than the other councilors.

Mayor Melissa Youssef returned to her position as a city councilor to carry out her eighth and final year in local office, but not before commending City Council, city staff members and her family for their support.

She said throughout her two terms in office she has worked with four different City Councils and witnessed three transitions of council-appointed positions, including city manager, city attorney and municipal judge.

“We as a team and as a staff and as a city staff have accomplished so much this past year and I feel, personally, extremely thankful to be a part of that team,” Youseff said. “And I just want to express that sincere gratitude to everyone here.”

The appointments of City Manager José Madrigal, City Attorney Mark Morgan and Municipal Judge Matt Margeson have “tremendously” impacted city operations for the better, she said.

She added their contributions were “transformative” and revolutionary in helping City Council conduct city business at meetings as a team and in one-on-one interactions.

Councilor Gilda Yazzie, left, and Mayor Jessika Buell after being appointed mayor pro tem and mayor, respectively, at Tuesday’s Durango City Council meeting. (Courtesy of city of Durango)

In an interview after the meeting, Youssef said her time as mayor was well spent, but she is eager to pass the torch and finish out the year as a councilor.

She said as mayor, one must work productively with other councilors and staff members and she firmly believes in the city’s system of government wherein a mayor’s vote is worth just as much as any councilor’s.

Presiding over council meetings as mayor and carrying stress for City Council as a whole gives councilors a fresh perspective, she said. The mayor works closely with staff members, who in turn work to act on policies decided by City Council. Serving as mayor drives that home.

Youssef teared up during her final words as mayor, reflecting on how patient, understanding and supportive her family has been.

“This job takes a tremendous amount of time, energy, focus, dedication, and I know that they have put up with me being distracted, being stressed, sleepless nights, the whole thing that we all go through at some point during the year that we serve. So I want to thank my husband and my children,” she said.

Buell, who was previously mayor pro tem, said she is ready to continue to work on big city projects. She said assuming the mayorship is not “groundbreaking or earth-shattering.” City Council has built a good momentum, and she is ready to keep that going.

Councilor Gilda Yazzie was selected to be the city of Durango’s next mayor pro tem on Tuesday. (Christian Burney/Durango Herald)
Durango Police Chief Brice Current, left, receives a ceremonial pin Tuesday from former Chief of Police Bob Brammer, who was formally hired as an assistant city manager by the city of Durango. (Christian Burney/Durango Herald)

Councilor Gilda Yazzie was appointed mayor pro tem. Buell said Yazzie is “amazing” and has a strong presence.

Buell said improving housing options, efforts to renew the 2005 sales tax, planning for a new City Hall and DPD building, and making progress on Downtown’s Next Step are all efforts she is ready to address in the year ahead.

DPD Chief Bob Brammer, who was formally hired as an assistant city manager, handed over the reins Tuesday night to Current.

Brammer pinned a ceremonial crest to Current’s uniform as part of the tradition of bringing on a new chief of police.

Buell and Yazzie took their oaths of office shortly afterward.

After a short break for councilors and their families to speak with residents, it was back to city business and the meeting continued.


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