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A lighter moment during the 2023 Salida Election Candidate Forum. Left to right, Ben Gilling, Alisa Pappenfort, Aaron Stephens, Jackie Berndt, Adriane Kuhn, Wayles Martin. Merrell Bergin photo

The nature of democratic elections is that unless one is running unopposed, someone wins, and someone loses. The wonder of our democracy, and its strength, is that good citizens are willing to stand for office and to accept the will of the voters.

Ark Valley Voice (AVV) asked the candidates who stood for the Salida City elections for their thoughts following the results of the election. All candidates received the same email request at approximately 12:25 p.m. on November 8, and we issued a follow-up via text before 5:00 p.m. after AVV experienced an Internet outage in part due to the ongoing Aristata outage.

The candidates responded:

Mayor Dan Shore

 “First and foremost I would like to extend my thanks to all the candidates for putting themselves out there. I was really happy to see more people running in this election cycle. Most importantly, I was really happy with how civil candidates were with one another.”

“I am honored to have the opportunity to serve as mayor for the next two years. While the results are not yet finalized, I am confident that regardless of the outcome we will be seating a strong council committed to serving residents. I am excited to work with both existing and new members on council.”


 Wayles Martin

 “Thank you for the opportunity to speak on the race for City Treasurer. I know the results aren’t official just yet, but I can see and accept that Mr. Gilling will be stepping into the position. We both worked incredibly hard on our individual campaigns and it has been a journey that I’m sure neither of us will forget.

There are many people I want to thank for their support, but first and foremost I want to be sure to thank Angela (Angie) Mokate for all that she did acting as my sole committee member. I can proudly say that, regardless of the results, we successfully pulled off our first campaign season. Angie’s knowledge of marketing from her own professional experience as a realtor for Full Circle Real Estate Group, along with her determined attitude and solid friendship, helped push me to be a candidate who received over 1,000 votes for my first-ever election.

I also want to say thank you to Merrell and PJ Bergin and Rob and Sarah Gartzman. The mentorship and support I received from all of these individuals has only inspired me to continue to push for workforce representation within the City of Salida.

Finally, thank you to all of the constituents that live and work in this unique community who believe in my mission. Whether we’ve worked together at Sweetie’s or the Southwest Conservation Corp, or we met for the first time during the campaign season in my attempt to reach out to various sectors, I could not have done this without you folks. This may be my first time stepping into the ring, but it most certainly won’t be my last!”

Ben Gilling 

“I am honored that the citizens of Salida have chosen me as their new City Treasurer, I look forward to providing oversight for the citizen’s tax dollars.

Additionally, I am honored to have had the opportunity to participate in a spirited competition with my opponent.  I believe that Wayles will go on to do great things in our community and I look forward to witnessing her contributions in the future.”

Ward 1 
Suzanne Fontana

I am looking forward to serving on the Salida City Council and serving my community to the best of my abilities.

Ward 2 
Adrianne Kuhn 

“I ran a really good campaign. I really got out there; I had a little bit of help from my husband and from family and friends, but I really did the work myself getting out there. I showed up. I participated. I know what’s going on throughout the city and am always willing to learn more and I was excited to go to meetings and participate and help make a change…I hope that the person that wins shows up and does stuff as well.”

Aaron Stephens 

“Although the unexpected tie caught me off guard, I have faith that integrity will ultimately triumph.

Our honorable and clean campaign, coupled with the backing of some of our community’s finest leaders and innovators fills me with great pride. Even before the results were announced, I already considered this a personal victory.”

Ward 3 
Jackie Berndt 

 “I want to thank all of the votes that turned out for the election, all of my supporters, and most of all my family. While the election results didn’t go our way. I hope the new council can continue to make our city a better place. Losing an election doesn’t mean I’ve stop caring about the community. I’ll remain an active and engaged citizen, advocating for the issues I believe in and holding elected officials accountable. Our city can only thrive when people participate.”

Alisa Pappenfort 

“I am humbled by all the support I received and I look forward to serving Salida the next four years.

Thank you to all my supporters, contributors, canvassers and sign hosts. You gave me strength!

It is a privilege to meet everyone who opened their door. You showed me how smart and passionate you are to make this paradise we call home the best it can be.

Thank you to my opponent for giving voters a choice. People doing good for goodness sake is at the heart of our democracy. Together we arrive at better solutions than any of us thought possible.”

It should be noted that a few of the candidates offered suggestions for improvements to the state campaign processes and the city’s elections processes and Ark Valley Voice is reviewing those comments for a future article.