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Lady Luck elects mayor when Helper Council ties

Flanked by photos of his predecessors, Edward Chavez Jr. takes his oath of office as Helper Mayor Friday.
Walter Borla supported the infrastructure project, but called river restoration "a waste of money."
Kirk Mascaro won't wield the mayor's gavel, but he will continue to serve on the city council

Sun Advocate associate editor

In a drawing of lots to break deadlocked city council balloting, Edward Chavez Jr. became the new mayor of Helper Thursday night.

The council was evenly divided, 2-2, between Chavez and incumbent councilman and mayor pro tem Kirk Mascaro. After two rounds of voting, the council and candidates agreed to settle the matter by having City Attorney Gene Strate draw the winner's name out of small wicker basket held by City Recorder Jona Skerl.

Chavez had served 15 years on the Wellington City Council and is a former county chair of the Democratic Party. He returned to his native Helper about two years ago. Mascaro has served on the Helper City Council for 13 years.

During his interview before the vote, Chavez told the council that the major challenge facing Helper is an aging population that is not being replenished by younger people moving in. He said the city's massive infrastructure improvement soon to begin is "long overdue," and supports the city's efforts to transform the Price River through town into a tourist attraction.

Mascaro also told his fellow council members that he supports the infrastructure improvements. "It has been needed for 70 years, but it took this council to do it," he stated.

Both Chavez and Mascaro said the increase in water rates to finance the rebuilding is necessary.

Walter Borla, the third candidate on the ballot, agreed with the other two that the rate hikes could not be avoided. "Somebody has got to pay the piper," he said.

Borla, a retired Helper postmaster, has been a resident for 84 years. Although he received no votes, he said he was grateful for the opportunity to appear before the council and express his opinions. He was passionate about about promoting and improving the city's Mining and Railroad Museum.

Chavez took oath of office Friday at 11 a.m. in Helper City Hall. The city recorderadministered the oath.

He will fill the unexpired term of Dean Armstrong, who resigned Feb. 23. The mayor's position is up for election in November.

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