The Stripper-Turned-Mayor Faces A Recall

The mystery of what happened to Mayor Koleen Brooks the night of Feb. 16 has riveted Georgetown, Colo., a historic mining town deep in the shadows of the Rocky Mountains.

Brooks, a former stripper in a Denver nightclub, says a fiftyish man smelling of cigarettes and whiskey hit her on the head as she walked home from her hair-and tanning-salon business that evening. Brooks fought back and the individual fled when a neighbor turned on a porch light. But two weeks after Brooks filed a police report and showed off scratches on her neck and arms, she was charged with faking the attack and tampering with evidence.

Local prosecutors aren't talking about the case. "We're trying to protect her rights to a fair and impartial jury," says Karen Romeo, deputy district attorney. "I can't discuss it. Goodbye." But the mayor's lawyer, Michael Andre, says the charges are deeply political. "Koleen is a threat and this is a way to get rid of her. Koleen's story is an expose on small-town politics." Some residents say the recent police charges are part of a conspiracy by the town's old guard to remove her from office. "The old fogies don't like the idea of a stripper being mayor," says Mark Evans, manager of a pottery shop on 6th Street that, like most of the other stores in town, caters to tourists. Evans says he voted for Brooks last year because, like other members of the town's "younger generation," he believed she would fight the "crowd that wants to turn Georgetown into a Sleepy Hollow retirement community."

Everyone agrees that Brooks has had a rocky tenure as Georgetown's mayor. A month after she was elected last April, Brooks was accused of baring her breasts in a downtown bar. She denies the accusation, but during the ensuing media coverage it was revealed that Brooks, 37, had stripped at the Denver nightclub for five years in her early 20s. In late February, as investigators prepared to charge her with faking the attack, Brooks made news again when she admitted to smoking marijuana. "I take one puff once in a great while," she told the Denver Post. It was subsequently learned that "once in a great while" includes meetings with the media: Brooks told a Denver TV reporter that she puffed up 15 minutes before an interview.

Now some residents of the stodgy community of gingerbread homes and historic landmarks say they've had enough. They've demanded a recall election of their mayor, whose Web site (www.koleenbrooks.com) features photos of her that some town residents find a little too risque. "It's been one thing after another. It's getting embarrassing," a male retiree says as he spits tobacco juice while volunteering at the town's tourist information booth.

Georgetown, population 1,100, is touted as one of the finest examples of a restored Victorian mining town in Colorado. Its pastel-colored homes and 100-year-old buildings are remnants of the era when Georgetown was known as the "Silver Queen of the Rockies" because of the vast amounts of silver ore blasted from the surrounding mountains.

With the silver gone, the town now mines dollars from the pockets of tourists, who pull off Interstate 70 to visit the Hotel de Paris, built in 1875, or the Hamill House, a Gothic Revival mansion built in 1879 by one of the town's silver barons. Others stroll through town reading the plaques on historic structures or listen to the babble of Clear Creek as it rushes through aspen glades. Residents gather for breakfast at the Happy Cooker restaurant and chat about zoning issues inside Kneisel and Anderson Grocers and Hardware, which has operated in the same building since 1893.

All was quiet in Georgetown until last April, when Brooks ran for the $50-a-month job and won--thanks to a large turnout at the polls by the happy-hour crowd from the Red Ram. She soon began pushing her pro-development platform, which included bringing a toy store, bowling alley and video arcade to town. The proposals--seemingly trivial to outsiders--outraged historic preservationists. "The faction the mayor represents wants to bring nonhistorical development here," says Pauline Wolf, a volunteer for Historic Georgetown Inc. and a 30-year resident. "That's not the history of Georgetown."

On April 2 voters will go to the polls to decide whether Brooks "has demonstrated behavior unbecoming of an elected official." Brooks isn't scheduled to appear in court on the criminal charges until April 11. "There are a lot of people supporting Koleen, but most of 'em won't say so in public," says Linda Newman, owner of the Victorian Lady restaurant. She says residents are afraid of angering the historic-preservationists, who hold great sway over whether residents' proposals for home or business additions are approved or denied. "I shouldn't be saying anything."

Brooks is confident that voters will re-elect her. "Nobody gave me a chance the first time. Well, here I am. I'm proud of everything I've done."