The Eagle Town Board is losing a good Joe, pun intended.
Life circumstances and family priorities have forced town board member Joe Knabel to submit his resignation. People who live in this community can readily understand that family always comes first, but at the same time we can bemoan the loss of a dedicated town representative.
Joe served just two years on the town board, but he managed to make a permanent mark on the community. He could be counted on to arrive at town hall informed about discussion items with a list of detailed questions on hand. In addition to his service to the Eagle Town Board, Knabel has become one of the stalwart members of the Eagle Chamber of Commerce, another organization that will deeply miss his leadership.
The best illustration of what Joe brought to the community was reported in this newspaper a couple of weeks ago. It’s rankled the town board members for years that as a statutory town, Eagle was prohibited from providing even a nominal stipend to community members who serve on the Eagle Planning and Zoning Commission. When they brought up the issue, former town board members were told state statute prohibited such action. That would seem to be that. But that is not the way Joe rolls.
“Why can’t we do something to say thank you to the commission members,” he said. “Don’t we all deserve that?”
He took it upon himself to spearhead an effort to change state law to allow compensation for planning commission members. Here’s the thing about Joe — he is a process guy. He will study the rules and figure out how to get something done. Ultimately, the Colorado Municipal League agreed to partner with Eagle on the effort and Rep. Diane Mitsch Bush and Sen. Gail Schwartz, Eagle County’s representatives at the Colorado Legislature, agreed to carry a bill.
Last month the bill passed and Knabel was able to travel to Denver for Gov. John Hickenlooper’s official signing. As a result of Joe’s efforts, future planning commission members will always feel a bit more valued as they perform their duties.
As we thank Joe for his service, it is inevitable that talk will turn toward appointing his successor. The town board has a lot of leeway in how it chooses who will fill out the remaining two years of his term. It can simply appoint someone, advertise for candidates for the appointment or schedule a special election. As they think about those options, members of the town board should remember a simple fact — it is a whole lot easier to apply for an opening than to stand for election.
Whenever there is an appointment available, the vacancy seems to create a flood of candidates who jockey for position saying how deeply they care about the town or county or district involved. But Eagle is in a unique position this time around. Just a few weeks ago, a group of people stepped up and demonstrated how much they cared about the community by running for election to the town board. That’s called walking the walk, not just talking the talk.
As they consider appointing a new member, the town board would be well served to look at the pool of candidates from the April 1 election. Back in 2004, that’s exactly what the board did when it appointed Mikel “Pappy” Kerst to the seat vacated by Jon Stavney, who took over as mayor. Kerst proceeded to serve for 10 years, winning re-election twice. Knabel himself has lobbied the board to appoint Paul Witt, the candidate who came in fourth in that April 1 election. Offering that advice may be one of Knabel’s last actions on behalf of Eagle.
Thanks Joe for your efforts and best wishes as you start your new adventure. Eagle appreciates your service.