Action, not talk: How Vail Valley groups cooperated at a high level in 2020 to deliver relief
Vail manager: ’This is unique’
Editor’s note: Ready for 2020 to be over? Yeah, so are we — but not before highlighting some of the bright spots in a year unlike any other. Instead of doing a typical look back at the news of 2020, we’re focusing on the stories that showcased the indomitable spirit of our mountain community during a difficult time.
Susie Davis has spent a lot of time in meetings talking about ways public, private and nonprofit groups can work together. Most of those meetings are more talk than action. Not this year.
Davis has for years been involved with Vail Valley nonprofit groups and is currently the Eagle Valley Community Foundation’s Director of Community Impact.
Today, instead of meetings that were often more talk than action, there’s been plenty of action getting relief to those who need it during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Instead of talking about ‘The Community Market,’ we’re talking about people struggling to put food on the table … then doing something.”
Jeff Shroll was Gypsum’s Town Manager for more than 25 years and is currently Eagle County Manager.
Shroll said he’s seen cooperation from several perspectives, including dealing with recalcitrant county officials when he was Gypsum’s manager.
“Cooperation has been my goal,” Shroll said, adding that he was encouraging working together before the pandemic hit, bringing together town and county managers for regular meetings.
Meeting frequently, effectively
When the pandemic essentially shut down the local economy, Shroll said those managers met at least once a week. The idea, he said, was to ensure that town managers and their staffs were “in the absolute know” about county actions from public health orders to economic relief.
Scott Robson is just more than a year into his tenure as Vail Town Manager, but he has worked more than 20 years at the local and federal levels. Robson said the level of cooperation he’s seen this year is “unique” in his experience.
“This is the most collaborative local government I’ve been involved in,” Robson said.
Times of crisis can lead to cooperation, but can also drive wedges between entities, Robson said. Eagle County has grown closer. And, Robson added, the Vail Valley has seen the fruits of those efforts, particularly compared to other mountain and resort areas.
Part of the drive for cooperation is due to Shroll’s efforts, Robson said. Another part is the relative newness of town managers in Minturn, Vail, Eagle and Gypsum. Avon’s town manager, Eric Heil, long served as the town’s attorney.
Those relatively new people appreciate the “power of cooperation versus competition,” Robson said.
Vail Valley Partnership CEO Chris Romer said cooperation doesn’t always come easily.
“It needs to be intentional,” Romer said. “You need to have everyone committed to it.”
Through this year, the county’s public, private and nonprofit sectors have been working closely. While the participants may not always agree, “everyone comes to the table with good intent,” Romer said.
Romer pointed to the Vail Valley Foundation — the valley’s largest nonprofit — which raised money for groups including the Salvation Army and The Community Market.
“We have a collective group that’s committed to this,”Romer said. “When these organizations and leaders lead by example … it helps create a picture of what’s possible.”
After the pandemic
Today’s work is focused in large part on public health, economic recovery and helping those who need it. But those contacted for this story all said they believe that working together on big projects will outlast the pandemic.
Shroll said that work on transportation, housing, sustainability and other issues.
“What COVID has done is laid the groundwork and foundations,” Shroll said.
The people interviewed for this story also credited Vail Resorts’ presence in group meetings. Shroll also had high praise for the way Eagle County Schools has joined group discussions and actions.
“That team has worked really hard to keep kids in school,” Shroll said. “That may be the feel-good story of this year.”
Davis said working with as many people as possible is essential in taking action. “We’d better be playing with everyone in the sandbox,” Davis said.
The group efforts this year have “taken away a lot of barriers,” Davis said, adding that when it comes to putting food on the table, it’s important that employment or immigration status doesn’t come into the equation.
“I wouldn’t wish this pandemic on anyone,” Romer said. “But if we’re looking for silver linings, this is one of them.”
Here’s a short list of resources for those who need financial or other help:
Support Local Journalism
Start a dialogue, stay on topic and be civil.
If you don't follow the rules, your comment may be deleted.
User Legend: Moderator Trusted User