County commissioner candidate: Dunahay brings business savvy, success
Meet your county commissioner candidates
Distrct 1: Republican challenger Michael Dunahay faces Democrat incumbent Jill Ryan
District 2: Democrat incumbent Kathy Chandler-Henry faces Republican challenger Rick Beveridge
Nov. 8 is election day.
It’s a mail ballot election, and ballots are mailed Oct. 17 from the Eagle County Clerk & Recorder’s Office
EAGLE — Michael Dunahay’s Vail Valley roots run so deep he helped look for Lost Boy, the lost lad for whom the ski run is named.
It was 1964 when the call went out for searchers to help find 14-year-old Martin Koether. Dunahay’s dad scooped Michael and his two brothers to join the search. Koether spent the night in Game Creek Bowl, in a snow cave he dug. When Koether walked out of the forest the next morning, Dunahay was as happy as anyone except Koether’s mom.
“The Vail Valley has been so good to me. Some of the best memories of my life are here,” he said. “Hopefully, I can help make it a better place for everyone.”
In fact, during Thursday’s forum Dunahay pledged to donate 10 percent of his county commissioner salary to the Vail Valley Foundation.
One end of the county to the other
Vail taught Michael to ski in 1964. He grew up in Littleton and worked a Denver Post newspaper route, earning a free lift ticket along with some spending money. He borrowed his mom’s station wagon, drove over two mountain passes and parked it next to the Covered Bridge, back when you could do that sort of thing.
“I’ve lived here, owned property here, worked here and skied here ever since,” Dunahay said.
Dunahay started here like many of us, working and sleeping on a friend’s couch.
He said he has lived in Vail, Avon, West Vail, Sandstone and Beaver Creek and Basalt.
“I know Eagle County from one end to the other,” he said.
Environmentalist and entrepreneur
Dunahay graduated Arapahoe High School, Arapahoe Community College and earned a business degree from University of Colorado and the University of Denver. He says he used that education to build his companies.
He calls himself an entrepreneur, and is such an environmentalist that he rolls out of bed each morning at 5 a.m. and heads outside to work a trail from the guard shack at the Beaver Creek entrance up to Beaver Lake. He pulls thistles and sticks them in a bag. The first year he collected 25 bags, 18 pounds per bag. Last year was 17 bags. This year by his birthday — Sept. 30 — he filled his seventh bag. That’s because these days, there are fewer weeds and more flowers.
He volunteers with the Sierra Club in the Roaring Fork Valley to pull up abandoned barbed wire and other projects.
Dunahay spent most of his career in real estate development, eventually acquiring a portfolio of residential housing. Most of it he leased, and in all that time he only had to evict one tenant, he said.
Affordable housing expertise
Voters will decide the fate of a sales tax to fund workforce housing, projected to generate $5.4 million a year.
Dunahay said if voters approve a sales tax to fund workforce housing, he would form a public/private partnership that would include investors, bankers, developers and public officials to hammer out solutions — including buying land. He’s not a fan of the current board’s lack of a clear vision.
“They just want to raise the money, but they don’t know what they want to use it for,” Dunahay said. “We’ve had committees, coalitions, studies and meetings. We’ve spent all this money on studies, but no money on affordable housing.”
He says the last thing voters want to buy with their $5.4 million is more government.
He has identified child care and workforce housing for child care and workforce housing in the Eagle River and Roaring Fork river valleys. The three Eagle River Valley locations would solve the county’s current and future workforce housing problems, he said, and the county already owns them.
“I’ve always wanted to make things happen. I’m really looking forward to making things happen for Eagle County,” Dunahay said.
He says proudly he has never had a government job.
“I have practical business experience. My opponent has government experience,” Dunahay said.
Owning the Spaceship House
Charles Deaton built the Spaceship House house in 1962, the one in Evergreen you pass near I-70 when you head to Denver. Dunahay bought it in 2006.
As a teenager when Dunahay drove to and from Vail, he saw that Spaceship House, vowing that someday he’d own it.
Fast forward to June 1, 2006, and Dunahay met the real estate broker who was selling it. He got together with the owner in the Ship’s Tavern in Denver’s Brown Palace Hotel, and they did the deal.
“The power of that house is like nothing I’ve ever seen. I don’t care who you are or your status in life, everyone wants to go there,” Dunahay said.
He decided to use that power for good, hosting countless charity events raising millions of dollars for all kinds of Colorado causes.
People still stop him, smile and tell him they went to a party at his house.
When he left the Spaceship House, he moved to Vail full-time.
Staff Writer Randy Wyrick can be reached at 970-748-2935 and firstname.lastname@example.org.