Doctor dreamed of being on council | VailDaily.com

Doctor dreamed of being on council

Matt Terrell
Vail, CO Colorado

Kristin Anderson/Vail DailyDr. Sharon Peach, running for Avon Town Council, says she's fascinated by the democratic process.

AVON, Colorado ” As an anesthesiologist at the Vail Valley Medical Center, Dr. Sharon Peach meets kids having their tonsils out, mothers giving birth and long-time ski instructors having their bum knees fixed for the fourth time.

“It gives me a nice cross-section of the community,” Peach says. “I’ve even met some of my neighbors in Wildridge.”

Peach, a five-year Avon resident, is running for Avon Town Council. She’s not hoping to turn the town in a totally new direction ” she’s simply fascinated and inspired by the democratic process, and this is how she wants to do her part.

“I think if we have a democracy, you have to participate in it, or it’s going to fail,” Peach says. “Some people participate by voting, other people by running for president, and anything in between is great.”

Peach grew up in Cape Coral, Fla. When she was in sixth grade, she won an essay contest and got to shadow a town council member for a day. She went to meetings, watched the council debate schools and roads, and she met the mayor ” which to her was like meeting the president of the United States. The whole experience, in retrospect, was life-changing.

“It was representative of how small town government can have a big impact on people,” Peach said.

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Peach attended Florida State University and graduated from medical school at Vanderbilt in Nashville, Tenn. She lived in Seattle during her medical residency ” that time in a doctor’s life of 100-hour work weeks while they fine-tune the skills needed for their specialty.

Anesthesiologists are the doctors who administer anesthesia and provide care for patients before, during and after surgeries. This specialty appealed to Peach because of its intensity ” lots of procedures and a good amount of stress packed into quick bursts.

“I wanted to take care of critically ill patients while having a fairly normal family life,” Peach said. “Lots of doctors who care for critically ill patients, they never see their families.”

Peach says about 80 percent of her work at the hospital is in orthopedics.

“The caliber of surgery here is so high, you have to be good at it. They require people here to have lots of experience,” Peach said.

Peach is happy with the direction Avon is going in, especially when it comes to its downtown renewal.

“I think Avon is going in the exact right direction ” everyone is going to benefit from the exciting things happening in the town core,” Peach said.

Her main concern is budget ” how town revenue could be effected by a down economy, and making sure Avon can prioritize its spending.

She’s also interested in ongoing talks about hospital operations moving downvalley. Peach said Avon makes most sense to house a future hospital since so many of the people who staff it live downvalley.

Peach lives in Wildridge with her husband, Michael Riley, and her two daughters, Zoe and Harper.

They like doing the outdoorsy stuff, which is for now limited by having a toddler in the house, but they also like to travel.

“We usually travel to water ” I learned to surf in the past few years,” Peach said.

1. What is Avon’s biggest challenge right now, and how should the town council deal with it?

Avon receives a large portion of its revenue from property transfer taxes and real estate-related taxes. With the real estate economy stalled, Avon will likely see a decrease in revenue stream in the next several years. With this in mind, Avon will have to carefully prioritize how to spend the revenue it has to maximum public benefit.

2. Avon’s new Main Street has been on the drawing board for years ” now it’s actually happening. How can the council ensure that redevelopment of this area goes smoothly and downtown Avon is a success?

Avon has planned well for the new Main Street corridor. The goals of this enterprise are clearly and thoughtfully delineated in the Town Center West development plan and the Avon Comprehensive Plan (available at Avon.org).

For the Main Street enterprise to be successful, the town must encourage businesses that support the goal of public gathering. The infrastructure that the town invests will promote the success of these businesses in a symbiotic relationship, benefiting full-time residents, part-time residents, and our resort guests.

I believe that revitalizing Avon’s town core will financially benefit the property owners and taxpayers of Avon.

3. How would you describe the town’s relationship with developer Traer Creek over the past couple years? How can that relationship improve – or should the town take a hard line?

The relationship between Traer Creek and the town of Avon has been contentious. In the future, it would be beneficial for both the town leadership and Traer Creek leadership to come together for mutual benefit.

The Village at Avon has the potential to increase Avon’s commercial and residential prominence in the valley. I would encourage Traer Creek to go forward with responsible development that enhances the lives of valley residents, as long as there is concomitant support for infrastructure that the new development demands.

4. Avon has taken-on several “green” initiatives in the past year, such as buying wind power and developing a snowmelt system for Main Street using excess heat from the wastewater treatment plant. Should the town continue pursuing projects like these? What’s your philosophy on how Avon should approach environmental stewardship?

Environmental stewardship is a worthy goal of our municipality. Avon is located in an environmentally sensitive area and this is a great opportunity for Avon to lead by example. Residents and visitors of the town directly benefit from conservation of energy, open space, and water.

“Green initiatives” will impact the local economy with an initial investment. However, the town will enjoy a return on investment through direct financial benefit and positioning itself at the forefront of environmentally sound long-term planning.

Traditional methods of power will only increase the town’s cost over the long term.

5. A new master plan is being developed for Nottingham Park. What improvements are top priority for you?

My top priority would be to listen to the residents and property owners of the town of Avon. A survey was recently conducted that asked Avon residents and property owners to prioritize park improvements.

Trail enhancement and addition of an amphitheater were desired by approximately two-thirds of respondents. Improved restroom facilities, lighting, cross country ski trail, and better access to lake edge were also high priorities.

Improving the playground area, while lower on the survey’s priority list, would encourage more families to stay residing in the town of Avon.

6. What can the council do to keep working-class families in Avon?

Avon has the unique opportunity of being both a family community and a resort community. The goals of both these town identities have significant overlap.

Many town improvements satisfy the goals of both retaining full-time family residents and encouraging family tourism. These include investments such as Main Street, Nottingham Park, Wildridge pocket parks, and bicycle and pedestrian paths. For many families, Avon is the only affordable up-valley community opportunity, even without deed restriction. By creating a town core that has charm and appeal, living in Avon will have even more appeal to working class families.

The Avon Comprehensive Plan includes a section on housing goals. These include maintaining and increasing the availability of attainable housing in Avon. This can be achieved through deed restriction, affordable rentals, and participation in county down-payment assistance programs. Furthermore, the comprehensive plan also includes provisions for integration of these opportunities in the residential portions of the town, rather than a planned development with only affordable housing.

7. What more can Avon do to take advantage of its place at the base of Beaver Creek and provide a great experience for tourists?

Avon enjoys great proximity to Beaver Creek, and is a portal through which most patrons of Beaver Creek pass. Easier transit between Beaver Creek Village and Avon, in addition to a pedestrian-friendly destination upon arrival in Avon, will encourage increased tourist visits to Avon’s urban renewal zone. As has already been planned and is under way, Avon must be visibly pleasing and economically vibrant to increase visits by Beaver Creek patrons.

8. Why should Avon residents vote for you?

I am a full-time Wildridge resident with honesty and integrity. I have no ulterior motives or agendas regarding town council.

I believe in the power of local government to make our lives tangibly improved, and in the responsibility for everyone to participate and contribute. I will represent the residents and property owners of Avon to the best of my ability.

Staff Writer Matt Terrell can be reached at 970-748-2955 or mterrell@vaildaily.com.