Dr. Steinberg almost quits Vail | VailDaily.com

Dr. Steinberg almost quits Vail

Dick Hauserman
Daily file photoDr. Tom Steinberg, Vail's first doctor, went on to become a member of the Vail Town Council in 1967 and has remained active in local politics ever since. Retired now, he still lives in Vail.

At that time the school was in the fire station, and they were outgrowing it. So, the school moved into the second floor of the hospital building, taking over about 4,000 square feet. They stayed there until the space was turned into doctors’ offices. Vail ended up having a hospital, a clinic, a public-health nurse, a pharmacy, dental offices, and a school – all in one place.

“John Murchison did so much, and I don’t think he got his due,” Steinberg said.

The addition would not have been possible if John and Fitz Scott had not personally signed the loan from the First Bank of Denver.

Things moved fast after that, but it wasn’t always pleasant. About three years after Steinberg started, he was contacted by the Colorado Medical Licensing Board, calling him to Denver. He was given no reason. He was licensed, but he was practicing illegally – he was practicing as an employee of a corporation, which was not allowed in the state of Colorado. He pleaded innocent. The bylaws had been set up by John Murchison’s attorney in Texas and were not legal in Colorado. Steinberg therefore had to resign from Vail Medical Incorporated and set up his own corporation. He then signed a contract with Vail Clinic Inc. for the use of their equipment.

Many on the board of the Vail Clinic felt that the money Steinberg had coming from his 50 percent share of the overage should not be his. This was a serious blow to him. He threatened to move and even had an argument that lasted for more than three hours at one board meeting. They felt that Steinberg was holding out on them. John Murchison finally agreed with Steinberg, and it was voted that he was entitled to his 50 percent.

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Through the years, Steinberg became very successful as the head of a group of doctors that ran the hospital. His broad background as a general practitioner and his new talents as an orthopedic surgeon helped the Vail hospital grow and become an asset to the community. As the hospital grew, it wasn’t long until space on the second floor was needed, and the Vail Mountain School had to be relocated again.

While all this was going on, Steinberg became active in local politics. He was a member of the town council in 1967 and 1968, and his contributions were considerable.

“We were trying to make Vail grow,” he said, “not just in size, but also in quality.”

He worked hard to pass a real-estate transfer tax, but the people turned it down.

“The place was booming so much, I was afraid we were going to kill everything with wall-to-wall houses,” Steinberg said. “A year later, we passed the tax in council. Nobody challenged it. At the same time, we down-zoned a section of the valley that was part of the town.”

The revenues from the tax were to buy open space. The leading light on that was Joe Staufer.

“They wanted to put wall-to-wall condominiums on what is now Ford Park,” Steinberg said. “Staufer stopped that and bought the land with town money. It was a constant fight to save valuable open space that had been designated in the original master plan in 1961.”

Staufer also fought to save what is now the parking space in Vail from being developed into condominiums.

Steinberg’s wife, Flo, was one of the strong women in early Vail who promoted recreational areas for children. She advanced the development of soccer fields and helped with many civic functions.

When asked how he saw Vail in the future, Steinberg replied, “Look around you – all the locals are gone. That’s not good for a community. Everyone is a second homeowner here. Go to certain places in Florida and see how sterile it is. Some places are empty all the time. There are no locals to argue or get drunk with, and to do the things a community does.

“I grew up dirt poor, and I was dirt poor when I came to Vail. The only reason I’m not dirt poor now is because I was fortunate enough to buy a lot in the old days. You didn’t make any money as a doctor back then. I couldn’t have saved enough to retire on. I was here early enough. Many guys today can’t afford to buy anything. They are driven downvalley in order to buy just a condo. That’s not good for a community. Even high-paid professionals can’t afford to live here. I’m not sure what we should do. We tried to build some housing, but it’s tough!”

Yes, Tom Steinberg, too, has left his mark.

Editor’s Note: In a continued effort to help the community understand its roots, the Vail Daily for a second time is serializing Dick Hauserman’s “The Inventors of Vail.” This is the 47th installment, an excerpt from chapter 6, “It’s Now a Ski Resort.” The book is available at Verbatim Booksellers, The Bookworm of Edwards, Pepi’s Sports, Gorsuch Ltd. and The Rucksack, as well as other retailers throughout the valley. Hauserman can be contacted by phone at 926-2895 or by mail at P.O. Box 1410, Edwards CO, 81632.

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