Vail honors former manager Terry Minger

Recipient of the annual Vail Trailblazer award helped craft the town’s form, drafted town code, created the Vail Symposium

Former Vail Town Manager Terry Minger, sporting a beard, spent time with former President Gerald Ford, center, and other luminaries in building up the Vail Symposium.
Town of Vail/Courtesy photo

Terry Minger has long had a sign in his office: “Nothing endures but change.” Minger, Vail’s second town manager, helped guide the town through 10 of its formative years, from 1969-79.

Minger is this year’s recipient of the annual Vail Trailblazer award, which every year honors a major contributor to the town’s success. Minger will be honored March 8, in person this year, at the annual Vail Community Meeting at Donovan Pavilion.

Minger, like many of those in town at the time, grew up with the town.

“We were building a community,” Minger said. And, while some in the new resort thought Vail should remain a resort — including some of the original investors — others believed the base area should be its own entity.

It was a lot of work, and everyone worked hard, Minger said. Vail was so small that everyone knew everyone. And, Minger said, there were no bosses or workers when everyone gathered at Donovan’s Copper Bar for drinks at the end of the day.

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“We were all average, middle class and blue collar people,” Minger said, adding that perhaps two-thirds of the crew at the town had come from Minturn, where many worked for the railroad or at the Eagle Mine at Gilman.

A ‘fair amount of fun’

Along with the work, much of it at the sweaty end of a shovel, axe or chainsaw, there was also a “fair amount of fun in the air,” Minger said. “There was a joyfulness, of being in the mountains, of being in this new venture.”

Part of Minger’s role, he said, was to help Vail make the transition from company town to independent town.

Former Vail Town Manager Terry Minger, second from left, with actor Robert Redford, center, and others.
Town of Vail/Courtesy photo

But Vail’s tight-knit nature created a hazard of its own — becoming too insular. That’s why Minger played a large role in creating the Vail Symposium, a way to bring new ideas to the community and, by extension, expose the new community to the outside world.

Jim Lamont, who worked for Minger as his assistant and, later, the town’s first community development director, noted that Symposium speakers included Robert Redford and John Lindsay, who served as New York’s Mayor from 1966-1973. Lamont added that President Gerald Ford’s familiarity with Vail gave the Symposium access to federal department heads.

With the ideas from both inside and outside Vail, the town created the framework for many of its current governing systems.

The town used new ideas for planning and zoning. There were bond sales to purchase the open space that became Ford Park. The town implemented its real estate transfer tax to buy more open space.

All this was accomplished once Vail became a “home rule” community, which gave the town broader authority than it had when operating under the strictures of state law.

That move required new state legislation.

Minger recalled that Colorado’s bigger cities — including Boulder, where Minger served as assistant town manager before coming to Vail — had long had the authority to assume home rule powers. That power didn’t extend to smaller communities. Vail was the state’s first town to adopt home rule authority.

Protecting the environment

That helped the town create new environmental regulations, imposed to “make sure the man-built environment didn’t destroy the natural environment,” Lamont said.

Terry Minger

And, he noted, these efforts were made in the open, with the support of much of the community.

Rod Slifer came to Vail in 1962. He’s one of those who grew up with the town. Slifer said Minger and the Town Council of the time “did a great job working with the public.”

Slifer said Minger had “a lot of foresight … a vision of things we needed to do and should do.”

Minger went on to work helping create the Whistler-Blackcomb resort, and served as president and CEO of Sundance Enterprises, a resort, film and fine arts community founded by Redford.

He’s still working as the co-founder of and adviser to the Vail Alliance for Purposeful Living.

His experience in Vail went with him to all his next roles.

“Vail shaped me as a person, and I shaped it somewhat,” Minger said, adding that he retains a “great affection” for the place and many of its people.

In the decades since his work in Vail, Minger said he thinks the town has done a “pretty good job,” for the most part. And he’s excited about the town’s future.

Minger said he’ll be interested to see what the current Town Council does, since it has four members who grew up in town.

“It’s neat to see people stay, or come back to where their parents were,” Minger said.

It’s also going to be interesting to see how the town’s relationship with Vail Resorts moves forward.

“We’ll have to see,” he said. The ski area business is under a “tremendous amount of pressure,” Minger said, citing skier numbers, climate change and consolidation of ownership.

The question then becomes “how do you keep your sense of identity” he added.

And that’s something Vail has long sought, dating back to its earliest days.

Minger said part of his role, along with residents and leaders of the new town, was “to do things in our way, in our place and in our time.”

Vail’s Trailblazers

The Vail Trailblazer award was created in 2016 as part of the town’s 50th anniversary.

Previous winners are:

Dr. Tom Steinberg, 2016

Vi and Byron Brown, 2017

Sheika and Pepi Gramshammer, 2018

Glenn Porzak, 2019

Joseph Staufer, 2020

Sally and Bill Hanlon, 2021

For more information on the award, go to the town’s website.

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