Kim Ruotolo, a working mom and an expert on etiquette, says "it’s important to have manners’
Editor’s note: This is the seventh of eight feature stories profiling the individual candidates for Vail Town Council in the upcoming election on Tuesday.
Perhaps the shining moment of Kim Ruotolo’s campaign for a seat on the Vail Town Council came a week after she threw her hat in the ring.
It was late on Oct. 13, a Monday night, near the end of a long question-and-answer session with the seven other candidates – all men – and being late in the alphabetical order, she was the next to last to deliver a closing statement.
For the most part, it seemed all candidates agreed on many of the issues, she said in her signature Georgia accent, and the two most distinguishing things that separate her from the others are “beauty and grace.”
Laughs all around. …
“Important to have manners’
Indeed, Ruotolo, a working mother of two, a wife, and a loyal public servant for three years now, can say that kind of thing and get away with it. Her manners are impeccable, her self-respect admirable, and besides working as reservations manager at the Tivoli Lodge in Vail Village, she runs her own consulting business: Etiquette Consultants of Colorado. She teaches etiquette, in fact, as an after-school program at Vail Mountain School, and is planning a class for Colorado Mountain College. She says she’d like to see etiquette as part of the curriculum in local public schools someday.
“In the South, people show more respect for each other,” she says. “It’s different here in the West, with its fun, renegade atmosphere. But it’s important to have manners.”
Ruotolo says proper etiquette could “go a long way” in helping the Town Council deal with a variety of things, “mainly because they’re ambassadors for the town.” Giving proper handshakes, making eye contact, speaking in public, talking on the telephone and dining with dignity all make impressions on people, she says, and civic leaders have a special responsibility to act well in high circles. An extreme example of how important proper etiquette can be, she says, comes with Vail’s bid, along with Beaver Creek, for the 2009 World Alpine Ski Championships. Securing the event certainly will require high-level diplomacy, as well as world-class schmoozing techniques.
“A wise woman once said: “Better to have it and not need it than need it and not have it,'” Ruotolo says. “Basically, you need basic people skills in order to be successful.”
A park in the back yard
A graduate of the University of Georgia with a bachelor’s degree in journalism and television production, Ruotolo says she came to Vail 12 years ago with a friend to visit her boyfriend at the time, Tim Ruotolo, who’d “moved here for a ski season.” He decided to stay for the summer, and the rest is history.
“I thought that’s a great idea,” she says. “My friend left, I stayed.”
Now married, the Ruotolos share a two-level home in West Vail, next to Ellefson Park, with their two kids, Lydia, 4, and Owen, 2, “two future Red Sandstone Elementary students.” Tim Ruotolo is a resort management consultant specializing in real estate, hospitality and recreation.
“It’s not often you find a small town that has what Vail has. It’s a small town with great amenities,” she says, referring to the park, named after Lyndon Ellefson, a longtime Vail resident, with its manicured lawn, playground and views of the Vail Valley and the Gore Range.
“This park is like our back yard,” she says.
“A caring community’
Ruotolo, in fact, says she has a lot to thank Vail for, having won a housing lottery here that qualified her and her husband to buy a deed-restricted home at Vail Commons, above City Market. From there, when the kids arrived, they sought a larger place, moving up the hill to the North Trail Townhomes, another town-sponsored housing project. She says her candidacy for Town Council is, in part, “a way to give something back.”
“We’ve really benefitted from the town’s housing program,” she says. “When you go to the South, you get this feeling of friendliness. Vail is like that in many ways, too. It’s obviously a caring community.”
“Into the fire’
Ruotolo began giving back to the town in 2001, serving as an original member of the Vail Housing Authority, a group appointed by the council to address housing issues and form a strategic plan.
“We were really thrown into the fire,” she says. “But I’ve learned a lot about negotiating, making decisions, financing mechanisms.”
If elected to the council, she says, she would like to remain a member of the authority, probably by replacing Chuck Ogilby as the council’s representative.
“You’d be amazed at how many contracts are involved with public/private partnerships,” she says, looking back on the process that culminated with the approval and construction of the Middle Creek affordable housing project, north of Vail’s main roundabout. “And the public process this town requires – getting through the Design Review Board and the Planning and Environmental Commission –is grueling. It took a long time, but they made it a better development. And I learned first-hand how those boards work.”
Here’s to more “vibrancy’
Ruotolo’s rallying cry, however, lies in her constant use of the word “vibrancy,” something she believes Vail is losing.
“I feel like Vail is dying. I personally know 12 families who’ve recently moved downvalley. For some reason, there’s nothing keeping people here,” she says. “We do a great job with parks and events, but something’s making people move. I hear people say they like going to Avon or Edwards because that’s where the people are. And it bothers me when I have to drive to Avon so my kids can swim in a pool.
“We’ve got the parks, the amenities, the mountain,” she adds. “But we’re losing our charm.”
Certainly, it’s hard to disagree with the notion if there’s anyone poised to help Vail recover its charm, it’s Ruotolo. After all, she is a genuine Georgia Peach.
“Absolutely,” she says.