Longtime Minturn Pete Burnett died Sunday | VailDaily.com

Longtime Minturn Pete Burnett died Sunday

Matt Terrell
Vail, CO clorado
Preston Utley/Daily file photoLongtime Minturn resident Pete Burnett set a high standard for his employees when he was Vail's street superintendent.

MINTURN, Colorado ” Lifelong Minturn resident Pete Burnett died Sunday at the age of 79.

Born and raised in Minturn, Burnett watched the county grow from its mining and railroad roots to the ski industry it is today, and he was always proud of his heritage, said Ella Burnett, his wife of 59 years.

“He and I were both so happy that we grew up here in the time we did,” Burnett said.

Burnett was known to many people as the tough and effective leader behind the town of Vail’s roads. For more than 25 years, he was the street superintendent, which means he was in charge of keeping the streets plowed, clean and safe for drivers. He retired in 1993.

Vail is safer place because of Burnett, said Charlie Turnbull, who started working for Burnett in 1977 and is now street superintendent himself. Turnbull said he learned a lot from Burnett and considered him to be a second father.

Burnett was known for setting high standards and demanding excellence from workers. “He was one of those old timers ” you either did it his way or the highway,” Turnbull said. “He ran a tight organization.”

Leonard Sandoval, now the construction manager for Vail, was hired by Burnett in 1982 as a snow shoveler. Sandoval knew that if there was ever more than an inch of new snow, he’d be getting the call at three or four in the morning to head out and get to work.

“He was in charge of calling all the employees, and the only words he said were, ‘Let’s go,” and that was it. He’d hang up. He had a lot of people to call,” Sandoval said.

“Let’s go” became the mantra Burnett was known for, Sandoval said.

Greg Hall, public works director for the town, said Burnett “boomed with his voice but had a super-kind heart.”

“He cared about all his employees and looked out for what was best for the town,” Hall said.

Burnett loved being outside. He had a passion for fishing, hunting and all animals, Ella Burnett said.

“He loved his old horse, and he loved riding,” Burnett said.

Sandoval remembers how much fun he had heading out with Burnett on overnight horseback trips. Burnett loved the past and told the best stories about life in the old days, Sandoval said.

Burnett might have been tough, but he was also the kind of guy who’d drop what he was doing to help someone, Turnbull said.

“He had a rough exterior, but was kind of a pussycat underneath,” Burnett said.

More information will be available in obituary to be printed later this week.

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

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