Mark Gordon, 40, says he wants to "put the town back in Vail’
Editor’s note: This is the first of eight feature stories profiling the individual candidates for Vail Town Council in the upcoming election Nov. 4.
They say an “optimist” is one who believes the universe is improving and good ultimately will triumph over evil. If there’s a candidate among the gang of eight running for office in Vail who’s a died-in-the-wool optimist, it’s Mark Gordon.
“Nothing worthwhile is easy, but that doesn’t mean it’s impossible,” says Gordon, 40, a Vailite for three years, having moved from Louisville, Ky., with his wife, Tracy. “I’m very optimistic, though I’m always waiting for the other shoe to drop. I’m very willing and dedicated to help make things work out.”
“Significant positive feedback’
Gordon has proved eager, too, throwing his hat in the ring early as a candidate for Vail Town Council, on which four of seven seats are up for grabs. While three of the four other challengers in the race waited until the last day to file as candidates, Gordon made his intentions clear in early September, along with fellow-challenger Kent Logan and incumbents Bill Jewitt and Greg Moffet. Citing “enthusiasm” and “significant positive feedback” as fuel for an aggressive campaign, Gordon said he had half the signatures he needed to file his petition the first day – and that came weeks after he’d already submitted his vision for Vail as a letter to the editors of local newspapers.
A “lifelong activist,” Gordon says he’s “always believed in trying to help people.” His grandfather was a laborer in the garment industry in New York; his grandmother, “another optimist,” he says, worked in the welfare office.
“When things get negative here, I always try to look at the town through her eyes,” he says.
Currently the lead foreman at Vail Mountain’s communications center in Lionshead, Gordon has a master’s degree in comparative literature from Indiana University in Bloomington, where he first earned a bachelor’s, also in comparative literature. Both degrees had concentrations in filmmaking.
Since college, he’s been a publisher, he’s owned his own record label – Boss Snake Music – he’s produced corporate training videos, and he founded and managed a cable television channel. A player of the electric and bass guitar, he’s also written a few short stories, published online.
A former marketing consultant to the trade-show industry, too, Gordon says his “well-rounded” background makes him the perfect candidate to help the town in building a voter-mandated conference center.
“I’m familiar with all aspects of the conference industry, from show manager to exhibits manager to laborer,” he says. “I’ll work hard on the conference center and make it the best it can be.”
Some people say Gordon’s job at Vail’s communications center – which entails hiring and training crew, monitoring surveillance equipment and alarms and updating the company’s Web site with snow and grooming reports – would be a conflict of interest, as his paycheck comes directly from Vail Resorts. He says he doesn’t see one.
“I want to set policy for the town; I don’t set policy for Vail Resorts,” says Gordon, adding he has no hidden agenda and would step away from becoming involved with any issue that even had the appearance of a conflict, a method employed by other council members in the past. “I have the honesty and integrity that if there is a possible conflict I would recuse myself from voting.”
The Gordons came to town by “random luck,” he says. They first visited to “check out the Back Bowls” on a ski trip to Breckenridge about five years ago and, upon their return to Louisville, decided “to make a change” and move to “a mountain town.” A letter-writing and resume campaign ensued, and ultimately they found employment in the Vail Valley. An artist, Tracy Gordon serves as a member of Vail’s Art in Public Places committee when she’s not painting or working at The Home Depot.
The pair are in the process of adopting a child from Russia, adding to a family that also includes a black dog aptly named Kafka, whose “sense of the absurd is great,” Mark Gordon says.
“We chose Vail as a home,” he says, “and now we want to raise our family here.”
In fact, Gordon’s slogan – “Let’s put the town back in Vail” – is based on the idea of recruiting 1,500 people like him and the rest of his family to return to town as full-time residents.
With little more than a week before the election, Nov. 4, Gordon says he’s more than ready, if elected, to get down to business.
“I’m a relative newcomer to Vail, so I’m not clouded by the past. To me, the glory days are ahead of us and not behind,” says Gordon. “I’m not afraid of presenting innovative ideas. At the same time, I’m not married to those ideas. You throw things out on the table and work on them.”
One innovative idea he’s presented so far is the town issuing vouchers in the parking structures. Worth money at local businesses and restaurants, the vouchers would encourage people to stay in town longer – and presumably spend more money, providing a much-needed boost in sales-tax revenues.
“If people just ski and leave, we don’t gain anything,” Gordon says, adding the merchants he’s talked with like the idea. “We need to turn them into consumers, whether they are downvalley guests or Front Rangers.”
Another idea is what Gordon calls a “business incubator” – a task force or business advocacy group of sorts that could “recognize what needs to be filled in town and then make it happen.” The group – made up of volunteers from the business community, government agencies, chambers of commerce and Colorado Mountain College – could provide advice, expertise and training to Vail businesses, be they existing or new to town. That would go a long way toward filling Vail’s more than two dozen empty store fronts, he says.
“Whatever it takes,” Gordon says. “Everything’s negotiable.”