Menconi hopes to continue his course
AVON – Providence has a way of chasing Arn Menconi to some of the most important events of his life. Just by chance, Menconi met his wife, Anne, while both were checking out a Unity Church service for the first time during Holy Week in April 2000. Then there was his first conference trip to Washington, D.C. after he was elected to the Eagle County Board of County Commissioners in 2000. He and Anne had eloped and Menconi planned to use the business trip to meet his father-in-law for the first time. A trip to a local restaurant with a group of acquaintances ended up in an unlikely encounter – in a city of hundreds of thousands of restaurants, Menconi managed to run into his father-in-law there. With this kind of luck, Menconi is expecting the kind of moment one would only find in a book by John Irving – ironically, his favorite author. Anne is pregnant with the couple’s first child. Her due date is the first week of November making it conceivable their baby will be born on Nov. 2 – the day Menconi hopes to be re-elected for a second term on the Board of County Commissioners. “I’m sure it’s going to happen,” Menconi said of expectant daughter’s arrival. “Since Anne and I met in such a serendipitous way.”Purpose and pleasant surprise – these two qualities have all played a part in Menconi’s first term as county commissioner, he said. Beating the stereotypeMenconi has a pretty good idea of the impression many had when he was elected in 2000. Menconi’s main role in the community up to that point was as the founder and director of the Snowboard Outreach Society, a nonprofit organization that aims to help at-risk youth improve their grades and lives by introducing them to the sport of snowboarding. The cause is noble. The sport is cool. So cool that having a long-haired snowboarder guy make a run for official office seemed a little far-fetched for some. “I think they just dismissed me as that snowboarder guy,” he said.
He still managed to get elected.”People are elected because they seem to be the most dedicated,” he said. “I have an immense amount of passion for what I do.”Over the past four years, Menconi said he has won over some of those detractors. He’s been commended for being fair, open-minded and a good listener. They also are surprised to find that while he is Democrat, he is fiscally conservative, he said. And they admire the causes that he stands for.”I had one guy say to me, ‘I doubt we would agree on national politics, but your commitment to kids overrides everything else’,” Menconi said. His hair is no longer long. He’s married now and will soon be a family man. But he still snowboards and hangs out with kids and there still are people who dismiss him because of they way he looks and his political affiliation.He recalled a conversation he had with the head of the region’s NAACP chapter. “He said, ‘it’s because you represent change and these people don’t want change,'” Menconi said. Some things don’t change”I am a Democrat because of the civil rights movement,” Menconi said. The 45-year-old grew up on Chicago’s south side. During his childhood, the Vietnam War ended, leaders like Malcolm X and Robert Kennedy were assassinated. Race struggles existed in his own backyard, as his neighborhood went from predominately white to predominately black. His zest for public service came early. At age 16, he helped campaign for Gerald Ford’s unsuccessful presidential campaign in 1976. After high school, he attended DePaul University, majoring in economics and political science.
Eventually, he returned to school to get a master’s degree in business administration from the University of Denver.Still, Menconi calls himself a frustrated English major. His desire to be a writer prompted him to focus all of his energy one year on getting an A on his English term paper – at the price of his grades in other classes. “I got kicked off the golf team,” Menconi said. He ended up getting a B+.The philosopherUnlike his opponents in the race, and the candidates for the other contested seat on the board, Menconi is an incumbent. Which means Eagle County voters know what they are getting if they re-elect him in November. Some leaders are direct, decisive and to-the-point. They follow their gut and seem to need little evidence and little discussion before make a decision. Menconi is not that kind of leader, he said.A self-described “researcher”, Menconi approaches most decisions similarly – whether it’s deciding to allow a house to move 10 feet to the right or to use county open-space funds to preserve a struggling ranch. Most things in the county are interconnected, in Menconi’s view. A neighborhood affects the landscape, which affects the wildlife, which in turn affects Eagle County’s quality of life.To some, his questions during county commissioner meetings seem to focus on nuance, rather than the big picture. In his view, his questions are all about the big picture, he said. “If I decide to appropriate money to the New York Philharmonic, how is that going to affect county employee’s insurance premiums?” Menconi uses as an example.
Studying an issue makes sense to him. When an important issue is expected to come on the board’s agenda, such as the recent purchase of Bair Ranch, Menconi will usually make some phone calls to others in the community, he said. It’s not to allow a particular group sway his vote. He wants to know all sides of the story before making a decision, he said.”I think my style of leadership is inclusive,” he said. Name: Arn MenconiAge: 45Hometown: AvonFamily: His wife, Anne. The couple are expecting their first child in NovemberOccupation: Founder/director of Snowboard Outreach Society, a local nonprofit organizationFavorite book: “A Prayer for Owen Meany” – “I would laugh out loud at things I didn’t ever think I could laugh about.”Staff Writer Tamara Miller can be reached at 949-0555, ext. 607, or email@example.com.