Menconi: Impatient for change in the Vail Valley |

Menconi: Impatient for change in the Vail Valley

Kathy Heicher
Eagle, CO Colorado

Politicians keep an eye on each other. Here’s what local leaders are saying about Arn Menconi’s term in office:

Sipes, the mayor pro-tem of Avon, believes that Menconi has been a sort of lightning rod for criticism during his tenure as a county commissioner.

“It’s indicative of the kind of changes that have been taking place in the valley in the past 15 years. Arn is just very aware, very visible. He’s a manifestation that change that is occurring.”

“Some people, especially the ultra hard-liners … don’t like the fact they aren’t winning any more.”

Sipes says that in past years, the upvalley towns and county were often at loggerheads over issues. He remembers one joint meeting, when the town was pressing for more accountability for county tax dollars, one commissioner walked out of the meeting, and refused to discuss the issue.

“Arn would at least listen, and he did help funnel money for projects (in Avon),” Sipes said. “Arn understood the problem, and worked to address it in a broader context.”

He says the town of Avon’s relationship with the county “improved dramatically” in the past two years.

Wolfe says the fact that Menconi has been a lighting rod for criticism runs hand-in-hand with the changes that he accomplished.

“Arn was about change. … His mantra was for balancing social capital with physical capital. That’s been a very significant transition in thinking,” Wolfe said. He said Menconi was about changing the community’s value structure, so that people’s needs such as health care, quality jobs, and affordable housing were put on a more equal level with capital needs such as roads and bridges.

“Critics would say that government is now doing things it shouldn’t be doing,” notes Wolfe.

Wolfe, who describes himself as a moderate Republican, said he and Menconi, a liberal Democrat, are sometimes at different points on the political spectrum. While often agreeing on the issues, and the desired end result, they differed on just what government’s role should be.

“It was a question of how aggressive, and how costly,” says Wolfe.

Still, he says Menconi has changed the county landscape during his tenure.

“Arn should be very proud of his eight years. … We are definitely talking and acting differently than we used to.”

Woodland beat Menconi by a landslide in an election last spring. Looking back, Woodland said he isn’t sure of the reasons behind the vote result; but he suspects voters weren’t comfortable with an incumbent county commissioner seeking a town office.

“From my limited interactions with Arn, I certainly respected him. Anyone willing to put themselves in elected office for eight years deserves respect for what they are trying to do in people’s best interests.”

Woodland says one of Menconi’s weaknesses was his tendency to want to implement big changes, fast, likely because for the first six of his eight years in office, Menconi was the minority vote on the county commission.

“A lot of people think leadership is taking a real forward leap. In my opinion, in government good leadership is still incrementally done,” Woodland said.

The mayor says that while he has some philosophical differences with Menconi, they have never had a confrontation.

Still, he predicts the Eagle Town Board will be more comfortable with Menconi’s successor, former Eagle mayor Jon Stavney.

“There is no question that Eagle is going to be well served by having Jon as a commissioner,” he said.

Edwards said Menconi brought a lot of county issues to the forefront that likely would not have been discussed otherwise. He cites child care and health issues in particular.

Menconi’s strength, according to Edwards, was pushing the envelope with his ideas, while his weakness was expecting immediate action.

“The issues are worth discussing. Where we disagree is I don’t think government has to solve those issues the day after tomorrow,” said Edwards.

Edwards says that Menconi tended to want to implement ideas immediately.

“He was not willing to wait for it to mature, and ripen,” he said, citing in particular the child care funding issue. Menconi was the driving force behind a child care tax question, which the voters rejected. The county later funded the program out of their budget.

“He could have gotten the money without any controversy,” said Edwards.

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