Paul Rondeau offers his boundless energy for making local politics "interesting’
If there’s anything to come away from a conversation with Paul Rondeau, it’s the wish you could share his energy.
At, 69, Rondeau seems to have boundless energy, optimism and enthusiasm, as well as a wealth of ideas; and as a first-time candidate for the Town Council, he’s offering the entire package to the mountain town of which he’s been a part for more than 40 years, the last decade and a half as a full-time resident.
Living “our dream’
“Over the years, the dream has become reality – with our No. 1 ski mountain, vibrant resort and residential community, coupled with complete municipal government,” he wrote in a letter to the editor earlier this month upon declaring himself a candidate. “Now, as full-time residents for the past 15 years, Nancy and I live our dream every day.”
Indeed, with his wife of 46 years, Rondeau has been a part of Vail since before the resort first opened for skiing in 1962. They bought a small plot of land in East Vail the following year.
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“We’ve had roots in Vail from the beginning,” he says, recalling how a friend, Jay Utter, who was a ski instructor at Arapahoe Basin, mentioned “a guy named Pete Seibert” and a place called “Vail.”
“I remember having dinner at the Red Lion in September 1962, before Vail opened,” Rondeau adds.
“Fascinated’ with the process
A fixture at Town Council meetings over the years, Rondeau typically can be seen standing in – even pacing – the back aisle or the sidelines, more out of a need to burn nervous energy, perhaps, than to alleviate chronic pain in his back. He says, meanwhile, he’s “fascinated” with the political process.
“My mother was a staunch Republican and involved in politics until she died,” he says. “Some of that rubs off; some is in the genes.”
Rondeau recalls when his mother passed away, at 100 years old, in Wisconsin, on Nov. 1, 2000, just days before the general election in which George W. Bush ultimately won the U.S. presidency after a long battle over counting ballots. She had voted absentee, he says, and when somebody involved in the count found out she was deceased, they threw her ballot out.
“Needless to say, Bush did not carry Wisconsin,” Rondeau says.
Exactly why he’s waited so many years to run for public office in Vail may not be perfectly clear, perhaps – “I literally picked up my petition at the last moment. I said, “now or never.’ Even Nancy didn’t know about it, at first,” he says. But Rondeau’s vision for Vail’s economic future, with a slew of massive construction projects on tap, is clear, indeed.
A simple equation
For Rondeau, a retired computer systems engineer with more than 30 years at IBM and a bachelor’s degree from the Case Institute of Technology in Cleveland, Vail’s economic values should be as easy as a simple equation, which he presented in the form of a foldable, cardboard sign at the first candidates’ forum on Oct. 13:
“Total $ in minus $ for everyday expenses = $ for projects.”
“There’s a lot of talk about the decline in sales-tax revenues, but most people don’t really know what that means. The equation might relate to people better,” he says before offering a brief explanation. “The election process has fleshed out the fact we’ve been using the project piggy bank for everyday expenses, which have been consuming more than their fair share of the capital project budget.”
A slogan for Rondeau very well could be: “Facilitate, fund or get out of the way.” While every issue is different, he explains, the town needs to figure out its role with regards to each one, then proceed with one of the above policies.
Another idea Rondeau puts forth is one of Vail attaining “residential bliss,” in which the basic things residents need and want are available.
“They want things to be quiet, their neighbors to be cooperative, the utilities to work, health services and supermarkets,” he says. “Finally, they want the God-given right to be either independent and skeptical or interdependent and a team player.
“That’s why things are fragmented. But you can’t satisfy everybody. You never will,” he adds. “This is not about some terrible trend in our society or community – it’s always been that way. This is what makes politics interesting.”
No “shortage of ideas’
Rondeau, in fact, says there’s never a “shortage of ideas,” only a shortage of ways to turn them into reality.
“Put a group of 18 people in a room together for two hours and you’ll generate three or four dozen ideas,” he says. “The issue here is how you implement them through the Town Council process as we know it.”
Upon retirement and moving to Vail full-time, Rondeau became focused on the outdoors, taking the time to become a certified alpine ski instructor and backcountry skiing guide – “the hardest thing I’ve ever done in my life.” He says his greatest passions are the backcountry and the Colorado Mountain Club, for which he has served as president. He still conducts leadership and backcountry-awareness forums throughout the community.
“The backcountry beckons throughout the year, whether on foot or skis,” he says.
Some of Rondeau’s boundless energy, too, may come from the arrival 10 years ago of a daughter, Cheryl, who learned how to use “regular skis” at the age of 3 – but soon switched to telemark equipment.
“She got Nancy and I to “free our heels,’ too, but not all time time,” he says.