"Ski bum’ takes back the helm
In a unanimous vote, the Town Council – including Slifer, one of Vail’s true pioneers – cast their votes for the Vail resident of more than four decades to lead the town for at least the next two years.
“I really look forward to it. I’m glad it was unanimous,” said Slifer, a real estate broker by trade who came to Vail as a “ski bum” in 1962. “We’ve got a good group. I hope we can accomplish a lot.”
Slifer, 69, has been in and around Vail since, well, before there really was a Vail. In fact, he was one of the first employees of Vail Associates, hired in 1962 as “clerk in the works” when the Bridge Chalet, Vail’s first building, housed the company’s headquarters.
His political career already includes 12 years as a town councilman, eight as mayor from 1977 to 1984. Slifer’s name is sprinkled throughout books chronicling Vail’s history, including Dick Hauserman’s “Inventors of Vail” and “Vail: Triumph of a Dream,” written by Vail’s founder, the late Pete Seibert, who hired Slifer in the first place.
Echoes of 1999
The mood Tuesday was much like in 1999, when Ludwig Kurz first assumed the role of mayor, which he kept for two more years in 2001. In a reception that followed Slifer’s re-emergence as mayor, fellow council members, former mayors and other community leaders shared in issuing accolades to Slifer and the rest of the new council.
“Rod brings a wealth of experience,” said Kurz, who will stay on as a council member until his own eight-year term expires Jan. 27. “I gave it a lot of thought, and I’m looking forward serving another three months and helping with the transition.”
Just minutes before, Slifer joined fellow incumbent Greg Moffet and newcomers Kent Logan and Kim Ruotolo in being sworn in as council members. Logan and Ruotolo will serve four-year terms, with Moffet up for two more years.
“I couldn’t be happier,” said Logan, a retired investment banker who Tuesday became a public official for the first time. “Rod has my full support. Experience counts, and he as the clear choice. And Dick’s an excellent choice as mayor pro-tem.”
“I’m really excited. I think we have a good council who will be able to do a lot of good things for Vail,” added Ruotolo, who doubles the presence of women on the council, joining Councilwoman Diana Donovan. “And Rod’s a good choice as mayor. He’s done it before, and he has a lot of experience in this community.
“Rod will be a good ambassador for the town,” Ruotolo said. “It’s great for public relations. After all, he’s a great guy.”
Second in command
Immediately following Slifer’s selection as mayor came the council’s second decision as a board – selecting a mayor pro-tem, Vail’s second-highest office. Another unanimous vote ensued for Dick Cleveland, who won a four-year term on the council in 2001. Ironically, in that capacity, he replaces Slifer.
“I’m excited about the challenge. This gives me an opportunity to see what my skills really are,” said Cleveland, who works as chief investigator for the District Attorney’s Office. “Rod will be a great mayor, and I look forward to working with this council and getting things done.”
On same page
Stan Zemler, who assumed his job as Vail’s town manager in October, replacing Bob McLaurin, said solidifying the Town Council is a huge step in setting the town’s business on course.
“The work never really stops, but it’s exciting to get this over with,” Zemler said. He said the next step for the new council is to attend a retreat, during which the members can outline their visions for Vail during their terms. “We’ll collect everybody soon, have them all focus on some things they want to work on, and get them all on the same page.”
Eagle County Commissioner Tom Stone said he attended the largely ceremonial meeting Tuesday “to offer a new era of cooperation between the town and the county.
While Vail used to be the “sole economic driver” within the county, he said, referring to recent requests by Vail and other municipalities for county funds, the “financial picture” is changing fast “and so will the relationship between Eagle County and the town of Vail.”
“It’s important to be here,” Stone said. “Just because things in the past may have shown there are differences, it doesn’t mean it has to stay that way.”
Slifer is a managing partner in the largest real estate company, Slifer, Smith and Frampton Real Estate Company, with 17 offices and a hand in 65 percent of the property bought and sold in the Vail Valley. In his many years on the Town Council, Slifer often has recused himself from voting on issues with which he believed there was a potential conflict. As mayor, that practice likely will continue.
“Rod seldom has had to recuse himself,” said Councilwoman Diana Donovan. “The dangerous conflicts are the ones you don’t know about.”
Kurz said he’d spoken with Donovan before the vote about whether she’d accept the honorary position as mayor if nominated. After all, after her first term of two years, she won the most votes, 611, in 2001, and many people say she has grown as a leader since then. Kurz said she told him, however, she’d be more effective concentrating on the work at hand as a regular member of the council.
“The mayor’s job is being a social representative for the town, as well as running the meetings,” Donovan said. “When you’re mayor, you can’t argue for a cause. You vote after all the conversation is finished.
“To run a meeting, pull all the arguments together, then have to vote, it’s hard to do all of that and then argue your own side. It’s a focused job,” Donovan added. “The mayor can only state the council’s majority opinion. We need to get back to that.”
Bob Armour, Vail’s mayor from 1995 to 1997, put it this way: “I admire Rod for his commitment to the town. As one who sat in that seat, I know it’s an uncomfortable place to be. But at the same time, it’s an honor to be there.”
– Ted Kindel, 1966-68
– John Dobson, 1968-77
– Rod Slifer, 1977-84
– Paul Johnston, 1985-87
– Kent Rose, 1987-91
– Peggy Osterfoss, 1991-95
– Bob Armour, 1995-97
– Rob Ford, 1997-99
– Ludwig Kurz, 1999-2003
– Rod Slifer, 2003 …