Stavney prepares to become Eagle’s mayor
When Jon Stavney first ran for Eagle Town Board six years ago, he was a newcomer to local politics. In fact, he was a newcomer to the community, having moved to Eagle a year previously from “up-valley” in search, he says, of a family-oriented, traditional community.
Winning an open board seat in a hotly contested election involved several days of walking neighborhoods and knocking on strangers’ doors. The tactic worked. Some 406 voters went the polls. Stavney was one of three town board member elected, out of seven candidates, earning 193 votes and besting the next closest candidate by a narrow 21-vote margin.
His first term was a challenging one. The town was facing massive development proposals from both Eagle Ranch and Adam’s Rib. For months, the board met weekly. The matter were controversial, meetings were long and the issues were tough.
Four years later, the issues had been decided, and voter interest was low. There were only as many candidates as there were seats and a mere 35 voters turned out for the election. Stavney was on his way to a second term.
Midway through that term, Stavney is ready for an even greater leadership role. The only candidate for the Eagle mayor’s seat (current mayor Roxie Deane is term limited), Stavney will be sworn in as mayor on April 13.
Stavney, 35, is a college-educated contractor, who works as a construction superintendent for Beck Building Company. He and his wife, Maryann, and their two young children make their home in the Eagle Ranch subdivision. Maryann was recently elected to serve on the Eagle County School Board.
This week, Stavney shared some thoughts on the issues facing the town in his upcoming term of office:
Stavney maintains that the single largest issue facing the town today is the same issue that characterized his first run for office a half-dozen years ago.
“The issue is how will Eagle grow, and how will it retain its small-town character and charm, while continuing to be a premier place for families,” says Stavney. He adds the town has sustained a seven percent growth rate for a number of years, a figure which, in planning circles, is considered high.
While dealing with that growth has been expensive for the town and “absolutely consuming” for the town staff, the mayor-to-be says there’s also been some benefits. He cites the acquisition of Brush Creek Park and construction of the new pool, ice rink and a Town Hall as examples, along with numerous traffic improvement projects.
Still, he says, the town faces some fiscal challenges if it expects to sustain the current level of service. “Our residential-service burden is great and our sales-tax base is weak,” Stavney says.
He suggests large scale commercial development at the pending Red Mountain Ranch project, where a big box store is part of the picture, could answer some of the fiscal challenges. “We need a stronger sales-tax base if we want to redevelop the Central Business District, expand our recreation facilities or sustain the high level of service people are expecting,” he says.
Generally, Stavney says he supports the town’s present growth policies. Ideally, he would like to see an inter-governmental agreement whereby the town would have first say on further development in the Brush Creek Valley as well as north of town in the direction of Castle Peak, he says.
Eagle County officials have never agreed to that concept. “It is unlikely at this juncture, and I’m not even sure about the legality of that idea,” says Stavney.
Stavney says the town master plan anticipates the type of commercial development on the east end of Chambers Avenue that is being proposed by Red Mountain Ranch developer Merv Lapin. He avoids using the term “big box” development, saying it is inflammatory and divisive. Instead, he prefers the term “large-scale commercial development” which can be done tastefully, he insists.
“This kind of (big box) development has been done poorly all over America. There is no shortage of examples of how not to do it,” Stavney says. “This is Eagle, and a lot of us are here precisely because it is not suburbia … I am in favor of the project but it is going to be quite a balancing act.”
“The question is, can Eagle continue to be charming at the same time? I believe we can … but how the project is negotiated, and how it is implemented is crucial,” Stavney says. “You don’t sell the farm to keep the farm.”
He also voices concern about the future of the Central Business District, which he describes as the “soul of Eagle.” Stavney says the town invested $3 million in building a new town hall in the business district which he says “raises the bar as far as architectural expectations.” He says the town may soon commit to spending another $2.5 million to replace aging infrastructure and make streetscape improvements in the business district.
“There needs to be a commitment by Broadway property owners to step up to the plate on the redevelopment and the town needs to be a leader in that process,” Stavney says.
Still, he warns that fancy street lamps and benches or flower pots and brick pavers won’t instantly make the business district a thriving retail area.
“What will make the atmosphere more magnetic there? What can the town do to facilitate this?” he asks. He suggests some new approaches, such as changing zoning to allow three-story buildings as an incentive for some property owners to re-develop. The challenge, he says, is to get town leaders and businessmen on the same page in their vision for the business district.
“For those property owners who are sitting on their properties for investment purposes, what would move them to sell or develop?” he asks.
“The town needs to be a leader in that process, but we can’t drive that train alone. I think there are some hard years ahead … but there is a lot to be hopeful about,” says Stavney.
The future mayor says the town has begun updating some “antiquated” internal processes and is working toward becoming more user-friendly.
“There has been some callousness in the past and that is our fault. We cannot make all citizens delighted with how their town is run, but I recoil every time someone implies that the town is run in a closed, boy’s club manner. I want desperately to change that perception,” Stavney says.
“We accomplish great things for the people of Eagle, given our scope,” he adds. “The town is fortunate to have a very committed, professional staff. There is no reason that shouldn’t be the public perception.”
The incoming mayor has praise for his predecessor, Roxie Deane.
“Roxie has been a fantastic leader. She has raised the bar on how involved the mayor is in the day-to-day work of the tow,” he says. “She was perfectly positioned, as a life-long resident, to negotiate with Adam’s Rib.”
Regarding his future stint as mayor, Stavney says he is well-positioned to continue many of the projects and priorities the town has embarked on in recent years. The tasks ahead will require a lot of energy.
“I would like to think I will lend some youthful vigor and vitality to the job,” he says.
Meanwhile, he says, he remains committed to the public realm.
“As a society, we are so much more about business and private life these day than we are about caring for the community as a whole,” he says. “I think Eagle is at heart one of the places that is an exception to that trend. I am excited to be a part of it.”
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