The "Hittman,’ Farrow Hitt, makes a go for public office
Full name: Farrow Hitt Age: 48 How long have you lived in Vail, and where did you come from originally?”I have lived in Vail for almost 15 years. My wife, Bridget, my daughter Talli and I moved here from Atlanta.” Occupation: Manager of Park Meadows Lodge next to the Cascade Village. Political/government experience: “I have been a participant from the audience side of the Town Council chambers for the past 10 years, vice president of the Donovan Park Neighborhood Association and a self -appointed goodwill ambassador of Vail.”1) – What specific concerns or issues led you to run for Vail Town Council?”I believe the single most important issue facing our town is support of the redevelopment projects on the cusp of reality in Vail. I would like to see them get off the ground and the town get behind this three-quarter-billion-dollar investment. I am also concerned we balance “community’ and “resort’ in a way that is equally beneficial to both. We are dependent on each other.”2) – What do residents of Vail want from local government, and how do you plan to meet their needs?”I believe the town residents want improved fiscal responsibility with matters involving the town of Vail. Of course residents also expect honest information and representation and as your representative I will expect and accept no less. The residents want their best interest kept in mind throughout the decision-making process.”3) – What personal qualities do you feel you offer that will best benefit town government?Honesty, integrity and a great work ethic with the ability to communicate with a diverse mix of people are some of my qualities. As the manager of Park Meadows Lodge for 14 years, I know first-hand about the everyday challenges businesses face and I’ve been successful in navigating these difficult times. I am a family man with family values and a strong sense of community.”4) – The most recent Vail Community Survey identified “sustaining economic vitality of businesses in Vail” as the most important issue on the minds of Vail’s residents. How do you plan to address that?”By getting behind the redevelopment of Lionshead and the “New Dawn’ Front Door project and seeing that it continues to move forward, hopefully streamlining the arduous procedure in the process. I also will be following closely the marketing efforts of Vail and underscoring the importance of special events for our guests and locals alike.”5) – Declining sales-tax revenues are being blamed for a decline in Vail’s economic vitality. If elected, how would you turn things around?”I believe the revitalization projects are key to solving this, so my last answer applies to this question, as well.”6) – A common question has been “how can the town help the business community?” But how do you think the business community could become less dependent on the town?”The businesses community and the town will always be intertwined. The dependency is mutual and I believe clear communication and cooperation between the two entities will continue to be the best road to take for a better Vail.”7) – A lot has been said recently on “accountability.” What does that mean to you?”Having to explain the basis of one’s decisions and accepting responsibility for the outcome.”8) – Streetscape improvements, including adding snowmelt capabilities, are due to begin this spring and continue in phases for several years. How can the town and the business community work together to minimize the short-term negative impacts?”Communication and planning. Then more planning and careful scheduling of start dates and completion dates. Setting work times that minimize impact on business and pedestrians and market Vail in a positive light highlighting the improvements underway for a better Vail.”9) – The previous Town Council adopted tax incremental financing, or TIF, as a way of funding public improvements to go along with a substantial amount of privately funded redevelopment in Lionshead. How can you help ensure the process works to the advantage of both Vail and the larger community in the valley?”By supporting its implementation, Vail can take advantage immediately by ensuring an avenue to issue bonds we can use in conjunction with the redevelopment for much-needed public improvements. Indirectly, it will help the “valley’ by allowing Vail to move forward with its ambitious undertaking, which will improve the economics of the entire valley.”10) – Traffic noise from Interstate 70 has become a big issue in Vail. Should the town get serious about burying the interstate, or do you think noise walls are the solution?”I think a more reasonable response would be to continue on the path our town manager has created to work on enforcement and education first. We should concentrate on realistic solutions such as lowering the speed limit and possibly a different surface on our stretch of highway. Sound walls would only obstruct views of Vail. We want people to see our town when they drive through it. We should continue using berms where we can.”11) – Vail began as a ski resort and evolved into a community. Where do you see this ongoing evolution going over the next 10 years?”With the downvalley explosion occurring right now, I see Vail as being the premier mountain town that kept it’s unique charm and character while suburbia enclosed around it. It will continue to be the desired location of choice because of the very special charm and mountain mystique. We will, of course, still be the premier ski mountain.”12) – The Donovan Park Pavilion is the first permanent community amenity built by the town of Vail since the Vail Public Library in 1983. What kind of facility, if any, would you most like to see in the future and how would you propose funding it?”We have established a funding mechanism for a conference center, so I would think we should probably get going with that. I would also like to see gymnastics and swimming facilities, as well as a second sheet of ice available for public use. A gathering place in our town for families to congregate should be incorporated into the redevelopment plans. More business generated would help to offset the cost. It should be a win-win for the town, visitors and locals alike.”13) – The approval of housing at Middle Creek and the purchase of Timber Ridge are significant steps in Vail’s efforts to bring affordable housing to its employees. Do you believe the town should be more involved – or less involved – in providing housing?”The town has made some significant progress in getting our seasonal employees housed. We will see after completion what our situation looks like and perhaps concentrate some efforts on family projects. I think businesses should be a major player in investing in their own employees and see the town’s role as limited in actually providing housing. The town should ensure that redevelopment requirements provide for adequate housing.”==============Special election infoImportant dates include: Friday – Last day voters can request an absentee ballot. Tuesday – Election Day; polls at the Town Hall open 7 a.m.-7 p.m. Feb. 3 – Winner sworn in for a term ending November 2005.To be eligible to vote in the Vail elections, a person must be: A full-time resident with a current, legal address in the town of Vail for at least six months. 18 years old or older. A U.S. citizen. Registered to vote in Eagle County.The special election this year is not coordinated with any other election.For more information, contact the Vail Town Clerk’s Office at 479-2136.=====================Editor’s note: This is the first of three profiles of the men running for a seat on the Vail Town Council in Tuesday’s special election to replace long-time councilman and former mayor Ludwig Kurz. Profiles of Mark Gordon and Lou Meskimen appear Thursday and Friday.If there’s one thing upon which those who know Farrow Hitt would agree, it’s that one always knows when he’s in the same room.Standing a strong 6-foot-1 and weighing 230 pounds, it’s not his size, necessarily, although he admits to being a “big guy.” It’s more his deep, resonant voice in an attention-grabbing, down-home – yet civilized – southern accent.”I guess I’m just a good communicator,” he says.A newcomer to politics, Hitt, 48, came to Vail 14 years ago from Atlanta with his wife, Bridget, and their baby daughter, Talli, now 13. A former builder of restaurants and clubs, he says after 11 years of visiting Colorado for the skiing the offer to run the Park Meadows – a modest, 29-unit condominium in West Vail near the Vail Cascade Resort & Spa – was an easy one for him and his wife to accept.”One day I realized a woman in the daycare center in Atlanta knew Talli better than I did, and that didn’t sit very well with me,” he says. “We took the job because it allowed her to be with us all day. She even wound up helping us clean the rooms from a pack on our backs.”The Hitts now live in a house nearby they built themselves high on Geneva Drive, just a quarter mile or so from the Park Meadows in the Matterhorn neighborhood. And Talli, now a student at Minturn Middle School, has been “the princess of the lodge” ever since, Farrow Hitt says.”On the front line’Managing a modest lodge, where the Hitts now also own two units, has given Farrow Hitt a perspective different than his rivals running for the Vail Town Council, he says.”Our views are definitely different. I tend to be a little more conservative than Mark (Gordon), and I haven’t been around as long as Lou (Meskimen),” Hitt says. “I’m really on the front line. I’m in daily contact with the guests of Vail, and seeing as how we’re always trying to improve the “guest experience,’ that puts me in a good position to help. Guests talk to me – and they tell me what they think about Vail.”Being a lodge manager with a budget and a payroll,” Hitt adds, “I also understand the importance of being a year-round resort.”Hitt – whose automobile license plate reads “Hittman” – says he’s been a “self-appointed goodwill ambassador” since even before he was able to move to Vail.”Everywhere I go and travel, I talk up Vail. I love this town, and I take it upon myself to tell people what a fantastic place this is,” he says. “And at my everyday job, we’re in contact with everyday guests and in what they like and what they’re not happy about – and the positive list is always longer than the negative.”An active observer of the Town Council – having attended meetings on and off for years – Hitt stayed away from the November elections when four of seven seats were up for grabs. He says there were too many things going on with his business to get into the fray. Now that six members of the council are known, however, Hitt says he thinks he would fit right in.”This council is behind a lot of the things I’ve been touting. We’re on the same page on a lot of things,” says Hitt, an ardent supporter of building a conference center in Vail, as well as the redevelopment of Lionshead. “But I will strive to make sure we maintain the charm and ambiance of Vail that makes us special – and not just any ski town, U.S.A. My decisions will keep that in mind as we go through the redevelopment process.”We set the standards,” he adds. “We need to set the pace, instead of chase.”Standing upNot too long ago – four years or so, in fact – Hitt was quite at odds with the Vail Town Council, which had been taking measures to clear the way for an affordable-housing project in Donovan Park, which at the time was just acres and acres of undeveloped open space on three “benches” straddling Gore Creek.Vice president of the Donovan Park Neighborhood Association, he and several other nearby homeowners filed a lawsuit aimed at preventing the town from using revenues collected with town’s real-estate transfer tax, or RETT, to pay for the housing project. The tax was strictly meant for purchasing – and preserving – open space, the association successfully argued.”I learned you have to stand up for what you believe in and take the necessary steps to see it through. Now, the park and pavilion are a beautiful addition to this town. It all turned out very nice, and most people I talk with thank our group for what we did,” Hitt says. “But I don’t think a lot of people really understand what it was all about: The town was at risk of losing the real-estate transfer tax altogether.””A living wage’Hitt regrets, however, that some people believed the heated battle portrayed him as “anti-housing,” which he’s not – he just thinks it’s not the government’s role to provide it.Deed restrictions are not all they’re cracked up to be, either, he says, and if people truly understood the market and the opportunities available to them for buying into it, more could “reap the benefits” of home ownership.”I just think it’s the businesses themselves that need to invest in their employees,” he says. “Yeah, deed restrictions keep affordable housing in the valley, but what they’re really doing is allowing businesses to continue paying low wages. I’d rather see us educating people on all the ways they can become first-time buyers, such as down-payment-assistant programs.”On the other end of the philosophical spectrum, Hitt openly promotes what he calls a “living wage,” or a pay scale in town that’s realistic in light of the relatively high cost of living. Otherwise, he says, Vail will never be the family town – the community – many Vailites say they want it to be.”If we expect people to buy in and work and raise a family here, we’re going to have something about that,” says Hitt. “I mean, you can’t raise a family, work three jobs and feel good about. We’re perpetuating having employees here that will never get ahead.””Call The Doggie’When he’s not managing the lodge, being a dad and taking an active role in the community, Hitt likes to unwind with music, one of his passions. A musician since he was kid, he plays rhythm guitar and sings in a local rock “n’ roll band, Bad Little Doggie, a four-piece outfit that specializes in classic songs by Van Halen, Jimi Hendrix, Deep Purple, Eric Clapton and others.The band practices weekly at the “Rock-a-Rosa” in Wolcott, he says, and they have a regular presence at the Wolcott Yacht Club during the summer.”We tend to shy away from the clubs because of the hours. We typically play private engagements,” Hitt says. “But if you want to throw a party people with remember, call The Doggie.”
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