Vail banker Roger Behler retires but not really
VAIL, Colorado The Vail banker who broke Wall Street plans to retire but maybe just for a couple years. FirstBank President Roger Behler retired Wednesday after 31 years at the bank in the Vail Valley. Mark Ristow will replace Behler. I really plan on taking a couple years off and enjoying the Vail Valley, said Behler, who has made many contributions to the Vail Valley since he moved to town in 1977. Behler has helped preserve thousands of acres of open space in Eagle County and has given loans to finance much of Vails development. He also has helped improve the Vail Valley Medical Center and has helped bring classical music to Vail each summer. Hes been pretty active in the community and has just helped a lot of people, said Rod Slifer, of Vail. But just because Behler retired Wednesday as president of FirstBank in Vail and Avon doesnt mean hes going to stop, friends say. I think hell still be active, said Art Kelton, of Vail. Hes a pretty active guy.
Behler began his career as a part-time teller for Westland National Bank in Lakewood before he graduated from University of Colorado at Boulder. Harry Frampton, managing partner of Slifer Smith & Frampton, got to know Behler when Frampton moved to Vail in 1982. Behler gave Frampton a $2-million loan to finance his first condominium development in Vail. Behler took a real chance on Frampton, who ended up selling 10 condominiums for $300,000 each and got his real estate business started. Weve been doing business with him ever since and have had a wonderful business relationship over the years, Frampton said. Frampton said the only reservation he has about Behler retiring is that Behler will have more time to become a better golfer. The only thing Im worried about is hes going to win all my money since hes not working as much, Frampton said. Behler also helped several small businesses get started with loans in the 1980s, when Vails economy was down like the rest of Colorado. Most banks wouldnt loan to small businesses in Vail at the time, Slifer said. They stuck with me and were very helpful when I got started and wasnt doing that well, Slifer said.
Dave Behler, Behlers older brother, is always amazed by how many people know his brother when the men walk together in Vail. Everybody knows him because Behler is a friendly, outgoing guy, Dave Behler said. You cant walk by somebody without them knowing Roger, Dave Behler said. Dave Behler and President Gerald Ford, who owned a home in Beaver Creek, became good friends when Dave worked as a U.S. Secret Service agent for Ford. But Ford sometimes confused the brothers because they looked alike, Dave Behler said. Once, the brothers were finishing a round of golf with Ford, who asked Roger whether the car was ready to go. Roger said, No, that would be my brother, Dave Behler said.
Roger Behler said he wants to continue being on the board of the Vail Valley Foundation. He has served on the boards of Bravo! Vail Valley Music Festival and Eagle Valley Land Trust in the past.Behler helped set aside 5- to 6,000 acres of land for open space, including 2,700 acres at Bair Ranch near the entrance to Glenwood Canyon as a board member of Eagle Valley Land Trust, said Cindy Cohagen, the land trusts executive director. Behler helped with the land trusts first special fundraiser, Shindig, and his efforts have led to greater funding for the land trust through the years, she said. I dont think we ever would have done it without his encouragement or without his go-for-it attitude, Cohagen said.Behler also improved the Vail Valley Medical Center as treasurer for its fundraising arm, Vail Valley Medical Center Foundation, said Kelton, who served as the foundations president. Behler did an outstanding job of handling the foundations investments, which led to Steadman-Hawkins Clinic.That was a tremendous expansion, Kelton said. That took the hospital to a whole other level.
Behler has seen the valley change, from when the Vail Trail used to be a daily newspaper and a headline once read, The bank that broke Wall Street, when FirstBank moved from Wall Street in the Vail Village to Crossroads. Now Solaris has taken the place of Crossroads and FirstBank of Vail is on Vail Road, he said. Behler plans to be a part of the change in the future. He wants to work with more nonprofit organizations eventually, he said.Weve just loved the valley, Behler said. Staff Writer Steve Lynn can be reached at 748-2931 or email@example.com.
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