Vail candidate Jen Mason: Passion fuels council run | VailDaily.com

Vail candidate Jen Mason: Passion fuels council run

Special to the Daily

Vail Votes Nov. 3

• Vail’s election is separate from the county-wide election.

• That means you either vote in person at town hall or go to www.vailgov.com for information about absentee ballots.

• The council will have three new members — Andy Daly and Margaret Rogers are term-limited and Dale Bugby chose not to seek re-election.

• Ludwig Kurz is the only incumbent running for re-election this year.

• Current candidates include newcomers Kim Langmaid, Mark Christie, Jen Mason and Doe Browning; former council members Kevin Foley, and Dick Cleveland are running again.

VAIL — Jen Mason moved around a lot as a youngster. Vail has been her settle-in spot.

More than two decades after moving to town, Mason decided to run for Town Council. She’s one of four first-time candidates on the ballot, in large part because she now has the time and, she believes, the experience for the job.

Mason is the director of operations for the Vail Valley Foundation and is in charge of coordinating that group’s volunteer efforts. For the four years or so leading up to the 2015 FIS Alpine World Ski Championships, she led the team putting together and managing the crew of more than 2,000 volunteers who helped with the event. She did that in addition to managing volunteer efforts for the foundation’s other projects.

With the championships now behind her, Mason said she has the time to dedicate to the town she’s grown to love.

Mason said working for the foundation has taught her budget management and other skills.

“You scrutinize every dollar (spent),” she said. “And you learn there are often many different ways to do things — but the outcome always needs to be excellence.”

That dedication to doing the best work possible is one of the things Mason said she loves about both the town and foundation.

Mason’s experience in Vail started when her parents moved there in 1991, while she was in college. After graduation, she came to Vail and, like so many of us, found work on Vail Mountain, working in on-mountain customer service.

“It was the best job ever,” she said of her group of 30. “We skied around, and our whole job was to make people’s day better.”

That attention to customer service is something Mason believes the town should re-focus on. In the days before Vail Resorts unveiled its Epic Pass, the most affordable pass in the valley was a merchant pass. That pass required front-line employees to take a customer service class.

The town can’t mandate the revival of widespread service classes, but Mason said perhaps town employees could be at the forefront of a new effort.

Like other candidates for council, Mason is a strong believer that more people who work in town should live — and raise families — in Vail.

That, she said, could help revive the small-town feel Vail had when she first moved here.

While the town’s evolution into a luxury-resort powerhouse is mostly positive, Mason said there are times she misses the days in the 1990s when May and October saw empty streets and closed businesses, and a trip downvalley meant heading to City Market in Avon.

Those days are long gone and unlikely to return, of course. But, she said, more families in town could help bolster the town’s small-town feel.

‘PEOPLE WANT TO BE HEARD’

To keep those families in town, Mason supports the Chamonix project, that at the moment envisions not quite 50 for-sale units on a 3.2-acre parcel roughly behind the West Vail fire station.

Besides that project, which could break ground next year, Mason favors other steps, including building on smaller town-owned parcels scattered around Vail. She also likes an idea proposed by fellow candidate Dick Cleveland at an Oct. 13 candidate forum.

At that event, Cleveland proposed revising the town’s land use regulations to make renovations of existing homes easier. That, in turn, could allow homeowners to create small rental units on their property.

While Mason’s job makes her a skilled hand at dealing with volunteers, clients and other parts of the public, her first run for office has held some surprise.

“The reaction from my friends and neighbors has been positive,” she said. “But I’ve learned you have to be careful what you say — and I listen a lot.”

Learning to listen goes back to dealing with volunteer groups — “People want to be heard,” she said.

Mason has also taken to carrying a small notebook wherever she goes to jot down comments.

While running for office is a new experience, Mason said she’s prepared for both the run and the responsibilities that will follow if she’s elected.

“I know it’s going to be a lot of hours and a lot of hard work,” she said. “But I’m ready.”

Vail Daily Business Editor Scott Miller can be reached at 970-748-2930, smiller@vaildaily.com and @scottnmiller.