Vail council race: Scott Proper, the philosopher banker |

Vail council race: Scott Proper, the philosopher banker

Kristin Anderson/Vail DailyVail Town Council candidate Scott Proper says Vail has to figure out how to be an environmental leader while having many second-home that sit empty, sucking up energy most of the year.

VAIL ” Like any good philosophy major, Scott Proper took a class on “the good life.” In a lot of ways, he said, he’s found it in Vail.

But when he talks about the good life, he does not talk about skiing, hiking or the mountain scenery ” all of which he likes. He talks about helping tourists.

“I really like, when a tourist asks me some random question or asks me if I can take a picture, doing it. Because I think, that’s a person who’s here for a week, dropping 20 grand, and they’re so hypersensitive. … I think to the degree I can pass enthusiasm and optimism and positivity to that person, knowing they’re hypersensitive now, that’s awesome.”

Vail his given him a glimpse of the good life, and he wants to give something back to Vail. He has a strong sense of civic duty, something he developed in Boy Scouts, he said.

Proper is one of 10 residents running for the Vail Town Council in the Nov. 6 election.

“Part of the reason our country is great is because of people’s involvement in it,” he said.

He’s a good consensus builder, he said. He explains that in the logical way you would expect of a philosopher.

“I think I can do a pretty good job recognizing the pros and cons of any circumstance and seeing both sides and subsequently summarizing both sides to explain the one side to the other, and ultimately guide those different sides to reach a productive compromise.”

At 28, Proper already has some impressive credentials. He has a degree from Yale, where he rowed on the crew team. He’s now the vice president of Millennium Bank in Edwards and serves on the Vail Recreation District board of directors and the town’s planning commission.

But he wouldn’t call himself an overachiever. In fact, he doesn’t even know what that means.

“All I do is try my best every day. I don’t have anything to prove. There was a point in my life when I had a lot to prove,” Proper said.

That was when he was on the Yale crew team. He was all about racing and winning, and he wanted to be on the Olympic team.

“I came to get a lot more confused about, ‘Oh, well, winning doesn’t really bring me personal fulfillment, and why did I want to win to begin with?”

He ultimately found fulfillment in things like helping to fund scholarships or raising money for polio vaccines, things he does in the local Rotary Club.

“I felt like that’s so much more fulfilling and much more of value,” he said.

After they graduated, Proper and his wife, Paulina, eschewed the standard investing-banking or consulting track of Ivy League grads and moved to Denver because they wanted to live in the mountains.

Their sights were on Vail, where they eventually moved in 2002. Proper got a job as a bank teller, and later rose though the ranks at local banks.

His wife recently graduated from the University of Colorado School of Law, with them living apart during the week and staying in Boulder or Vail together on the weekends. She’s now working as a lawyer in Vail.

They love to ski, and Chair 10 is their favorite place ” it’s relatively remote, it’s challenging and you can even smell the fresh pine trees on the chairlift.

“We’ll consciously tell each other, ‘There’s no place I’d rather be,'” he said.

Housing is a big issue for Proper. If Vail is totally laissez-faire on affordable housing, it’ll turn into a pure resort like Beaver Creek, with lots of empty second-homes, he said.

“If that’s the approach we want to have for Vail, that’s not one I feel too fired up about,” he said.

Government should help catalyze affordable and employee housing, Proper said. But the town shouldn’t simply subsidize a business’s desire to have inexpensive labor, he said. Middle Creek wasn’t a good project, because it gave away a long-term land lease to help businesses get cheaper labor.

“The town, by giving away the land lease, subsidized the development, which subsequently subsidizes the rent there until the lease is over. I’m more of a free-market capitalist than that,” he said.

Changing zoning so people are motivated to provide employee housing is a good method, Proper said. More density could be granted for providing employee housing, he said.

Environmentalism is also really important for him.

“If the forest burns down or there are no fish in the creek any more because it’s clogged with sand, those are changes that would impact the reason locals live here, for one, and the reasons tourists come visit, also,” he said.

Vail needs to reconcile its desire to be an environmental leader with the fact that it has a bunch of second homes that are empty most of the year.

“I don’t know how to figure that out,” he said.

Staff Writer Edward Stoner can be reached at 748-2929 or

Support Local Journalism