Vail Election: Key for Lazier is catering to guests
Vail, CO Colorado
VAIL, Colorado –Buddy Lazier is a bit of a celebrity in Vail, but he’s hoping to leave his professional life out of his run for one of the Vail Town Council seats.
Lazier, the 1996 winner of the Indianapolis 500, is making his move to finish in the top four in Tuesday’s election. He said he has the skill, the motivation and the love for the town that make for a good council member.
Lazier’s competitive side comes in handy because the town is in constant competition with other resort communities, he said. The way Vail can come out on top is by catering to its guests – something the next council needs to fine-tune, Lazier said.
Lazier grew up spending a lot of his time in the Tivoli Lodge, which his family owns. He grew up around the guests, many of whom still come back year after year, he said.
“I understand what’s important to them,” Lazier said. “I understand who our new guests are.”
He said Vail is changing along with the economy, and the town has to be ready to adjust. The town needs to do its research and find out the new customer’s demographics, and then reach them through digital and social marketing, he said.
“Marketing is identifying your market, and building a package to support that and grow it,” Lazier said.
He sees potential for growth specifically in the airport – he wants to expand service there and bring in international flights because many Vail guests have problems getting here, he said.
Guests aren’t Lazier’s only focus, though. He said the town has a big problem with its community slowly dissolving. The cost of living keeps driving people away, he said, and he hopes to find ways to bring people back to town.
“Our guests want to visit a town, they don’t want to visit Disney Land,” Lazier said.
Lazier likes deed restrictions and the town’s affordable housing program, but wants to see more done to give people an opportunity at making their lives in Vail. He said the economy is the No. 1 thing on people’s minds and it worries him it overshadows the idea of building community.
The economy is a crucial topic right now, though, Lazier said. He has faith in town staff, specifically Town Manager Stan Zemler. Lazier said he’d be ready to step up and “sharpen the pencil” to make necessary cuts if he has to, though.
“I’m not as pessimistic as some, but it’s only prudent to plan for the worst,” Lazier said.
Lazier thinks large construction projects in town couldn’t have come at a worse time. He commends the previous councils for getting so much development going, but wants to see the construction completed as soon as possible so guests aren’t looking at cranes everywhere.
While Lazier generally compliments the current Town Council, he said there’s plenty of work to be done on its relationship with Vail Resorts. The two entities are forever connected, he said, and need to warm up their relationship.
“In good (economic) times, have away at it,” Lazier said. “In bad times, let’s pull together.”
Lazier has never worked for Vail Resorts and thinks that could help him remain objective in dealing with the company.
“Hopefully (the town will get) some new personalities on the new council that are well suited,” he said.
Lazier lives in West Vail with his wife, Kara, and their two children, Flinn, 10, and Jacqueline, 7. Their children are students at Vail Mountain School.
Lauren Glendenning can be reached at 970-748-2983 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Vail Daily: What makes you the best candidate for the next Vail Town Council?
Buddy Lazier: There are nine great candidates in this election. Vail is competing against other resort communities for our guests’ discretionary funds. Having lived in and run the Tivoli Lodge, I have insights with regards to our resort’s customers – their likes and dislikes, tolerance for price increases, etc.
I am 42 years old and a Vail native. I have had a number of successes in challenging business environments with regards to managing operations for commercial properties, hospitality, business-to-business and participating in large corporate marketing programs. I believe a lot of my background is well-tailored to meet the challenges and exciting opportunities our town will experience in the coming years.
I love Vail. My wife and I are proudly raising our two children here, and I want them to have equal or better opportunities as they contemplate a future in Vail.
VD: With an unpredictable economy, how should the town spend its money? Are there areas of the budget where you think money could be cut or added?
BL: There has been a lot of discussion around town about how we are going to make up potential shortfalls in the 2011 budget and beyond. I believe the new council will have to be very diligent in this regard and rely on the town manager and staff recommendations.
Nothing should be off the table, but we should always be cognizant of unintended consequences, such as cutting budgets in areas that will have a direct implication on guest services. I do think it is a good idea to prioritize potential capital improvements.
VD: The Vail Citizens for Action group is proposing an increase in the lodging tax to pay for more marketing, which would also free up some general fund money. What do you think of this idea?
BL: I would like to compliment the Vail Citizens for Action, as well as others that are willing to put forth new and sometimes controversial ideas.
With regards to increasing the lodging tax, as a partial owner in our family-owned and run hotel, Tivoli Lodge, I believe I could bring valuable insight to our new Town Council with regards to our guests’ behaviors and real-life tolerances for tax increases.
In short, I believe the lodging community has always been willing to carry its share and more. However, we have all been hit by this economic downturn. Statistically, lodging has been hit the hardest. Lodging taxes today are over 9 percent. If the Citizens for Action plan was implemented, the lodging taxes would increase to well over 13 percent. I believe, at this time, such large increases could very well trigger a series of unintended consequences resulting in negative effects filtering through town. Please remember hotel guests make up a large proportion of retail, restaurant and various other valley businesses.
Though I am not against a compromised hotel tax increase, I believe such an increase needs to be very well thought out, to the extent that funds raised and the way they are used are very transparent and have a direct and measurable positive impact on valley business.
VD: How transparent is Vail government?
BL: I think the closed door executive sessions have had a negative net effect on the perception of transparency. There are topics that are appropriately categorized as executive session issues – legal, personnel, etc.. Through the years I have enjoyed watching the television coverage of the town’s proceedings at town hall, and reading about them in the paper. Such coverage goes a long way in making people comfortable and informed with the town’s proceedings. While the town has done a good job with its processes, like any organization it needs to continue to work diligently to do a better job.
VD: Affordable housing is a topic that never goes away in Vail. How do you think the town is doing on affordable housing?
BL: I feel as though the town has done a good job and we are in pretty good shape with regards to seasonal employee housing, at least at the moment. But, one of the biggest problems our town has is its cost of living – property costs.
Because of these costs, many of the people who make our town work do not live here. I am a strong supporter of the deed-restricted home model. We have gradually lost great people and vibrancy in our community. People need to be able to afford to get into homes they can be proud of so that they can feel comfortable about building a life here. The deed-restricted homes is a big step forward in this regard, but we must continue to work for more solutions.
VD: What do you think of the job the current town council has done?
BL: I believe they have done a good job. Town Council members really have a thankless job – anybody who is willing to take on such responsibilities and commit the time required to do it right should be commended.
I believe Town Council is made up of individuals who love our community and whether or not you agree with various decisions, the council members are striving to do their best for the town. We are a small town and with the high cost of living we are limited in the number of talented people who are able to participate on council. The ideal characteristic of council members should change to suit the changing business environment. The fact that we elect four council seats – a majority – every two years enables the community to be flexible and ideally elect those who are most suited to meet the challenges of the time.
VD: How should Vail solve its parking problems?
BL: Vail’s parking challenges are obvious to everyone. We have had parking shortages for some time. This greatly affects most everyone who lives or visits our town. Every year the town works with the Colorado Department of Transportation and files emergency overflow parking on the frontage roads for approval. There are those who believe our parking could be adequately solved with a single large parking structure addition – I believe it’s far more appealing and operationally feasible to solve the parking problem with several small-to-mid-size projects allowing us to disperse the crowds that would come with a large parking structure more evenly.
The town, over time, has spent a great deal of resources to build, maintain and run its parking garages. There’s nothing wrong with looking to our corporate partner, Vail Resorts, to help us fund and solve some of our future parking challenges. Also, if legal restraints allow, Ford Park could be a part of the solution.
VD: What’s the most urgent issue Vail needs to address?
BL: The economic environment and consequences thereof; I agree with those who believe our economy is reverting back to its traditional tourism-based revenue model. Our town is competing for our guests. We are asking a lot of them to continue to be loyal during these difficult economic times, while a great deal of our town is still under construction. These large unfinished projects will have great benefit in attracting and providing amenities to our guests when they are finished. To be as competitive as possible, we need to follow through and finish these projects with urgency.