Vail man honored as Club 20 bridge builder

Photo by Synchronicity Studios/Special to the Daily

VAIL — You can disagree, but you don’t have to be disagreeable about it, says Tom Harned.

Harned and Rachel Richards, a Pitkin County commissioner from Aspen, won Club 20’s Johnson-Theos Bridge Builder Award.

It’s a bridge-builder award, not a bridge burner award, Harned said.

“Club 20 tends to attract strong-minded people. If you’re there, you’re passionate about how you feel and you want people to understand it,” Harned said. “Don’t ask me what I think if you don’t want to hear it, because I’ll tell you.”

Harned is a staunch free-market conservative. Richards is, well … from Aspen.

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During the years, they’ve had some Titanic battles during Club 20 meetings. But no matter how heated the discussion became, it was always about the issues. It never became personal, Harned said.

He and Richards understood each other’s positions. They rarely agreed, but they understand and respect each other, Harned said.

“Over the years, we have had our moments on the floor and in board meetings,” Harned said. “During the process, we did find common ground. We developed a mutual respect, and when it was over, we were ready to jump to the next issue or the next job, and get it done. Nobody ever took their ball and went home,” Harned said.

After those confrontations, they’d usually get together for a drink to talk about issues, families and all the other stuff people talk about.

“Crossing the aisle and finding solutions is very satisfying,” Harned said.

Harned has been a member of Club 20 for decades. He has served as the chairman of the Club 20 board and has been an executive committee member for years.

Roy Robinson, former owner of the Eagle Valley Enterprise and a loyal Democrat, took Harned to his first Club 20 meeting.

Richards is serving her second term as a Pitkin County commissioner. She has lived in the Roaring Fork Valley since 1978 and has served as mayor of Aspen and on the Aspen city council.

Harned helped establish the award.

He has also won the Lyman Thomas Award and the Preston Walker Award for his years of service with Club 20.

Club 20 is the 60-year-old coalition of the individuals, businesses, organizations and towns in Western Colorado’s 22 counties and exists to advocate for the interests of this region on both the state and national level.

Bonnie Peterson, Club 20 executive director, said the Johnson-Theos Bridge Builder Award epitomizes what Club 20 is all about — working through different perspectives and approaching often complex situations, putting personal agendas aside and working for the best solutions for Western Colorado.

The award is named for Nick Theos, a long-time sheep rancher from Meeker, and Eric Johnson, a professional sculptor from Redstone. They both served in Club 20 leadership roles, Theos a former board member from Rio Blanco County and Johnson as a former chairman of the board.

“Although the two men heralded from very different backgrounds and championed different perspectives, they forged a friendship and working relationship that has been an example of how diverse interests can come together to achieve common goals,” Johnson said.

Staff Writer Randy Wyrick can be reached at 970-748-2935, and

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