Vail Recreation District set to elect directors Tuesday |

Vail Recreation District set to elect directors Tuesday

Bill Suarez.

VAIL — The Vail Recreation District’s special district election takes place on Tuesday. Voters will elect two directors to the district’s board to serve a four-year term.

The polling place election will take place at the Grand View Room on the third floor of the Lionshead Welcome Center from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.

Eligible voters include anyone registered to vote in Colorado who also is a resident of the district or the owner of taxable real or personal property in the district’s boundaries.

The five candidates running for two board of director seats are Stephen “Cone” Connolly, Rodney Johnson, Roland J. Kjesbo, Brian Rodine and Bill J. Suarez.

Four of the candidates answered questions for the Vail Daily. Rodine was not available for answers.

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Stephen “Cone” Connolly 

Occupation: Ski rental shop management, event marketing and management services, AirBnB superhost.

What made you decide to run for the VRD board? My sense that a good district could become a great district simply by listening to the public and working to forge decisions based on a consensus of the people living in Vail. 

In your opinion, what has the Vail Recreation District done best? I have always been impressed with the diverse program offerings from the VRD. The expansion over time of the community programs and Imagination Station has been most impressive.

 Conversely, where can the district improve? The district needs better outreach to the community. User groups and the citizens of Vail should be much more involved in all major decisions from start to finish.

What is the most pressing need for the district during the coming five years? The first will be to get the clubhouse operations running smoothly. According to public information requests to both the district and the town, the operations plan remains what was set forth in late 2012 and revised in early 2013. Has anything changed in the past three years? It would be wise to start working on public input now. The golf experience needs to come first. We cannot let local amenities get relegated to numbers in a budget only.

The district’s financial picture will always remain at the top of the list of where attention needs to be focused. Dobson Ice Arena will need to be addressed sooner rather than later.

Do you have any additional comments? My guiding principles are transparency in government and a participatory decision-making process. I prefer building consensus and mediation over litigation. I believe that these principles will help the district.

Tasked with setting policies and guiding staff, my background will be of great benefit to the district in many ways.

Personal experience tells me that there are at least two rather important policies that need to be clarified by the district. My management philosophy is guided by input from both the guests and front line staff.

 As a consultant to the district a few years ago, I worked with Mike Ortiz on a variety of marketing ideas. I would like to revisit those ideas and see if any can help the district financially. My involvement with the district goes back to 1990. 

Questions remain regarding the new clubhouse. My 35-plus years of special event experience will be helpful in formulating an up-to-date marketing and operations plan. I am committed to serving the golfers and citizens of the district first and foremost. We must not lose sight of the reasons we live in Vail.

Rodney Johnson

Occupation: General manager at Los Amigos.

What made you decide to run for the VRD Board? I have lived here for almost 35 years and thought it was time to help build the current and future of the community and visitors to the Vail Valley.

I remember the feeling of making a difference and contributing back when I was the president of the Vail Valley chapter of the restaurant association and the president of the Vail men’s club golf.

In your opinion, what has the Vail Recreation District done best? Conversely, where can the district improve? I like the fact that the district has added other programs outside of the original charter that have added more flexibility, education and opportunity for the community and visitors to enjoy our environment and beautiful surroundings. Like all endeavors in life, communication is key to opening all doors and can never truly be mastered — being good listeners so that you can make sound decisions.

What is the most pressing need for the district during the coming five years? Finding a way to maintain a balanced budget while still being able to provide the high standard of quality in experience, equipment and knowledge of the needs and trends of the valley. This will enable the district to continue to welcome the community and visitors alike to experience what we have to offer at sustained and affordable rates. We need to find ways to build reserves so that we can continue and catch up on capital projects.

Do you have any additional comments? I hope that you will vote for me since my time and leadership in the valley shows that I care.

Bill Suarez

Occupation: Sales rep.

What made you decide to run for the VRD Board? I ran for the VRD board because after living in Vail for 40 years, I wanted to give back to the community that had given so much to me; and with my passion for the outdoors and sports, I felt the VRD was the best place for me to get involved.

In your opinion, what has the Vail Recreation District done best? Conversely, where can the district improve? The VRD has so many programs and done so much for so many different groups of our citizen, it is hard to single out one. Probably the one thing I would like to see the VRD improve on would be communicating more effectively and clearly how extensive our programming is and how much in taxes our programs generate and how many heads in beds our programs create.

What is the most pressing need for the district during the coming five years? The most pressing issue facing the VRD is our lack of funding to keep up with the capital projects that need to be attended to, now and five years from now.

Roland “Rollie” Kjesbo

Occupation: General contractor.

What made you decide to run for the VRD Board? I have served on the town of Vail Design Review Board for the past seven years. Prior to that, I was on the town’s Planning and Environmental Commission for eight years. I was looking for another way that I could help the town of Vail and I decided to run for a position on the VRD board. Because I am a business owner in the community and I understand how the town of Vail operates, I think I can be an asset to the district.

What has the VRD done best? This past year, VRD finished 2015 over $300,000 favorable to the forecasted budget. The exceptional recreational programing for Vail locals, second-home owners and visitors was managed by an enthusiastic, well trained staff.

Where does the VRD need to improve? VRD receives its revenue from programming and property tax assessments, not sales tax. VRD needs increased, stringent financial planning to help deal with lower property tax assessments.

What is the most pressing need for the district during the coming five years? The most obvious concern is the reported $1.8 million shortfall for capital projects throughout the next few years. VRD needs to continually upgrade and maintain facilities and equipment through capital improvements.

Do you have any additional comments? Through the years, my sons, Tyler and Jens, and I have enjoyed many of the wonderful programs VRD has offered. I want to assure high quality and consistency with these products in the future.

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