Vail Town Council candidate profile: Jen Mason says town needs creative solutions
- Barry Davis
- Kevin Foley (incumbent)
- Kim Langmaid (incumbent)
- Jen Mason (incumbent)
- Karen Perez
- Pete Seibert
- Brian Stockmar
About a week before the deadline to submit a nominating petition, Jen Mason still wasn’t sure she wanted to seek a second term on the Vail Town Council. Now, she’s ready for the run.
Mason said her opinion solidified after talking with several former council members. But, she added, serving on the council is hard work.
“The answers (to issues) seem so clear when you’re in the audience,” Mason said. “But when you’re sitting (at the council table), you have to listen to both sides… And at the end of the day, you have to say ‘yes’ or no.’”
Those decisions, especially the really hard ones, sometimes wake Mason in the middle of the night.
No matter the ultimate fate of the contentious Booth Heights workforce housing proposal, there are going to be hard feelings on the side that doesn’t prevail.
Mason hopes those hard feelings don’t linger, and that people can be “neighborly” to each other.
“As much as you might not see their point of view, I hope people can see people for what they are,” she said.
No matter the fate of Booth Heights, Mason said she’s proud of some of the workforce housing initiatives the council has approved.
The Chamonix townhome neighborhood in West Vail has been a big success, Mason said. Mason lives near the neighborhood, and said she knows “probably a dozen” people who live there.
Mason also thinks the Vail InDeed program, which aims to keep locals in Vail by purchasing deed restrictions on units for sale, has been an innovative way to rebuild the town’s core of full-time residents.
Pulling existing homes out of the second-home market is essential, she said. “We’re not going to build our way out of” the town’s age-old housing problem, she said.
Mason said the town also needs to find a way to keep more rental units out of the short-term rental pool. She believes that many owners will eventually tire of putting their units into the online short-term rental pool. But she’s still like to find a way to incentivize owners to keep their units available for long-term rentals.
“We have to think outside the box,” she said.
Mason also thinks Vail needs to look outside the town limits in looking to build its workforce housing inventory.
While the Vail community stretches from Vail Pass to Dotsero, Mason said the valley to Edwards and including Minturn is the heart of that community.
“I spend a lot of time at (Freedom Park in Edwards),” she said, due to the number of friends she has in that neighborhood.
But building the town’s workforce, whether inside or outside the town limits, will require bolstering the valley’s transportation system, she said. Mason said she wants to see the impacts of a full ski season with the Red Sandstone parking structure, as well as the 2021 completion of Vail Health’s 400-space parking structure before thinking about adding more parking to the town’s inventory.
Mason said she’d ultimately like to see commuter rail service between Gypsum and Dowd Junction, with bus service to take people the rest of the way into Vail.
In the meantime, though, Mason said it’s essential that the town work in closer partnership with Eagle County’s ECO Transit system.
That’s one way the town can pay better attention to its workforce.
As the director of the Colorado Snowsports Museum, Mason has a keen appreciation for the history of the ski industry and, of course, Vail.
She’s a supporter of an initiative to be launched this fall to help town and ski area employees provide better service, in part through knowledge of the town.
We need to give (employees) the tools to be successful at their jobs,” she said. “They need to know where the coffee shops are, where the restrooms are… and being proud of where you live also helps.”
Vail Daily Business Editor Scott Miller can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 970-748-2930.