Vail Town Council candidate Rodney Johnson believes in listening before acting
Rodney Johnson is one of 10 candidates — including three incumbents — running for Vail Town Council. The polling-place election is Nov. 7. The other candidates are:
• Travis Coggin
• Brian Rodine
Editor’s note: There are 10 candidates this year for four seats on the Vail Town Council. For the next two days, the Vail Daily is publishing a profile of each candidate. Profiles are being published in no particular order, and previously published profiles can be found at http://www.vail daily.com.
VAIL — It wasn’t long ago that Rodney Johnson was involved in running six restaurants in town. Now that he’s down to one — as general manager of Los Amigos — Johnson has some time to devote to his longtime home.
Johnson moved to Vail in 1981. He came for a weekend to visit his brother and was quickly offered a job as a restaurant and bar supervisor at the Marriott. His brother soon moved on, but Johnson stayed.
Over the past 36 years, Johnson has worked at many of the town’s restaurants and bars. He’s also run for a seat on the Vail Recreation District Board, has served as president of the local restaurant association and held a board post on the state restaurant association.
This year’s run for a seat on the Vail Town Council is the result of both a lot of thought on Johnson’s part, as well as encouragement from friends.
“They like the way I run restaurants,” Johnson said, adding that he needs to get out and work with a broader circle of people.
One of the things Johnson prides himself on as a manager is his ability to listen.
“I can sit in a group and not say anything until the end,” he said. “It’s good to listen, then weigh in.”
Adapting to change
As a longtime manager, Johnson said he’s been influenced by “Who Moved My Cheese?,” a 1998 book by Dr. Spencer Johnson. That book details ways for managers and others to adapt to change.
Change is a near-constant in the restaurant business — and in Vail. Johnson said the town’s leaders need to be flexible in dealing with change, and said that might explain why the town’s focus on housing has shifted over the years.
“I don’t think the focus (on housing) ever truly went away,” Johnson said. “Maybe it got pushed aside for more important things.”
Now, with the town government’s current focus on housing, Johnson said leaders need to also look at the scope of any new projects and the speed with which they come.
But housing is crucial to the sustainability of the town’s workforce, he added.
“That’s more of a housing than an employee issue,” he said. “It’s tough to get employees when they can’t find housing.”
The town still has a long-term goal of housing 30 percent of its workforce in Vail. That goal is still a long way off, but even if it’s ever met, that means more than two-thirds of the town’s workforce will live west of Dowd Junction.
That means the town and county also have to work on better ways to get people into and out of town.
“We need to work hard to make things as easy as possible (for employees),” Johnson said. “We’ve got the transportation to get around (in Vail), but a girl who works for me lives in Eagle-Vail. It can be an hour for the next bus to come.”
Even the town’s existing system could use some work, Johnson said, primarily in scheduling and putting enough buses on well-used routes.
Looking at safety
The town’s current parking system, which includes free parking on North Frontage Road at West Vail and overflow parking on South Frontage Road during peak times, needs work, too, Johnson said.
“We have a real big issue — safety is (deteriorating) with all the frontage road parking,” Johnson said. “Sometimes people aren’t paying enough attention.”
Safety in the resort villages can also be a problem at times, with cyclists, pedestrians, skateboarders and Segway riders all vying for space, Johnson said.
That’s going to take a lot of listening.
Johnson calls Vail’s environment “our beautiful back yard” and praised the town’s efforts to restore Gore Creek’s water quality. The town’s recycling program is a lot of work, Johnson said, but with proper education can work even better.
Ultimately, he said, “We’ve got to focus on keeping things alive and vibrant for people coming in.”
To do that, Johnson believes Vail’s residents need to work together.
“People need to be more open,” Johnson said, adding that some residents complaining about town decisions at the bar don’t go to meetings to express themselves.
“People need to let go of NIMBY (Not in My Back Yard),” Johnson said. “I’d rather be CIMBY — Comfortable in My Back Yard.”
That’s why Johnson wants to help the town from the Town Council.
“I was raised to look out for and help people,” he said. “You always have something to give.”
Vail Daily Business Editor Scott Miller can be reached at 970-748-2930, firstname.lastname@example.org and @scottnmiller.