Vail voters picking new council
Vail, CO Colorado
VAIL, Colorado –Vail’s short, but packed, campaign season comes to an end tomorrow when voters will select candidates to fill four open Town Council seats.
The nine candidates officially announced their campaigns in early October, leaving them with one month to get their names out and take stances on various town issues.
The candidates squared off in three forums, answering questions from the Vail Chamber and Business Association, the Vail Homeowners Association, the Vail Daily, the Vail Board of Realtors and members of the community. Topics covered everything from the economy to affordable housing to parking to the town’s relationship with Vail Resorts.
A major polarizing issue never came up, but candidates did share their views and sometimes agreed to disagree.
Mike Charles moved to Vail 33 years ago from Minnesota and has found a lot of success in the valley. He started out working construction and other odd jobs before opening a pool and spa business in 1981. He’s grown the business to the largest of its kind in the state, which is why he thinks the town could use his skills.
Charles scrutinizes every dollar that comes in and out of his business, and wants to provide that same attention to detail to the town during an uncertain economy.
He thinks Vail’s biggest issue right now is maintaining its positive and inviting resort experience – all services should focus on making Vail the No. 1 mountain resort, he said.
He’s ready to be a councilman because he said he has “a commitment to make things better and keep them better for all in the community.”
Kerry Donovan grew up in Vail and listened to town politics over dinner at home with her parents, both of whom served on Town Council and various town boards.
Donovan is on the Commission for Special Events and said she feels a responsibility to serve the town she loves so much. She said serving the town is practically a family value.
Donovan wants Vail’s Billion Dollar Renewal to wrap up so the town can refocus its efforts toward guests and the overall community.
She wants Vail to maintain its “postcard image,” meaning if more budget cuts have to be made, she wants to keep the things that make the town world class.
Donovan said she would bring a new set of eyes to the council, and that her service to the town would never be about herself, but always about Vail.
Kevin Foley, originally from Worcester, Mass., has logged 10 years as a Vail Town Council member and he’s not ready to stop now. Foley is a community man – he rides town and county buses and works as the resident manager at the Lifthouse Condominiums in Lionshead.
There are projects that aren’t finished yet, like Timber Ridge and large development projects like Solaris, the Ritz-Carlton and the Four Seasons, and Foley wants to see results.
Foley wants the community, and specifically the Town Council, to remember what brought them here – the beauty and the world-class ski mountain. He wants to make sure the town keeps an eye on its spending and continues to show guests they made the right choice in visiting Vail.
Foley said he should be re-elected because his “constituents know I will show up, listen and make a decision for the good of the community, not for my own personal agenda or for special interests.”
The incumbent who grew up in Louisville, Ky. is running for re-election for many reasons, but his experience is what he said should make him a front-runner. The next Town Council isn’t going to have time for a learning curve, he said.
Gordon is a big advocate of community – he wants Vail to continue to grow into a vibrant community and suggests things like a community garden at Stephens Park as ways to bring the community together.
He wants the town to budget conservatively and remain “nimble and flexible” to any new economic situations that could arise. He said the town shouldn’t, however, spend money just because it has money, referring to the town’s $22 million in reserves.
Gordon calls himself the right candidate because he “not only knows the rules that the council works by, but I pride myself on my ability to build consensus and get things done immediately.”
Ludwig Kurz, originally from Austria, has lived in Vail since 1966 and has served on the Town Council as both a councilman and mayor from the mid-1990s to early 2000s.
Kurz is ready to see a more balanced council and said he can bring a productive, mature dynamic to the group. He also thinks the new council needs experience, something he said he brings to the table.
Kurz focuses on the economy as the town’s most pressing issue, and wants to make sure the town can seamlessly shift to a more tourism-based economy. Kurz has complimented the current council for its reaction to the economy, but thinks there’s too much contentiousness among its members.
Kurz hasn’t given up on serving the town because he said he can still bring “a pragmatic approach to problem solving, based on my knowledge and understanding of the business we are in and my past experience on Town Council.”
Vail native Buddy Lazier grew up in his family’s Tivoli Lodge, making him especially attuned to guests’ needs and desires, he said.
The 1996 Indianapolis 500 winner has traveled the world for his career in the motor sports industry, but never moved his home away from Vail, he said.
He wants to see Vail’s Billion Dollar Renewal come to an end so guests no longer have to look at construction cranes all over town. He also thinks the town could improve its sense of community, because he thinks guests want to visit a town, not Disney Land.
Vail’s economy is the most urgent issue facing the new council, Lazier said. He wants the town to remain competitive among other mountain resorts.
Lazier is ready to serve the town because he said he understands what it needs right now.
“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,” Lazier said.
The Georgia native moved to Vail in 1992 and has lived in employee or affordable housing ever since – a big reason the topic is so important to her.
She’s a single mother with two children at Red Sandstone Elementary School. She’s been a big advocate of trying to find uses for the $9 million conference center fund, which she said is “just sitting there,” and for prioritizing capital projects in town down from the current wish list.
She said the primary purpose of a municipal government is to provide infrastructure and basic essential services.
Newbury said she’s the right candidate because she has “shown a willingness and ability to lead with common sense and purpose. I am prepared and enthusiastic to continue my service to the town.”
Scott Proper wants to bring his Ivy League education and finance experience to Vail town government. He’s focused on the economy and the uncertainties of it, and wants to help lead the town in the right direction financially.
Proper has served on the town’s Planning and Environmental Commission, the Vail Recreation District board and the Vail Rotary Club. He ran unsuccessfully for the Vail Town Council in 2007, and is now hoping to come out on top.
He said he can bring a critical eye to town financial issues that none of the other candidates can. He said his experience serving the community and his financial background should put make him a leading contender in this election.
Susie Tjossem has called Vail home since she was 20 years old. She worked hard to be able to stay in town, and has now raised two children here, the youngest of whom is heading to college next year.
Tjossem ran for council in 2007 and didn’t let her loss deter her from seeking out the job. Since then she’s served on the Planning and Environmental Commission and learned the inner workings of the town, she said. She’s the executive director of the Vail Ski and Snowboard Museum and Hall of Fame, a job she said gives her intimate knowledge of Vail history and heritage.
Tjossem said the town needs to figure out what to do with the conference center fund, and it also needs to maintain fiscal responsibility through uncertain economic times.
She said she is ready to serve on Town Council because her corporate experience in the ski industry has given her the experience to manage multi-million dollar budgets and mountain resort tourism.
Lauren Glendenning can be reached at 970-748-2983 or firstname.lastname@example.org