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Water-board race a crowded contest

Nicole Frey
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EAGLE COUNTY – In 2004, four candidates ran for three seats on the Eagle River Water and Sanitation District’s board of directors. This time around, 11 candidates have thrown their names in the hat for five open directorships.

“It was a combination of interest generated in the community through Waterwise Wednesdays, the media and just the fact that there are so many positions up,” said the district’s Leslie Isom. The election to choose the new directors will be held Tuesday. The district provides water from East Vail to Dowd Junction and also Red Sky Ranch in Wolcott. It treats wastewater for the entire district, which spans from East Vail to Wolcott. Minturn supplies its own water and the Upper Eagle Regional Water Authority, a separate agency, provides water to Avon, Arrowhead, Beaver Creek, Berry Creek, Eagle-Vail, Edwards, Bachelor Gulch and Cordillera. For more information about the upcoming election, contact Isom at 476-7480.

Darell WegertMinturn, water and the water and sanitation district – the three have had a tumultuous history. But 30 years of raising a family in Minturn and participating in the town’s government has prepared Darell Wegert, 55, to face the challenges that will come his way. “Over these years, I’ve learned a lot about water,” Wegert said. “I’ve worked with various levels of government. I’ve got history and knowledge. In 30 years, you kind of get to know the gist of the area here.”Leaving the Minturn Town Council, where he has presided as mayor in past years, Wegert is offering himself up to the Eagle River Water and Sanitation District’s board of directors. Minturn’s past water battles have led him to value cooperation, Wegert said. “We need to work together as a community for water, to have a unified front,” he said. “Right now, we’re just fighting amongst ourselves – not at the paper level, but there’s a lot of kicking under the table.”Unity will help his other concerns – securing more storage areas for water and putting water aside for recreation, Wegert saidIn addition to town council, Wegert, who works at Ace Hardware in Vail, has also been on the Vail Valley Chamber and Tourism Bureau board of directors, the county’s open space committee, acted as an assistant track coach and volunteered for other philanthropic groups. “I’ve always enjoyed being involved in the community,” Wegert said.



Ian AndersonWhile working as a raft guide and kayak instructor, Ian Anderson fell in love with the river, he said. Today, working as the marketing and communications director for the Vail Valley Chamber and Tourism Bureau, his passion for the water has been backed up by cold, hard information gathered during his work on the Vail Whitewater Park. Now, Anderson said he wants to combine his love and knowledge for the river as a director of the Eagle River Water and Sanitation District.”Recreational water issues have been a hot topic for me,” said Anderson, 32. “I’m looking forward to starting a family here in Eagle County, and water is our most important natural resource.”While Anderson wants to plan for future growth, he also wants to ensure water for recreational uses, like kayaking – all while keeping water quality high. It’s a tall order, and Anderson said he doesn’t know if it’s possible, but he’s anxious to try. “The water board has typically included elected officials and developers. I’d bring a fresh, new perspective to the group,” he said. “I think I represent an important part of our community – the middle class that is looking forward to living in this community for the long-term.”

Ed O’BrienEd O’Brien is one of those guys who just can’t quit. At 66, he’s retired for the fourth time from a career in finance and real estate, though he still has investments and is building condos in Crested Butte.He’s been on the board of just about every metro district this valley has ever seen and has been the chairman of the Vail Valley Medical Center’s board of directors for eight years running. “So I’ve got board experience,” he said.And O’Brien is looking to get a little more board experience as a director of the Eagle River Water and Sanitation District. After hiring a chief executive officer for the hospital last year, O’Brien said his calendar has opened up, giving him more time to devote to the district. “I am of the view that this is one of the more critical aspects of our end of the county,” O’Brien said. “Being familiar with the area since 1971, maybe some of the experience I have might be useful.”If elected, O’Brien said he wants to maintain the high quality of the managers and staff at the district.While O’Brien doesn’t want to change anything the board is currently doing, he said, the board needs to plan for future growth, which may mean building a reservoir in Wolcott. “I think they’ve done a great job, and I want to be part of that,” he said.



Bill SimmonsServing on the Upper Eagle Regional Water Authority for several years has given Bill Simmons, 55, a new appreciation for water. While it’s not an easy subject, Simmons is after a new position – director of the Eagle River Water and Sanitation District. “I’ve learned that water is certainly very complicated,” Simmons said. “Water and wet are two different things. But I’m aware of the issues coming up. There is a learning curve and I’m a little higher up on that curve.”Already being wise about water, Simmons said, the board should focus on water quality, conservation and storage, including studying the Wolcott reservoir proposal and expanding the Eagle Park reservoir, where the board currently stores water. “It’ll require the participation of a large group, but it’s doable,” said Simmons, who is director of Beaver Creek village operations. Simmons, also a member of the Edwards Metropolitan District, said gaining a directorship would be an “extension of my commitment to community service.””I just thought I’d be able to pitch in,” he said.

Rick PylmanHalf the battle is knowing which questions to ask, and Rick Pylman said he knows enough about water to know what to ask. But this isn’t by any means his only qualification as he vies for a seat on the Eagle River Water and Sanitation District’s Board of Directors, Pylman said. “Between working as a town planner and a planning consultant, I have been to an awful lot of planning and homeowner-association board meetings, and I’ve seen effective boards and not very effective boards,” he said. “I know how to contribute to the operation of an effective board.”With so many people leaving the board, Pylman, 46, said it’s important to “get some qualified people up there.””I know a little bit about the issues at hand, and I want to serve the community,” he said.Pylman, who was on the We Recycle and Vail Junior Hockey Association boards, said the board needs to make sure the valley has enough water for existing residents and that water is protected from outside interests. “I have no special interest or ax to grind,” Pylman said. “I’ve been in the valley for 25 years. People know me and hopefully will support me.”

Staff Writer Nicole Frey can be reached at 949-0555, ext. 14621, or nfrey@vaildaily.com. Vail, Colorado


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