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Success through clear leadership

Vail-Summit Orthopaedics & Neurosurgery CEO John Polikandriotis is scheduled to speak at a national online conference for the American College of Healthcare Executives alongside major figures in the health care space, including Dr. Anthony S. Fauci.

The healthcare industry has one of the highest burnout rates in the nation, but CEO John Polikandriotis has bucked that trend at Vail-Summit Orthopaedics & Neurosurgery (VSON) through clear, authentic leadership. Now, he’s teaching others how to lead with “deliberate clarity.”

In March, he speaks at a virtual national conference for the American College of Healthcare Executives about how to achieve success when old methods don’t work anymore. He will be speaking alongside major figures in the health care space, including Dr. Anthony S. Fauci.

Polikandriotis understands the classic grind: “overwork, attain, intermission and repeat,” which ultimately leads to exhaustion and burnout.

Rather than chasing never-ending goals imposed by others, he advocates taking time to define what truly brings you joy. He also points out that anything worth pursuing requires sacrifices: Most people see the “shiny ball” of wealth, fame or other success leaders possess without knowing about the relationships, time, energy or money they put in to achieve their status, he said.

“Leading can be all-consuming and highly stressful, especially when you do it for a company and employees that you care so much about,” he said. “Great leaders have to sacrifice personal agenda for the good of others and their organization.”

Although leadership has a cost, it’s also quite rewarding. 

“It teaches you priority management, relationship management and communication skills,” he said. “And at the end of the day, nothing is more rewarding to me than to see dedicated employees overcoming challenges, growing, learning and doing amazing fulfilling work.”

In his four years at VSON, Polikandriotis has focused on four core values: compassionate care, innovation, teamwork and community.

“John has trust in his staff, trust in the process,” said Megan Buhler, director of operations. “John has strength in leadership and brought a new presence to the CEO office when he joined the organization.”

His strength started with a clear vision of where VSON needed to go, and how to get there. He ensured all employees understood what the company stands for, where it’s going and why.

“John has brought a business perspective to VSON that incorporates intimate knowledge of the local healthcare environment with a national perspective into the business of healthcare,” said Dr. Erik Dorf, a shoulder, hand, elbow, wrist, knee and orthopaedic trauma surgeon. “Through his guidance, VSON has been able to maintain our market share and develop a growth strategy focused on aligning world-class orthopaedic surgeons throughout Colorado. John is a visionary in his field. We are blessed to have him on our team.”

Vail-Summit Orthopaedics & Neurosurgery CEO John Polikandriotis.

Polikandriotis understands that success isn’t linear: Solving one problem just leads to other questions and problems.

“Success is an action, not a destination,” he said. “Today’s solutions will always lay the foundation for tomorrow’s problems.”

The choice: Either stop solving problems or realize that a meaningful life involves solving problems. Afterall, careers in healthcare — and plenty of other areas — revolve around solving challenges.

“Don’t hope for a life without problems,” he said. “Hope for a life full of problems you are passionate about solving.”

And, as a leader, realize that trying to fix every problem will probably lead to burnout. Polikandriotis takes two approaches: delegating and knowing what he can and cannot control.

“John trusts you to do your job,” Buhler said. “He doesn’t feel he has to be involved every step of the way. That’s why we’ve gotten so much done in the last four years. He trusts that I can do my job and he’ll do his job and things will just get done.”

When things like, say, a global pandemic come his way, he focuses on things he can control.

“I think it is an easy tendency to become paralyzed focusing on things that you can’t control or change,” he said. “Great leadership is about training yourself to separate what you cannot control from what you can control, and then focusing exclusively on the latter. Mindful leaders control how much they learn, how much they listen, how hard they work, and which inspiring people to surround themselves with. This choice to focus on things we can control can increase our endurance to be able to withstand and adapt to anything this constantly everchanging world throws at us.”

Such leadership skills require not only cognitive intelligence, but also emotional intelligence — the ability to be an authentic human being, connect with others, manage stress, show humility and empathy and be honest.

“High IQ makes sense, but we’re starting to live in a world where emotional intelligence trumps IQ,” he said. “If you want to win over hearts and minds, you have to lead with your authentic heart and mind. Leaders don’t tell people what to do; they have open conversations about what their team wants.”

In other words, they provide directions and intent — not orders. They provide an overall vision and goals with clear expectations.

“I’ve only been at VSON for a year, but I already feel like a stronger marketer thanks to John’s leadership,” said Rachel Follender, director of marketing and communications. “When I present a new opportunity to him, he doesn’t tell me ‘yes’ or ‘no.’ He always asks ‘what do you think?’ and encourages me to make a decision based on my expertise in marketing, as well as knowledge of our industry and organizational needs. When you work for John, he doesn’t just give you a list of things you have to do. He pushes you to develop that list yourself, and own the intention behind it. John doesn’t strive to be a boss — he strives to be a mentor and business partner.”

Most of all, great leaders care for, and support, their team members.

“Empower and educate others to work at their highest level,” Polikandriotis said. “The upper limit of what’s possible will increase only with each collaborator you empower.”

“Let’s be honest: orthopaedic surgeons are independent minded physicians,” Dorf said. “John has been able to align the varying perspectives of the VSON partners toward common goals and a long-term vision. Without his guidance, we would not be where we are now.”

As each empowered person passes on his or her enthusiasm and expertise to other colleagues, it creates a domino effect of vitality and success that ultimately serves the organization’s clients — in this case, VSON’s patients.

A complete list of COVID-19 outbreaks in Eagle County

Feb. 10 update: Eagle County has reported 38 outbreaks since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. The Vail Daily has reported on some of these outbreaks with individual stories, but to provide a more complete picture of Eagle County’s coronavirus trajectory, we’re collecting the full list here, with details on each outbreak.

We’ll continue to update this list weekly as the state reports new active outbreaks and closes the reporting on others. To see the current status of each outbreak, visit the state’s outbreak data webpage.

Just because an outbreak is listed as active on the state’s webpage doesn’t mean it’s ongoing, since the state only updates the database once a week.

Eagle County uses the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment’s definition of an outbreak, which is two or more confirmed cases of COVID-19 among a nonhousehold group with onset of symptoms in 14 days. 

That definition excludes things like the school district moving targeted students and staff to remote learning after a positive COVID-19 test as a precaution. Those measures have, in fact, prevented outbreaks and virus transmission.

Anyone who thinks they’ve been exposed to the virus can be tested at one of seven testing sites in the Eagle River Valley as well as testing sites in the Roaring Fork Valley for those living in Basalt and El Jebel. To find the nearest site to you and a list of providers, click here. For more information on coronavirus in Eagle County, go to ecemergency.org.

December

Castle Peak Senior Life and Rehabilitation Center: 19 cases

The ongoing coronavirus outbreak at Castle Peak Senior Life and Rehabilitation in Eagle has grown from five infected residents to 14 infected residents with five staff members also testing positive, though there have been no new infections since Dec. 8. The outbreak was first reported by the state on Dec. 2.

November

Gypsum Creek Middle School: 4 cases

Four students at the middle school tested positive through lab results and a fourth is probable though lab results have not been confirmed. The outbreak was first reported on Nov. 25.

All Points North Lodge: 22 cases

Fourteen residents at the Cordillera behavioral health treatment facility tested positive through lab results while eight staff members tested positive and another is probable though lab results have not been confirmed. The outbreak was first reported on Nov. 25.

Manor Vail Lodge: 2 cases

Two employees at the lodge tested positive through lab results. The outbreak was first reported on Nov. 23. It was considered resolved by Dec. 20.

McDonald’s Vail: 2 cases

Two employees at the restaurant tested positive through lab results. The outbreak was first reported on Nov. 17. It was considered resolved by Dec. 15.

Lozano’s Welding: 6 cases

Six employees at the construction company/contractor tested positive through lab results. The outbreak was first reported on Nov. 20. It was considered resolved by Dec. 17.

Schofield Excavation: 3 cases

Three employees at the construction company/contractor tested positive through lab results. The outbreak was first reported on Nov. 16. It was considered resolved by Nov. 24.

Vail Mountain lift operations: 4 cases

Four Vail Resorts employees working lift ops tested positive through lab results. The outbreak was first reported on Nov. 15.

Beaver Creek Ski Rentals: 3 cases

Three employees at the Beaver Creek businesses tested positive through lab results. The outbreak was first reported on Nov. 15.

Zehren and Associates: 2 cases

Two employees at the architecture firm in Avon tested positive through lab results. The outbreak was first reported on Nov. 11. It was considered closed by Dec. 8.

Town of Eagle Public Works: 4 cases

Four employees for the town’s public works department tested positive through lab results. The outbreak was first reported on Nov. 11. It was considered resolved by Dec. 17.

Lululemon Vail: 2 cases

Two employees at the Vail retailer tested positive through lab results. The outbreak was first reported on Nov. 10. It was considered closed by Dec. 4.

Shaeffer Hyde Construction: 4 cases

Four employees at the construction company/contractor tested positive through lab results. The outbreak was first reported on Nov. 10. It was considered closed by Dec. 9.

Westin Riverfront Hotel: 2 cases

Two employees at the Avon hotel tested positive through lab results. The outbreak was first reported on Nov. 9. It was considered closed by Dec. 7.

Moe’s Original BBQ: 5 cases

Five employees at the Vail restaurant tested positive through lab results. The outbreak was first reported on Nov. 4. It was considered resolved by Dec. 2.

Starbucks in Avon: 2 cases

The Starbucks on Hurd Lane in Avon was temporarily closed for deep cleaning and reopened with reduced hours after an employee at the store tested positive for COVID-19. Two employees total have tested positive through lab results. The outbreak was first reported Nov. 7. It was considered resolved by Dec. 8.

Walmart: 3 cases

Three store workers tested positive through lab results. The outbreak was first reported on Nov. 3. It was considered closed by Nov. 29.

Vail Ski and Snowboard Academy: 2 cases

Eagle County Schools notified parents of Vail Ski and Snowboard Academy students on the evening of Nov. 2 that the school would transition to remote learning for 14 days due to COVID-19. Public health officials have identified that this is the first and only case of COVID-19 transmission occurring at a school and between a teacher and student. The teacher was asymptomatic and was not confirmed positive until after a student tested positive, the district reported. It was considered closed by Nov. 29.

Vendetta’s Vail: 3 cases

Three employees at the Vail Village pizzeria tested positive through lab results. The outbreak was first reported on Nov. 1. It was considered closed by Dec. 12.

October

Burger King: 2 cases

Two employees tested positive through lab results, although it’s unclear at which location the outbreak was reported. The outbreak was first reported on Oct. 28. It was considered closed by Dec. 1.

Northside Kitchen: 3 cases

Three employees at the Avon restaurant tested positive through lab results. The outbreak was first reported on Oct. 6. It was considered closed by Nov. 2.

The Assembly in Eagle: 2 cases

Two employees at the restaurant in Eagle Ranch tested positive through lab results. The outbreak was first reported on Oct. 5. The outbreak was considered closed on Oct. 30.

September

Vail Health: 8 cases

Eight employees at the hospital in the housekeeping department tested positive through lab results. The outbreak was first reported on Sept. 26. During the course of its investigation, the hospital, in a statement, said the employees did not have any close contact with patients and that the first positive case was after an employee returned from personal travel.

Marriott’s StreamSide Evergreen at Vail: 3 cases

Three hotel employees tested positive through lab results. The outbreak was first reported on Sept. 20. The outbreak was considered closed on Oct. 26.

August

GF Woods Construction: 2 cases

An outbreak at a construction site led to two workers testing positive through lab results. The outbreak was originally reported on Aug. 24. It was considered closed by Sept. 19.

Elam Construction: 3 cases

An outbreak at a construction site led to two workers testing positive through lab results and another worker considered probable due to self-reporting. The outbreak was originally reported on Aug. 20. It was considered closed by Sept. 28.

Battle Mountain High School: 2 cases

Battle Mountain High School reported that two support (non-teaching) staff members contracted the virus before the school year started.

The outbreak was originally reported on Aug. 19. The outbreak was considered closed by Sept. 11.

The Home Depot: 4 cases

Four employees at the home improvement store in Avon tested positive through lab results. The outbreak was first reported on Aug. 19.

The outbreak was considered closed on Aug. 31.

Qdoba: 4 cases

Four employees at the West Vail restaurant tested positive through lab results. The outbreak was first reported on Aug. 4.

The outbreak was considered closed on Aug. 21.

July

Mountain Organic Landscaping: 5 cases

Five employees tested positive through lab results. The outbreak was first reported on July 30.

The outbreak was considered closed by Aug. 25.

High Country Kombucha/Rocky Mountain Cultures: 10 cases

Nine staffers at the beverage production and distribution facility in Eagle tested positive through lab results while one more was considered probable due to self-reporting. The outbreak was first reported on July 24.

The outbreak was considered closed Aug. 27.

Meridian Fire and Security LLC: 2 cases

Two employees tested positive through lab results. The outbreak was first reported on July 29.

The outbreak was considered closed by Aug. 26.

Ground Control Concrete: 4 cases

Four concrete workers weree considered probable for the virus due to self-reporting.

The outbreak was first reported on July 16. The outbreak was considered closed by Aug. 4

June

Walmart: 11 cases

Eleven store workers testing positive through lab results. The outbreak was first reported on June 24.

The outbreak was considered closed by Aug. 18.

City Market in El Jebel: 12 cases

An outbreak was first reported at the City Market in El Jebel on June 8, with six store workers testing positive following lab testing and another six store workers considered probable due to self-reporting.

The outbreak was considered closed by July 14.

City Market in Eagle: 4 cases

The outbreak was first reported on June 8 with four store workers testing positive for the virus through lab results.

The outbreak was considered closed by July 14.

May

Castle Peak Senior Life: 7 cases

A resident at the senior care facility in Eagle died after contracting the virus, leading to testing of all residents and staff members. In total, four residents and three staff members contracted the virus.

The outbreak was originally reported on May 8.

It was considered closed by June 8.

Holy Cross Energy’s journey toward 100% renewable energy

HCE former CEO Ed Grange. To learn more about Ed’s story, visit HolyCross.com/the-co-op-that-climbed-mountains/
Holy Cross Energy’s Journey to 100%

Learn more about our Journey to 100% at www.holycross.com/100×30.

At Holy Cross Energy (HCE), our legacy remains rooted in the original ranchers and farmers who called our valleys home in the late 1930s. It is because of their commitment to bring electricity to the Eagle and Roaring Fork River Valleys that we are able to provide safe, reliable, affordable, and sustainable energy and services for our members and their communities today. As HCE embarks on its ambitious goal to bring 100% renewable energy to our members and communities by 2030, we honor our remarkable past.

Thank you for being part of our Journey to 100%.

Below, former HCE CEO Ed Grange discusses how bringing electricity to a new ski area called Vail in the 1950s almost didn’t happen:

This article originally appeared in Rural Electric Magazine in November 2020. Written by Frank Gallant.

Ed Grange grew up on an unelectrified ranch high in the Rocky Mountains of western Colorado. He watched his mother pump water by hand and cook on a wood stove. Late in life, he could still hear the “god-awful” noise made by the gasoline-powered washing machine on the front porch.

“In the winter, we had to bring it into the kitchen and run the exhaust pipe outside. The noise filled the house,” he recalled in a March 2019 newspaper interview.

Grange didn’t want that kind of a life for himself, so with his Italian immigrant parents’ blessing, he went to college and then graduate school, expecting to get a job teaching mathematics.

Then the direction of his life changed. Home for the summer in 1950, he took a part-time $1.15-an-hour job with Holy Cross Electric Association that grew into a 60-year career.

Vail, the early years

Holy Cross Electric emerged in 1939 after the federal Rural Electrification Administration (REA) recommended that two groups of farmers and ranchers who wanted to organize a co-op—one from the Eagle River Valley in Vail and the other from the Roaring Fork Valley in Aspen—band together if they hoped to get a loan. A county extension agent suggested the incorporators name the co-op after the Mount of the Holy Cross, a local landmark.

REA approved a loan for $119,000, and Holy Cross Electric started building lines in the two valleys. The first line was energized in September 1941, bringing the comforts of central station power to 175 rural families.

By the time Grange came along, Holy Cross Electric was expanding up side valleys and along the main streets of mountain villages in both directions. The acquisition of two small utilities, Eagle River Electric Company and Mountain Utilities, further enlarged the co-op’s service territory.

Then around 1962, the ski industry—and the co-op—took off like a downhill racer. Aspen, Vail, Snowmass, Buttermilk, and other ski resorts were developed. Holy Cross Electric nearly quadrupled in size between 1962 and 1971, growing from 2,300 consumers to 8,700.

Grange saw the boom coming in the late 1950s when many resorts still used noisy diesel engines to power ski lifts. He noticed that a number of large sheep ranches near what would become Vail had changed hands, from the original local owners to a Denver-based buyer named Transmontane Rod and Gun Club. This didn’t make sense because back then, no one bought land in Gore Valley for hunting and fishing preserves.

He investigated and discovered that Transmontane Rod and Gun Club was a front for an investment group headed by Pete Seibert, a former U.S. Ski Team member, and Earl Eaton, a local mountaineer, who wanted to build a world-class ski resort.

Vail Gondola, 1962

“Seibert and Eaton knew that if they said they were planning to build a ski area, land prices would soar,” Grange told the Post Independent in Glenwood Springs, where the co-op has its headquarters. “So over the next few years, they acquired practically all of the land from the bottom of Vail Pass down to where Vail exists now. Some parcels were hard to get because some ranchers didn’t want to sell, but Seibert and Eaton eventually got everything.”

Busy running a growing utility, Grange and his boss, cigar-chomping George Thurston, Holy Cross Electric’s first general manager, didn’t pay much attention until they started seeing publicity about the new ski area. One day in April or May 1962, Seibert drove down to Glenwood Springs to talk to them.

He said Public Service of Colorado officials had laughed him out of their offices. They said his plan was a pipe dream; Gore Valley was too far from Denver to attract enough skiers to keep him in business.

“So Pete tells us, ‘I don’t have any more money. I spent most of what I had on the gondola. … Could you give me some help? Could you take it to your board and see if maybe they would be willing to build me a line up there so I could get open? Our targeted opening day is December 15th.”

All seven board members were ranchers. They didn’t know much about skiing, let alone big ski resorts. But they trusted their general manager’s judgment when he said the co-op shouldn’t pass up this opportunity to build membership in Gore Valley. Grange said it was clear to him Thurston would be out looking for work if the project flopped.

Both Thurston and Grange gulped when Siebert said, a few days later, “You’ve got to put everything underground that serves the lodges and the housing.”

Snowmaking in Vail

Holy Cross Electric had only scant experience with underground construction—one subdivision in Aspen. The co-op hired an outside engineer to lay out the distribution system and an outside contractor to build the overhead lines to the lifts.

Fortunately, 1962 was a dry year and not as cold as usual, allowing the work to proceed without delays.

“We just barely made the December 15th opening day deadline,” Grange said.

There was little snow at first and few skiers, but a few weeks later, the mountain got into its January rhythm of adding a few inches almost every day, and Vail was on its way.

“Never in the history of U.S. skiing has a bare mountain leaped in such a short time into the four-star category of ski resorts,” Sports Illustrated said of Siebert and Eaton’s dream in 1964, when Vail was becoming one of the most popular snow-sports destinations in the United States, welcoming thousands of visitors to its slopes every winter.

When Ed Grange went to work for Holy Cross Electric in 1950, seven employees served 700 consumers. Today, 158 employees serve more than 55,000, from major ski areas to farms, ranches, and rural communities.Grange retired in 2011. Colorado Country Life, the statewide co-op magazine, reported he was still skiing in 2019 at age 84, though he no longer made the rounds to the ski areas to read the meters on the lifts, a task he happily completed into the mid-1990s.

This Week Outdoors: Where to go and what to do

Editor’s note: For a list of more sport and outdoor activities as well as other events happening around the valley, visit http://www.vaildaily.com/calendar. Events are subject to change.

Wednesday, Aug. 26

Free Nature Walk with Vail Nature Center: Join a naturalist for a free educational hike with the Vail Nature Center. No reservations are required. Hikes on Mondays and Tuesdays are from 9 to 10 a.m.; hikes on Wednesdays through Fridays are from 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.

***This event happens daily

Saturday, Aug. 29

Camp Hale Half Marathon: The Vail Rec District’s Trail Running Series continues with the Camp Hale Half Marathon. This race begins 8 a.m. and is open to all abilities. Participants must pre-register. For more information, visit www.vailrec.com. Race organizers have adjusted certain protocols for safety.

Garden Tours at Betty Ford Alpine Gardens: Starting at 10:30 a.m., tours of the Betty Ford Alpine Gardens in Vail explore alpine flora, mountain environments, history and more. Spots are limited, and participants are asked to arrive several minutes early. Register online at bettyfordalpinegardens.org.

Tuesday, Sept. 1-2

Davos Dash mountain bike race: The Vail Rec District’s Mountain Bike Series concludes Sept. 1-2 with the Davos Dash. There are categories for all ages and abilities, and racers are spaced out across two days to help keep with social distancing guidelines. For more information on the series, visit www.vailrec.com. Races go from 4 to 8 p.m. on both Tuesday and Wednesday of race days.

Outdoor yoga class at Beaver Creek: This free, 90-minute outdoor yoga class takes place Tuesdays and Wednesdays at Beaver Creek from 9 a.m. to 10:30 a.m. Visit www.beavercreek.com.

Family guided activities with Betty Ford Alpine Gardens in Vail: Children and families can discover the great outdoors with some hands-on learning on Tuesdays and Wednesdays with the Betty Ford Alpine Gardens. Cost is $10 per child and activities are best suited for ages 5-12 and are from 10:30 a.m. to noon. Visit https://bettyfordalpinegardens.org/.

Saturday, Sept. 12

EverGold trail running race at Beaver Creek: The Vail Rec District’s Trail Running Series continues with the EverGold 10K and 5K at Beaver Creek. This race begins 9 a.m. and is open to all abilities. Participants must pre-register. For more information, visit www.vailrec.com. Race organizers have adjusted certain protocols for safety.

Saturday, Sept. 19

Vail Health’s annual Hike, Wine & Dine event goes virtual: On Saturday and Sunday, Sept. 19-20, Vail Health is celebrating the spirit of togetherness by taking its annual Hike, Wine & Dine event virtual, allowing people to participate wherever they are located and share their experiences with the event group through Strava Club as well as Facebook and Instagram. Registration is $50 and all proceeds support the operating expenses of Jack’s Place and Shaw Cancer Center, services of Vail Health. Register online at http://www.shawcancercenter.org.

Sunday, Sept. 20

Vail Health’s annual Hike, Wine & Dine event goes virtual: On Saturday and Sunday, Sept. 19-20, Vail Health is celebrating the spirit of togetherness by taking its annual Hike, Wine & Dine event virtual, allowing people to participate wherever they are located and share their experiences with the event group through Strava Club as well as Facebook and Instagram. Registration is $50 and all proceeds support the operating expenses of Jack’s Place and Shaw Cancer Center, services of Vail Health. Register online at http://www.shawcancercenter.org.

Saturday, Sept. 26

Boneyard Boogie trail running race in Eagle: The Vail Rec District’s Trail Running Series concludes with the Boneyard Boogie in Eagle. This race begins 9 a.m. and is open to all abilities. Participants must pre-register. For more information, visit www.vailrec.com. Race organizers have adjusted certain protocols for safety.