Changing of the guard in Eagle

GenXers sweep elections with familiar message and use of social media

A natural changing of the guard

EAGLE, Colo. – Kraige Kinney denies that the town elections in Eagle this year represented a Baby Boomer vs. Gen X dynamic. Others agree.

But unassailable is the fact that the three new trustees are all in their 40s, certified GenXers, and all of them are new to Eagle in the last decade or so. Those defeated were all Baby Boomers who ha d lived in Eagle for 20 years or more.

Kinney was one of three incumbents on the Eagle Town board who lost. They succeeded, he says, because they ran more or less as a group – just as he had done in a trio of candidates in 2008. “It worked well then,” he says, “and it worked well for these guys this year.”

Eagle downtownBut Kathy Heicher, herself a former town trustee, sees something new in the election: use of social media.

“What was different was their use of social media for campaigning. It is a new generation,” she says. “I don’t think the election was Gen X versus Baby Boomers. I didn’t hear that in a campaign. What was different was the method of campaigning. They were more effective reaching their voters because of the social media.”

She also sees this as a more or less natural changing-of-the-guard.

“I was in my 30s and early 40s when I served on the town board, as were most of my cohorts. We replaced people who were my parents’ age. People in their 30s and 40s are less jaded. They have energy and enthusiasm … and their own vision for the town, which doesn’t necessarily coincide with the vision that our generation shares.”

Kinney also does not see a major shift in priorities. “They may emphasize mountain biking a little more, but it’s not like it wasn’t emphasized in the last four to six years,” he says.

Eagle is located halfway between Vail and Glenwood Springs. It has had the courthouse for Eagle County since 1921. In climate, it’s more high desert, but with white-capped peaks not far away. It grew slowly in the 1970s and 1980s as a bedroom community for the Vail-dominated resort economy of the valley.

Seminal were the major housing projects approved in the 1990s, the largest of them Eagle Ranch. The population grew from 3,500 to 6,500 in the first decade of the new millennium. Strictly by the numbers, that’s larger than Vail—although, the sales tax base is almost miniscule in comparison.

Yuri Kostick, the mayor, was one of these newcomers and fits the profile of the new majority on the town board. He’s a landscape architect, in his 40s, and lives in Eagle Ranch. And he is enthusiastic about what Eagle inherently offers as a destination.

He describes the newcomers as “very pro-business, very forward thinking,” with an attitude of “roll-up-our-sleeves and improve the quality of life but also the economics.”

Yuri Kostick, a landscape designer, is a relative newcomer and is eager about what his town offers as a destination and not just as a bedroom community for Vail and Beaver Creek.  Photo/Karl Nielsen

Yuri Kostick, a landscape designer, is a relative newcomer and is eager about what his town offers as a destination and not just as a bedroom community for Vail and Beaver Creek. Photo/Karl Nielsen

Since he gained election to the town board several years ago, first as a trustee, Kostick has seen Eagle not as a bedroom community for the Vail-Beaver Creek resort area, but rather as a destination unto itself.

In a sense this effort began even in the late 1990s, with adoption of a $2-a-night lodging tax dedicated to acquisition and maintenance of open space. That money has been directed toward building of mountain bike trails. In the April election, voters overwhelmingly agreed to allow the money to also be used for trail development and services such as trailhead parking and restrooms.

One of the new trustees is Luis Benitez, who arrived four years ago. He has worked in various non-profits during his career, including Colorado Outward Bound, where he remains on the board of directors. He runs Talent Management, the leadership development program for Vail Resorts, at the Vail and Beaver Creek ski areas.

Also elected were Doug Seabury and Andy Jessen. The latter is the proprietor of Bonfire Brewing, one of the two new brewpubs in Eagle.

Benitez hopes to see the town create a community campground, such as Telluride and a great many other towns have. Families—he is raising a family in Eagle—could camp there, enjoy the trails around Eagle but also the restaurants and other community businesses.

Eagle in past decades has had its share of divisive issues. The longest-standing dispute was about Adam’s Rib, an ambitious proposal for a ski area and other resort amenities 18 miles south of Eagle. Eagle was seen as the bedroom community for that attraction, not the main event. The developer, Fred Kummer, withdrew the plan in 1996 after the Forest Service made it clear the project would be subjected to the high standards of the Clean Water Act. Too, growth of the ski industry had flattened and the Forest Service had instead begun favoring expansion of existing ski areas instead of allowing new ski areas. But before the Forest Service came to that conclusion, many people in Eagle had been on non-speaking terms or worse on several occasions.

Eagle River Station, of course, was approved mostly because of the tax generation. But the approval came during the recession, and since then developers have said very little.

“It will be interesting to see what happens … and if Eagle remains the kind of place that people my age came here for,” says Heicher.

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About Allen Best

Allen Best is a Colorado-based journalist. He publishes a subscription-based e-zine called Mountain Town News, portions of which are published on the website of the same name, and also writes for a variety of newspapers and magazines.
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One Response to Changing of the guard in Eagle

  1. Looking forward to some positive changes for Eagle 🙂

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