For the love of community, business and beer: meet the 2019 Navigator Award winners
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — A hockey-loving real estate broker, a gentle-hearted restaurant manager, a financier dedicated to affordable housing and, for the first time, a brewery in Steamboat Springs are the winners of this year’s Navigator Awards.
For the past 20 years, Steamboat Pilot & Today and the Steamboat Springs Chamber Resort Association have partnered to give out the awards.
This year’s winners epitomize the core qualities of leadership. They are driven, innovative and unafraid to take risks. Apart from their personal success, they also give back to the community and have dedicated their lives to improving the quality of life in Steamboat.
Meet this year’s award recipients.
Business Leader of the Year: Kerry Shea
Kerry Shea learned his most important life lessons on the ice.
Now the owner and managing broker of Ascent Real Estate and vice president of sales and marketing for Resort Ventures West, those lessons have taken him a long way.
Shea grew up on the blue-collar streets of Detroit, where hockey was one of the few ways for a kid to enjoy the space between school and chores. The sport has since become much more than that.
“I love the game, and I think there is so much that it can provide,” Shea said, who serves as the board president of Steamboat’s youth hockey program.
Many of the values that guide his business leadership — commitment, teamwork, resiliency in the face of adversity — were sculpted from the sport.
“I am one that does not hesitate to get down in the trenches,” Shea said.
What: 2019 Navigator Awards
When: 5:30 to 8 p.m. Friday, Sept. 6
Where: The Steamboat Grand, 2300 Mount Werner Road
Tickets: $65 per person; $650 for VIP table for 10; purchase online at https://events.com/r/en_US/tickets/annual-navigator-awards-steamboat-springs-september-765337
With such a mindset, he has helped to pioneer much of Steamboat’s recent development. In recent years, Resort Ventures West has steadily transformed land around Steamboat Resort into a lodging hub for vacationers. The Trailhead Lodge, where Shea has his office, is one such project, offering rooms with a front-row view of the mountain and a 5-minute commute to the slopes.
As someone who has lived in the area for decades, seeing Steamboat accumulate condominium complexes and hotels has come with some nostalgia for simpler times. But he acknowledged that growth is happening everywhere.
Shea believes one either can sit back and be a victim of change, or get involved to make sure such change is positive. That is part of the reason why he devotes so much of his time outside of work to philanthropy projects, such as the Ski 4 Yellow fundraisers, which raise money for local cancer-fighting initiatives.
“I really look at both business and the community as though it is wrapped in one package,” Shea said.
Vital to that package, in his opinion, is a robust hockey program. To that end, Shea has spearheaded fundraising efforts to support and grow the local teams. His daughters, 11-year-old Claire and 14-year-old Margaux, both play.
Ryan Dingle, a former professional hockey player who now coaches the Steamboat Wranglers junior hockey team, said Shea has been an invaluable asset to the program.
“He is a heck of a player, too,” Dingle said.
Shea brings the same fervor to the ice as he does to the office, according to Dingle.
“There’s an ongoing joke that he wants to make the hockey community as big as the skiing community here,” Dingle said.
Past years’ winners
BUSINESS LEADERS OF THE YEAR 1999 — Julie Green; 2000 — Rod Hanna; 2001 — Mike Lomas; 2002 — Andy Wirth; 2003 — Scott Ford; 2004 — Steve Dawes; 2005 — John Kerst; 2006 — Chris Diamond; 2007 — David Baldinger Jr.; 2008 — Rex Brice; 2009 — Chuck Porter; 2010 — David Nagel; 2011 — Grant Fenton; 2012 — Karl Gills; 2013 — Jim Schneider; 2014 — Ed MacArthur; 2015 — Bob Dapper; 2016 — Scott Marr; 2017 — Adonna Allen ; 2018 — Mark Walker
YOUNG PROFESSIONALS OF THE YEAR 2009 — Stacy Huffman; 2010 — Ryan Marsden; 2011 — Sara Ferris; 2012 — Stephany Traylor; 2013 — Chris Tamucci; 2014 — Sarah Fox; 2015 — Glen Traylor; 2016 — Nick Sharp; 2017 — Tara Weaver; 2018 — Jason Peasley
BUSINESSES OF THE YEAR 1999 — TIC; 2000 — Native Excavating; 2001 — Ore House at the Pine Grove; 2002 — SmartWool; 2003 — Ski Haus; 2004 — PostNet; 2005 — F.M. Light & Sons; 2006 — Off the Beaten Path bookstore; 2007 — Prudential Steamboat Realty; 2008 — Christy Sports; 2009 — BAP!; 2010 — Yampa Valley Bank; 2011 — Alpine Bank; 2012 — Colorado Mountain College; 2013 — Steamboat Ski & Bike Kare; 2014 — Yampa Valley Medical Center; 2015 — Rex’s Family of Restaurants; 2016 — Chief Theater; 2017 — Steamboat Springs Arts Council; 2018 — Freshies
SERVICE EXCELLENCE PROFESSIONAL OF THE YEAR: 2017 — Barbara Robinson; 2018 — Jason and Kelly Landers
Young Professional of the Year: Cole Hewitt
Cole Hewitt believes people can give back to their communities in two main ways. The first is time, and the second is money.
As the chief financial officer and vice president of the Yampa Valley Bank, as well as a volunteer board member of the Yampa Valley Housing Authority, he effectively does both — though most of the money does not come from his personal accounts.
Hewitt was a major contributor to the housing organization’s most recent development, Alpenglow Village, which broke ground in May. The complex, consisting of three buildings along Pine Grove Road, just north of Walgreens, will provide 72 apartments for low- to middle-income residents.
At 34, Hewitt has been settling into family life in Steamboat after moving from Wyoming in 2011. He and his wife, Lauren, are celebrating their first year of marriage.
Improving the quality of life in Steamboat, for his family as well as others, has become an increasingly important initiative. A financier with an economist’s brain, Hewitt has developed an equation for doing so, which he denotes with the acronym, APPLE.
The letters stand for activities, programs, policy, life and economy.
“APP = LE,” Hewitt said.
In other words, the more activities, programs and policies a town has in place, the better the quality of life and economic opportunities for families.
His work with the Housing Authority contributes to the programs portion of the equation, he said. By supplying a system of affordable homes, people can have more disposable income to invest in businesses, and those businesses can, in turn, hire employees who can afford to live near town.
In early August, the Housing Authority announced plans for another affordable housing project, set to break ground in 2020. While details are forthcoming, Hewitt has been busy with the project’s finances. Unlike past efforts, this development will not be funded using the sale of tax credits, which means the Housing Authority will invest more of its own money.
As Jason Peasley, the Housing Authority’s executive director explained, that involves greater risk. He is glad a detail-oriented person like Hewitt is behind the books.
Most of Hewitt’s contributions deal with the nuts and bolts of the housing organization, Peasley said. It is not the most glamorous work, but he plays a vital role in the success of projects.
“He is really good at understanding what we are trying to accomplish and then pairing that with action,” Peasley said.
He met Hewitt five years ago, when both were among a cohort of Leadership Steamboat graduates. Since then, they have become friends as well as colleagues. Hewitt’s approachability is another quality that makes him easy to work with, Peasley added.
“You can have a really intense discussion on the business side and 10 minutes later go have a drink with him,” Peasley said.
Service Excellence Professional of the Year: Michael Guerrero
When Michael Guerrero sat down for an interview about his rise in the Steamboat restaurant industry and his now beloved reputation among locals and visitors alike, he could not stop smiling.
Nervousness was one reason for the perpetual grin. As his coworkers at the Laundry explained, Guerrero would rather celebrate their successes than his own. He brings a similar mindset to the customers who walk through the restaurant doors, treating their satisfaction as paramount.
Laundry is one of seven locations under Rex’s Family of Restaurants, a higher-end option with a dark-stained wood and brick interior. Guerrero, its general manager, wants the experience to be intimate and sophisticated, a place for people to dine for pleasure as well as for business.
No matter their reason for coming, Guerrero aims to leave them with full bellies and happy faces.
“He really knows how to work a room,” said his boss, Tod “JJ” Johnson, senior manager at the restaurant. “He has a contagious smile.”
Guerrero started working in the Steamboat restaurant business as a humble busser for Mazzola’s, which has since joined the Rex’s conglomerate of restaurants. He steadily rose through the ranks over the years, learning as much as he could about the industry from his bosses.
A major lesson that Johnson taught him, as Guerrero remembers, is an attention to detail. Before the restaurant opens, Guerrero patrols the interior and exterior of the building, making minuscule adjustments to tables or wiping dirt from a floorboard.
According to Johnson, no job is below Guerrero as long as it helps his coworkers and the business.
“He’ll even jump in the dish pit if he needs to and do dishes,” Johnson said.
When customers start filing in for the evening, Guerrero takes on perhaps his most renowned role — that of a hospitable host.
“I try really hard to touch every table or greet every person at the door,” Guerrero said.
He meets people from all reaches of the globe, particularly during the busier summer and winter months. Many return to the restaurant on subsequent trips and ask for him.
“If you read our reviews, he is constantly mentioned,” Johnson said.
Angela Sherwood started working with Guerrero at Laundry two years ago, back when he was a bartender.
She still sees his eyes light up when guests arrive and that quintessential smile curling across his face.
“He is just happy you’re here,” she said.
Business of the Year: Mountain Tap Brewery
When a new brewery seems to sprout every day in Colorado, it can be hard for any particular one to stand out.
Mountain Tap Brewery, which opened its doors along Yampa Street in 2016, has done just that, becoming the first brewery in Steamboat to win a Navigator Award.
It has done so in part by being a destination not just for beer drinking, but also for philanthropic fundraising.
In the past three years, the brewery has donated more than $26,000 to local nonprofits through its Token Tuesdays program, according to Wendy Tucciarone, who owns the business with her husband, Rich.
“We wanted to open a place that reflected the vibe of Steamboat,” she said, who met her husband here in the ‘90s.
For them, that meant making Mountain Tap a community-centered business with a causal, outdoorsy feel.
They renovated what used to be a garage for electrical utility trucks into a roomy, high-ceiling hangout with a garage door that, during most summer evenings, remains open to let in the breeze and sunshine.
Rows of long picnic-style tables serve as the primary seating, which fosters conversation among strangers from near and far, according to the brewery’s general manager, Jeff Goodhand.
“Guests want to find out about living here, and locals want to find out why guests are here,” he said.
Rich Tucciarone, a longtime brewer who studied fermentation at Cornell University, enjoys the freedom of operating his own beer operation. All of the brews get made on-site in silver, metal chambers.
What the system lacks in size it makes up for in flexibility. Mountain Tap often serves specialty, limited-time beers to celebrate particular organizations or events. During last year’s Colorado Public Lands Day, Tucciarone whipped up a Belgian-style saison, made with ingredients all grown in the state.
The approach appears to be working. This summer, after the garage doors opened and the day’s shadows stretched into twilight, it was not uncommon for every table to have guests around it.
During each week’s Token Tuesdays, customers receive a token for each beer they buy. They can choose to drop it in the bin of one of four local nonprofits. The options change every month, except for the nonprofit that garners the most donations, which is dubbed “King of the Mountain Tap” and allowed to keep its bin an additional month.
Among the groups to benefit from the funding is Routt County Search and Rescue. Composed of a dedicated team of volunteers, the nonprofit gets 40% of its operating budget from donations.
“It has been a nice, steady income stream for us,” Jay Bowman, the group’s president, said of Token Tuesdays.
Some of those funds helped the rescue group upgrade its technology in August, which will make it easier for volunteers to find people lost in the backcountry.
Reflecting back to when the brewery was just a concept pinned to a dream, Wendy and Rich Tucciarone expressed their gratitude to the visitors and Steamboat community that have made it a reality.
“Mountain Tap turned out exactly like we hoped it would,” Wendy said.
To reach Derek Maiolo, call 970-871-4247, email dmaiolo@SteamboatPilot.com or follow him on Twitter @derek_maiolo.
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