Former Steamboat Springs City Council President Joe Brennan dies at 68 in Florida
Steamboat Springs — Joe Brennan, longtime real estate developer and property manager who was Steamboat Springs City Council president in the mid 1980s, died Jan. 30 in Fort Myers, Florida, with friends and family at his bedside, according to a sister, Nancy Brennan. He was 68.
Brennan, who loved trout fishing and flying his own plane, had a gruff, even blunt, personality at times, but also had a way of letting people know that he liked them, his sister agreed.
“He always had an anecdote or a joke or something,” longtime business partner Bob Matteo said. “He was quick to make you feel welcome.”
Joe Brennan was also someone who loved to entertain friends and strangers, and Brennan could tell jokes nearly all day long, former president of the board of Mount Werner Water and Sanitation District Don Valentine said.
“He threw a huge Christmas party every year, and on the Fourth of July, he flew in (thousands of dollars) of soft-shelled crabs,” from his home stomping grounds on the New Jersey Shore, Valentine said. “He could tell jokes continually for four or five hours, and on occasion, all day.”
Brennan was a longtime member of the water district that serves neighborhoods in the vicinity of Steamboat Ski Area, and he and Valentine became fishing and hunting buddies.
In his career, Brennan was the original manager of the Bear Claw I condominium building on the edge of the slopes of the ski area opposite the old Headwall Chairlift, Nancy Brennan said. He then became a partner in the development of the Bear Claw II building and managed it as well.
“He and Harry Taylor started Taylor Brennan Inc., which was the biggest property management company in Steamboat as well as a real estate brokerage in the ’70s,” Matteo said. “When he started working on Bear Claw II, Harry and I worked with him, and in 1981 when we opened Bear Claw II, I focused on the financial side.”
Brennan also owned land for a planned third phase of Bear Claw and obtained city approvals for development of a large condominium building there. Ultimately, he sold the property in 2006 to the Atira Group, which built the first phase of Edgemont luxury condominiums.
Brennan was elected to City Council in 1983, and his peers elected him council president in 1985.
Les Liman, who was made council president pro-tem that same year, said Brennan was an astute leader who knew how to convert intent into action.
“Joe was good at getting people together and building consensus,” Liman said. “And when he felt there was consensus he was, ‘OK, here’s what we’re going to do.’ But he had a comfortable way of doing it.”
Liman recalled that “horse trading” took place among council members in that era as a way to get each of their pet projects completed; Liman was pushing for the kayak slalom course in Dr. Rich Weiss Park, and Brennan wanted to see improvements at the base of the ski area carried out.
Brennan’s council was in on the beginning of Steamboat’s long, drawn-out tussle over the arrival of a Walmart store. It was the spring of 1985 when a development company announced they would build a major shopping center at Steamboat Crossings (across Pine Grove Road from where Walgreens is now), to include a City Market.
Council granted a permit, but when City Market announced it would relocate to Central Park Plaza instead, Carrington Colorado, developer of Steamboat Crossings, announced it would instead bring in a Walmart. City Council denied the revised permit, and the developers sued.
Valentine said his late wife, Rita, served on City Council with Brennan and succeeded him as City Council president.
“Joe and Rita were a big part of getting the crab apple trees planted and flower baskets on Lincoln Avenue,” Don Valentine recalled. “When he handed the City Council president’s gavel over to Rita, he had it painted pink.”
Valentine said Brennan was a legendary party host.
“He had two freezers and two refrigerators, and he stocked them with the best steaks and chops you could buy and special wines,” Valentine said. “He entertained two to three nights a week in his heyday, 10 years ago. He entertained all of the owners at Bear Claw, and if their condos were rented out, he entertained their guests, too.”
Steamboat resident MaryLiz Gale said she always will be grateful to Brennan, who went out of his way to use her fledgling catering business for his parties.
Valentine and Brennan also shared ownership of a series of private aircraft over the years, and some of his favorite memories of his friend are connected with waterfowl hunting trips in Nebraska in the fall, and in particular, trips to Montana for the opening of trout fishing season in Yellowstone National Park.
“We fished together in Iceland and Chile, but every year, he’d rent rooms in Yellowstone, and we’d always go to the same place on the river (below Fishing Bridge on the Yellowstone River) and fish for cutthroat trout,” Valentine said.
Brennan always brought along two hostesses on the trip to serve smoked salmon and Champagne to the anglers while they waded in the river, Valentine said.
Steamboat has lost a mover and a shaker.
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