Picking from an impressive pool of candidates, Steamboat fills seats on commissions, boards, committees
The Steamboat Springs City Council interviewed and appointed 11 people on Tuesday, March 15, to the planning commission, the Parks and Recreation Commission, the Historical Preservation Committee and Board of Adjustment.
The roles are all volunteer with varying term lengths and time commitments, but all play a key role in the functioning, transparency and efficiency of city government. The appointees also fill a critical role by bringing diverse viewpoints and the voice of citizens to the table, said council member Heather Sloop.
Shay Bright-Mouttet, Josh Welch and Kelly Bastone (as an alternate) were all appointed to the Parks and Recreation Commission. Alternates are expected to attend meetings and vote when one of the other members is absent.
Incumbents Ben Berend and Calder Young, who are required to re-apply for each two-year term, were reappointed.
Nursing Professor Julie Alkema was appointed to the Historical Preservation Committee.
Caitlyn McKinzie was newly appointed to the Board of Adjustment, and Theo Dexter III was re-appointed. The board reviews requests for adjustments to standards related to single-family homes, duplexes, signage and floodplains.
Jessica Hearns, a former alternate, and Robert Rusher, Jr., an alternate, were appointed to the Planning Commission. Rich Levy was re-appointed.
“I want to serve on Parks and Rec Commission because it’s an applicable way to contribute within this community that I love,” Berend wrote on his application. “I believe my past experiences as an (Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club) athlete, Steamboat Olympian and outdoor enthusiast align myself well for this commission. I plan on spending the rest of my life in this town and want to play a role in a positive future.”
Sloop said Steamboat has a long history of an engaged and proactive citizenry and it is not unusual to attract a number of qualified applicants.
But she added she and her fellow council members were particularly impressed this week with the caliber of qualifications brought to the table — as well as the candidates’ “understanding of the commitment and depth of the role.”
“Sometimes people throw their name in the hat and don’t really know what they are throwing it in the hat for,” Sloop said. “It’s great for us to have the capacity to choose from people who know what they are getting into.”
The issues facing Steamboat aren’t easy ones with the town presently at what many people view as a critical juncture between growth and preservation of character.
“We also need to maintain our recreation assets in a manner that fits with the city’s population growth while brokering good relations with locals and tourists,” Young wrote on his application. “Finally, we need to support city staff and city council in managing Steamboat’s unique problems like child care and affordable housing. That means working as cross-teams and being collaborative players to think up creative solutions to our community problems; the commission needs to see itself connected to the entire city’s issues, not just issues facing our parks.”
During the interview process, Sloop said, one applicant re-applying for the Planning Commission noted the job can be challenging in that some projects they disagreed with are approved because they meet the code, while other projects they agreed with were denied because they didn’t meet code.
“It’s very analytical,” Sloop said.
On her qualifications, Hearns wrote on her application, “I’m a trained mathematical ecologist … which allows me to quickly comprehend new and complex systems, with the people skills to explain them to folks with various and diverse background … As a service-industry employee, I have a unique understanding of working issues and obstacles in Steamboat.”
The Parks and Rec Commission, on the other hand, she said, provides for a little more interpretation and opinion in terms of making recommendations to council.
But all groups take on extensive research, analysis and debate — allowing for a faster and more public process of governmental operations.
Applicants ranged from a woman who has lived in Steamboat for 40 years to a man who moved to town six months ago. There were service industry workers, software executives, journalists and structural engineers.
Parks and Rec appointee Bright-Mottet, who has a doctorate in organizational performance and change and a master’s degree in conflict analysis and resolution, wrote on her application, “With my background and work experience in the area of conflict resolution, I bring special qualifications in the areas of listening, empathy, being open to and helping others be open to other perspectives, helping to bridge differences and find common ground, identifying root causes, and exploring collaborative solutions.”
The Planning and Parks and Recreation Commissions always draw the most applicants, Sloop said, and the council on Tuesday issued a plea for applicants who did not make the cut this round to apply for the Board of Adjustments, where there remain three vacancies — one regular seat and two alternates.
Serving in this capacity in a small town “is really cool,” Sloop said, because “they know they can be impactful.”
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