Pietras thinks time working for city prepared him to lead it
October 11, 2009
Steamboat Springs — Spend some time with Kyle Pietras, and one thought comes to mind: This guy is so Steamboat.
“When I graduated from college, I just kind of packed up my Jeep and moved here,” Pietras said during a Thursday interview at his Brooklyn home. “I have yet to be able to afford to leave.”
Here’s a guy who has about a dozen bicycles in his man cave of a garage. Frames – or “potential bikes” as the native New Englander calls them – hang on the wall. Every bike has a purpose, and Pietras claims that they all are used. Political signs are affixed to one of his town cruisers: the official vehicle of his campaign for an at-large seat on the Steamboat Springs City Council. Even Pietras’ second-grader has four bikes of her own.
There are more bikes in the shed.
“I like my backyard, Emerald Mountain here,” said Pietras, gesturing out the window toward his favorite mountain biking destination. “It’s just sick. I spend hours up there.”
Pietras, a lifelong skier, was struck with the Yampa Valley curse when his family vacationed here when he was in high school. When he returned after college, a lightning storm and car troubles helped solidify his decision to settle here. Now, retired skis are beginning to line the fence, and – whether he could afford to or not – Pietras has little desire to leave his adopted hometown.
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Pietras’ concern about whether Steamboat will remain the type of place where people can create similar stories is one of his chief motivations in running for City Council.
One word that doesn’t come to mind while spending time with Kyle Pietras? Politician.
Pietras counts his lack of political experience as an advantage over opponent and former Councilman Jim Engelken, who has based much of his platform on opposition to the current City Council’s decisions.
“I’m not here to fight against anything,” Pietras said at an Oct. 2 election forum. “I don’t have an agenda.”
Strength or weakness, Pietras’ unfamiliarity with some city issues has led to some less-than-stellar performances at such forums, especially when compared with Engelken’s comfort with and knowledge of them.
“He’s very knowledgeable about stuff. That’s for sure,” Pietras said about Engelken. “I can’t really compete with his experience. I’m new to this. I’m listening, and I’m learning. : But I’m an independent voice. He has a history of voting with (District 1 candidate and former City Council President) Kevin (Bennett), and I don’t have a history.
“I was just really nervous during that,” continued Pietras, referring to the Oct. 2 forum. “I’m not a public speaker. I’m not a politician. I’m not saturated in all these topics. It’s tough to be questioned about this stuff in public while you’re learning it.”
Pietras said he didn’t leave that forum with the greatest feeling. When he got back out on city streets knocking on doors, however, he was reassured. Most people, if they even knew about it, didn’t care, Pietras said.
“A lot of people are just encouraged that a local businessman and family man is running,” said Pietras, owner of Kyle Pietras Landscaping. “People respect that. People want a businessman instead of a politician.”
Steve Hofman is one of those people. Hofman, a Steamboat resident who served as an assistant secretary of labor under President George H.W. Bush, is one of Pietras’ clients and has supported him with campaign contributions and political advice.
“He’s exactly what you want in a small business operation. He’s hands-on, but he also makes sure the job gets done right,” Hofman said. “The community, in my judgment, will not be as vibrant in the future if we don’t have businessmen like him and families like he represents.”
Hofman said he thinks the key to keeping such people in Steamboat is the diversification of the local economy beyond ski slopes and second homes. He thinks Pietras will bring a set of skills and a mind-set to the City Council to help that process along. While working on projects at his home, Hofman said, Pietras gave a great amount of care and attention to costs, quality, schedules and details.
“These are important things to me, which you don’t always find,” Hofman said.
“He’s going to bring that kind of approach to council business, and in times like these, that’s important.”
Scott Fox, who owns Freshies restaurant with his wife, described Pietras’ work ethic similarly. Pietras worked for Fox and his wife when they used to own Winona’s downtown. Their families are now friends.
“Kyle’s just a straightforward, good, honest guy,” Fox said. “I think Kyle’s levelheaded enough to where he’s really going to do all the research and make the right decision. : I think he’s a good candidate flying under the radar a little bit.”
Pietras’ other former jobs in Steamboat include a year working for the Steamboat II metro district and four years working for the city’s Parks, Open Space and Recreational Services Department.
“I have good knowledge of how the city works and how it works for others,” Pietras said at the Oct. 2 forum.
Pietras has counted that experience as one of his greatest strengths and thinks he will bring a unique perspective to the council. One area that insight would help the city, Pietras said, is in its budgeting.
“We need everybody to do more with a little less,” said Pietras, who said he thinks some city departments, including his former one, are inefficient and potentially overstaffed. “To actually realize where that money goes and how it gets spent is really important because not everything goes as planned.”
Growth appears to be the biggest issue dividing the at-large candidates. Engelken has taken more of a hard-line stance on growth in general and the Steamboat 700 annexation specifically.
“I think it’s important to embrace (growth), and in the past, (Engelken has) been kind of resistant to it,” Pietras said. “If you embrace it, you can kind of help control it.”
Growth is what Steamboat’s families and small businesses need, Pietras said, and those are the constituencies he says he will represent if elected to City Council.
“These are the people who are the backbone of this community,” Pietras said. “That’s the future of this town.”