The woman who brought flowers back to Oak Creek: Mary Alice Page-Allen looks back on town’s progress and toward her new job in Hayden
Town's first administrator and clerk accepts new position in neighboring community
OAK CREEK — Writing grants, planning projects, directing child care services and beautifying businesses are among a long list of duties Mary Alice Page-Allen has handled during her seven years as the town of Oak Creek’s first clerk and administrator.
“It is definitely a lot of different hats,” she said of the position.
That busy workload is part of the reason she decided to take a new position in Hayden, leaving behind a legacy of economic diversification, community engagement and small-business support.
Page-Allen took some time Thursday afternoon to reflect on that legacy over tacos at one of her favorite restaurants in town, Lupita’s Cantina.
There, her rapport among Oak Creek’s residents was on full display. Locals stopped to greet her, making sure to address her as Mary Alice — not just Mary. While other customers each received a placard with a number to track their food orders, she got more personalized treatment.
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“Your number will just be Mary Alice,” bartender Amie Rawlings said with a knowing smile.
Before taking the clerk and administrator job in 2012, Page-Allen served as executive director of the Yampa Valley Housing Authority, which she helped to establish in 2003.
Providing affordable housing and, more specifically, making the area attractive to younger families have continued to be among her top priorities for Oak Creek.
When she arrived, the town was recovering from the Great Recession of 2008, which stemmed from the collapse of the real estate market. Many lost their jobs as well as their homes.
“There were a lot of vacant houses when I first got here,” she remembers.
Since then, she has seen the town’s economy recover and a wave of younger residents move into homes that for years had “For Sale” signs in the lawns.
“There is a lot of energy that goes along with that,” she said.
Despite signs of growth, the town lacked infrastructure to provide services to those families, such as a day care. Just three months after Page-Allen moved into her office in Town Hall, Oak Creek’s only police officer, Lance Dunaway, resigned in May of 2012.
“We went without law enforcement for awhile,” Page-Allen said.
By November of that year, she and the Town Board managed to hire two new officers. In 2013, Page-Allen launched a kid’s program, which continues to provide after-school services during the week as well as a summer camp.
“I look at it as being basic infrastructure for the community,” she said of the child care center.
More recently, she won the town $60,000 in grants to redevelop Main Street. Visitors may have noticed several of the businesses undergoing renovations, such as installing new facades and windows, which the grant money helped fund.
Bonfiglio Drug, the town’s pharmacy, was one of 11 businesses that benefited from the beautification effort. Owner David Bonfiglio, who also serves on the South Routt Economic Development Council, said Page-Allen’s enthusiasm has helped to spur investment in the town.
“It’s going to be hard to replace her experience and her energy,” he said.
But among Page-Allen’s most treasured contributions to Oak Creek is bringing back the flowers to Main Street, an effort she said had become lackluster before she arrived. On Thursday, she walked downtown past baskets and wooden raised beds bursting with petunias with petals of red, violet, yellow and white.
While Page-Allen is happy to see how the town has grown during her tenure, she is ready for some rest.
“The town administrator here tends to be a 24/7 job,” she said.
She applied to be Hayden’s planning and economic development director with the hope of having a lighter workload. When Hayden Town Manager Mathew Mendisco saw her application and her expertise, he envisioned how she could bring similar vitality to his community.
“The thing we are most excited about is Mary Alice herself — her energy, her enthusiasm and her understanding of the valley,” he said.
Page-Allen will begin her new position in October, a move she called bittersweet. She and her husband, Ted, plan to keep their home in Oak Creek where she tends a garden.
“It’s time for me to slow down a little bit,” she said. “We’ll see how much reality there is to that.”
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