With mail-in ballots distributed throughout the town, Breckenridge has five candidates running in this year’s municipal elections. On April 5, three town council seats will be filled.
Several familiar faces to the town will be running this year. Wendy Wolfe is the sole incumbent, but Breckenridge Grand Vacations owner and developer Mike Dudick has served a previous term, from 2010-15. Local radio and television personality Jeffrey Bergeron served two terms, from 2004 to 2012. Leigh Girvin is a long-time resident who has served with the town’s planning commission, and local fly fishing guide Randy Veeneman grew up in Breckenridge and stayed to raise a family.
Each candidate discussed their take on key issues to the town, including housing, transportation, tourism and sustainability in light of their experience in Breckenridge.
ON THE ISSUES
What’s your background with the town?
Bergeron: “I served two terms (on town council), and took four years off. In 1997, we put up a ballot initiative to increase sales tax by half a percent. It was earmarked for open space. In a small town, you can be a participant as opposed to a spectator. I have some thoughts on where I’d like to see the town go.”
Dudick: “I’ve been here for 30 years. I started a Breckenridge magazine. I worked really hard, did well, and was able to sell that. I invested the proceeds of that in the timeshare business. I took on ownership role, did marketing for the company, and it turned out well.”
Girvin: “I’m currently on the Liquor and Marijuana Licensing Authority. I also serve on sustainability advisory committee for CMC. I had served on the Upper Blue Planning Commission, and the town of Breckenridge’s Planning Commission as well. I’m just a citizen interested in good planning.”
Veeneman: “I’ve lived in the town for 45 years. I’ve worked as a guide for Mountain Anglers, and do supervision for grooming in the winter. In the summer, I do trail crew, work with snowmaking lines and road improvements. It’s always changing.”
Wolfe: I’ve been in Breckenridge for 20 years. I first got involved seriously with the town through the Breckenridge Heritage Alliance. After that, I decided to run for town council in 2012. It was a very productive four years. I just feel strongly about what we’ve been able to accomplish.”
What solutions do you think Breckenridge should pursue for housing?
Bergeron: “It’s my goal to have a larger percent of our workforce living within the town. I think we need to incentivize developers if they choose to build rental-specific housing, as opposed to large, single-family, potentially second homes. If we create quality rental housing, both livable and affordable, managed by the town, that is a way to keep the workforce local.”
Dudick: “I think what needs to happen, the town has a housing needs study. I think it needs to be expanded and a little bit deeper. It says we need about 1,300 beds for employees. I don’t know if that’s right for 2016 going forward. I think you have to drill down just another level beyond bedroom count. Then you figure, this chunk is funded 100 percent with public dollars, next chunk is funded 50-50, next chunk is all private dollars.”
Girvin: “Certainly what’s happening right now are the obvious solutions in terms of, let’s build housing on the land that we own. I want to put more energy into keeping housing we currently have. Additionally, I was the first administrator of the Summit Housing Authority. I’ve been advocating for workforce housing for 20 years, if not more.”
Veeneman: “I think the town is on the right track, being aggressive with the projects that are taking place. I would support any of those LIHTC (low-income housing tax credit) projects.”
Wolfe: “The goal is to have at least half of our workforce be able to live in our community. It’s really established and maintained our community character. The other thing it does for all of us, it keeps us from having a parking and congestion problem that’s even worse. Block 11, and the McCain Property — those are the two areas we need to do more master plan work on to create livable neighborhoods, and get the right mix of rental and single-family homes.”
What are your thoughts on the town’s parking/transit studies?
Bergeron: “Right now our infrastructure for housing and transportation can’t really accommodate the needs of our residents and guests. As a last resort, I would put 600-space parking lot on F-lot. We can make the town more pedestrian friendly.”
Dudick: “I am eager to hear back recommendations from parking engineers. Getting a roundabout at Park Avenue and 4 O’ Clock, better lighting and wayfinding, those sound like smart, inexpensive ways to alleviate a bit of the problem.”
Girvin: “What helps solve parking problems is comprehensive transit planning that gets people out of their cars into public transportation and walkable communities. We could do a lot more to make our community more walkable.”
Veeneman: “We definitely need more spots, but I wouldn’t go to plan A with 900 spots. I think there will be a great need for lighting, pedestrian access, maybe some sort of bridge over Park Avenue. You’d hate to just see a concrete parking structure there.”
Wolfe: “There won’t be any silver bullet. We were interested in talking with the community about the possibility of a parking structure, but now that we are working with experts, we are learning early in the process with them that we must take a holistic approach. It is going to require a bundle of things from making town more walkable to making transit more efficient, with more frequent service.”
What other issues are you interested in?
Bergeron: “Improving our quality of life. Making it easier for visitors to enjoy our community and making it more livable for residents. It will provide a better guest experience and translate into more dollars in the public’s coffer.”
Dudick: “A hugely important thing to us as owners of a company is to set leadership example of philanthropy in the community. We never say no to a local charity when asked for a gift, we may not do exactly what they asked for, but we never say no. I think more philanthropy creates greater amounts of philanthropy.”
Girvin: “We really need to be looking at long-range planning again. When is buildout? What does that look like? How are we going to grow smartly in next 15 years? What are our opportunities and what are our strengths?”
Veeneman: “Water. I think the town is on the right track with the Blue River restoration. I’m passionate about rivers. We need to keep the flows going because if the river goes dry, the aquatic life dies and it becomes a dead stream.”
Wolfe: “I think we have a growing need to improve our broadband service in our community. There are a lot of people who work from their homes. They choose to live the Breckenridge lifestyle but need a lot of data capacity for their work.”
How should the town approach a partnership with Vail Resorts?
Bergeron: “I think the best way for the community and the resort to function is to realize without the other, both would be diminished. The skiing’s great here, but they also come for the town. The town’s special, but they also come for the skiing. We can work together to create a guest experience so that people will not just come once, but year after year.”
Dudick: “I think the town and the number one driver of economic activity need to work together in a cooperative fashion. I hope we would create an era where it’s a team effort, not an us vs. them environment. With Vail, they committed to invest $30 million into resort communities to help solve the affordable housing issue. I think I can help deliver some of those funds to the town of Breckenridge, because I have those relationships with people in Vail Resorts.”
Girvin: “I was delighted to see Vail Resorts and the town of Breckenridge come together in early January in a work session, with Vail Resorts having a very positive attitude about their relationship with the town. I’m very hopeful that this is going to be a new era of good communication and cooperation between Vail Resorts and Breckenridge.”
Veeneman: “There’s a balance between the ski area and the town. Possibly me being an employee could improve that relationship. If there’s a conflict of interest, I might have to step out (of the discussion).”
Wolfe: “Our relationship with Vail is vitally important. I find that they have been a good partner to work with. Going forward, I want to stay connected with them. We need to make sure they’re always a part of our important conversations and planning.”