Aspen’s municipal court clerk visited Aspen in 1973 and never left
Reed Patterson is only the second municipal court clerk in Aspen’s history.
However, her history in town goes back far longer than her nearly 20 years as administrator of the city’s Municipal Court. In fact, she’s been an Aspenite for most of her adult life.
“It’s beautiful here,” Patterson said recently during an interview at her desk just inside City Hall. “People are so friendly. You walk down the street and everyone says ‘hello.’ (And) they didn’t have mountains back in Ohio.”
Patterson grew up in Akron, Ohio and first came to Aspen in winter 1973 with two friends who were avid skiers. She planned on skiing for the winter, then heading back to school. Her two friends left, but Patterson stayed.
“I never left,” she said. “It’s the same old story everyone tells you.”
Her first order of business once she arrived and bought a season ski pass was to actually learn to ski.
“I hated it,” Patterson said. “When they take you to the top of Buttermilk and everybody leaves you at the top, you hate it. They were pretty mean. It was painful.”
But she stuck to it, and has been skiing ever since.
Patterson worked at The Little Nell ski shop for the first couple winters she spent in town, then applied for a waitress job upstairs at The Little Nell’s restaurant and bar. A manager there asked her if she’d be willing to be a cocktail waitress and she heartily agreed, though she was only 19 at the time and wasn’t old enough to drink.
That offseason, she applied for unemployment but still had to prove she was looking for a job. So she went to the Hickory House and applied for a waitress job, though she said she told them she played a lot of soccer and softball and really didn’t have time to work as a waitress, too.
“They said, ‘Can you start tomorrow?’” she said. “I said, ‘Damn.’ I stayed there for 10 years — probably longer than I should have.”
Patterson said she loved working at the Hickory House.
“We had the best time,” she said. “Aspen was different (then). You could do anything and everything and get away with it.”
After a decade at the Hickory House, Patterson applied for “a real job” at the city. She spent her first three years as a receptionist at the general information desk inside City Hall. Then, after the city’s first municipal court clerk, Jeanne Ritter, retired in 1996 after 25 years, Patterson took over, and she’s been there ever since.
She said she’s always liked the job.
“It’s kind of never a dull moment,” Patterson said. “We get all kinds of stuff from the Police Department and some of it is mildly entertaining. We get a lot of the stupid stuff that goes on.”
Patterson, who celebrated a birthday Friday she didn’t want to enumerate, met her husband, Chip, in town and has been married for 23 years. Their only child is a black lab named Wally.
And while she might not be able to get away with anything and everything anymore, Patterson said she’s never thought of leaving her job with the city or leaving Aspen.
“I like the job,” she said. “I like the people.”
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