Herman Edel, former Aspen mayor, dies at 95

Gregarious and a lover of Aspen and its people, Edel served from 1979 to 1983

Herman Edel, a former mayor of Aspen, died Friday in Ashland, Oregon. He was 95.

Edel served two terms as mayor, from 1979 to 1983, in which time he was instrumental in organizing a significant restoration of the Wheeler Opera House and led early efforts in building affordable housing, according to his son, Scott Edel.

“He loved being mayor, and he loved people,” his son recalled Monday. “He had wide areas of interest, and he loved (local politics).”

He also was in office when Donald Trump was attempting to build a large hotel at the base of Aspen Mountain. In 2016, Edel recounted how the would-be developer offered him payola to get land-use approvals.

Edel told Aspen Public Radio that Trump called him while at his desk in City Hall and told him that he would receive “many, many shekels” after the hotel was complete.

“I was mad at him for one, bringing in my Jewish heritage, which is none of his f—ing business and for trying to bribe me,” he told the radio station.

A native of Brooklyn, New York, Edel moved his wife, Mardie, and their two children, Margot and Scott, from Scarsdale to Aspen in 1972 after a ski trip the previous year and at Scott’s urging.

“I was 10-years-old, and I said, ‘Why don’t you buy a gas station here and we’ll move?'” Scott Edel said. “They laughed at me but three weeks later they came back and bought a condo at the Villager on Cooper Avenue.”

One of the founders of the original synagogue in Aspen, then located in the Methodist Church, Edel secured its first Torah from an organization in London that rescued Torahs from the Nazis during World War II in Prague and the surrounding area. The Torah still remains part of the Aspen Jewish Congregation.

Edel later in life wrote several books, including a historical novel, “The Pavlac Legacy,” which was inspired by the history of those Torahs and his journey in securing one for the Aspen synagogue.

Gideon Kaufman, a local attorney in town, said Edel was a gregarious individual who was the perfect mayor for the era.

“The stakes weren’t as high, and everyone in town was friendly with one another and you could leave council chambers agreeing to disagree and still be friends,” Kaufman said. “He had a wonderful sense of humor and never took himself seriously.”

He recalled that Edel didn’t back down when it came to standing his ground with development proposals, one of which was a planned hotel by then Aspen Institute Chairman R.O. Anderson on the meadows campus.

Edel’s council denied the land-use application, and Anderson threatened to move the Institute out of town.

Edel was mayor when the golf course opened in 1980 and was part of a council who approved housing for city employees near the water plant on Doolittle Drive.

He won the first election in 1979 with 104 votes to beat fellow candidates Julie Hane, Tom Scanlon and James Moore, according to records at the City Clerk’s office. The second election, in 1981, Edel beat out Michael Gassman and George Parry with 120 votes.

The Edel family moved away from Aspen in 1985, and in the 1990s the Edels moved to Ashland, Oregon, and LaQuinta, California.

Just a week prior to his passing, friends and family had gathered for Mardie’s 90th birthday party, allowing many of them to see him and say goodbye, according to Scott Edel.

Herman had a long career in the music, film and advertising industries.

In the early ’60s, he started his own advertising music production company in New York, producing some of the most iconic jingles of that era, Scott Edel said.

In 1970, Herman and Beatles producer George Martin formed Air-Edel, the first advertising music production company in London, which is still in business.

Edel hosted a long-running radio program called “On With The Show” about musical theater for Jefferson Public Radio in Ashland.

Herman and Mardie Edel contributed their time and resources to many charitable endeavors, including Audio Description for the Blind for the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, Retinitis Pigmentosa Foundation, Recordings For the Blind, The Margot Anderson Brain Restoration Foundation and Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation.

Throughout his life and in their many homes, Mardie and “Herm” were beloved for their generosity with friends and family. Whether it was a birthday party, anniversary, religious holiday or just for a game of bridge, the Edels always threw amazing, memorable parties and loved to open their homes to a wonderful and eclectic group of friends and family from near and far, Scott Edel recalled.

Herman Edel is survived by his wife of 63 years, Mardie Edel, as well as his son, Scott Edel and Scott’s wife, Gillian Edel, and three grandchildren, Alexandra Edel, Nicholas Edel and Elizabeth Edel. He also is survived by his niece, Diane Edel. He was predeceased by his daughter, Margot Anderson in 1998.