Man behind the camera sees more than politicking

Joel Stonington
Mike Lavker checks out TV monitors Tuesday while filming the Pitkin County commissioners meeting for GrassRoots TV. (Mark Fox/The Aspen Times)

Mike Lavker probably knows more about politics in Pitkin County and the city of Aspen than anyone else. The cameraman who films county commissioner and City Hall meetings for GrassRoots TV picks it up partially through osmosis and partially from going to meetings for so long. So long, in fact, that sometimes he just flips on the TV and catches some sports during the meetings. “I caught a lot of the Olympics during the land-use code,” he said. “That’s only for scores and updates.” Look, he’s not out lounging in a lazy boy during the meetings.

“This is my passion,” he said. “Television, shooting behind the camera is what I like to do. Who else would sit in these meetings?”But even so, Lavker doesn’t take it too seriously. He said City Council meetings often mean a sweet night of Monday Night Football.”I only really watch if it’s one of my teams,” he said. “It’s sometimes difficult to contain my emotions. Let a little outburst and they’re like, ‘Who scored?'”He also knows, though, about the council, the members, and the issues they’re discussing.

“I know their political stances, for sure,” he said, “probably more than they wish I knew.”After nearly four years of filming meetings, he’s gotten to know the personalities of people pretty well, like county commissioners Mick Ireland and Patti Kay-Clapper. “Mick is a really hardline Democratic stance, Patti likes to talk on everything,” he said. “You start to see who is friends with who in this area. There’s allies and people who are always opposing each other.”Lavker has lived in Aspen during the last four years; he started his filming career shooting snowboard videos. He said he quickly found the job with GrassRoots and started covering meetings.

Though he sometimes watches sports and jokes that he doesn’t know if the land-use meetings or curling were more boring, he said he loves to catch some of the intense political moments that arise. “Sometimes [commissioners] Dorothea [Farris] and Jack Hatfield will disagree,” he said. “I’ll flip back and forth and back and forth to try and catch the drama.” He tries, as much as possible, to capture the feel of the meetings.”When Toni Kronberg gets up, I try to get at least one shot of someone who’s like, ‘What is she talking about?'” he said.Joel Stonington’s e-mail address is