People of the Times |

People of the Times

Henry Webberdates unknownMayor 1888-1889Henry Webber and his wife Harriet arrived in Aspen in 1880, and they started a clothing, shoe repair and boot business. However, with the sudden death of his wife in May 1881, Aspen was abuzz: Was it murder, suicide or an accident? There had been persistent rumors of a possible infidelity with his wife’s niece, and what did Mrs. Webber’s dying words, “Henry will know,” mean? A jurors inquest was demanded and after lengthy testimony it was determined that Harriet Webber died of an accidental overdose of strychnine; at the time it was an over-the-counter drug used to calm nerves. Henry’s career seemed little affected by the scandal. He remarried four months later (Julia Nevitt: the niece!). Webber became the city treasurer in 1883. During his successful mayoral campaign in 1888 slanderous accusations were made when it was discovered that Henry apparently abandoned a wife and children back East before bringing Harriet to Aspen. Webber’s mark in Aspen can be seen today with the impressive residence known as Pioneer Park. (It is said to be haunted by the ghost of Harriet). He also constructed the downtown structures now known as the Elks Building and the Isis Theater. Larry Fredrick

A. E. Robison1912-1964Mayor 1943-1960A.E. (Gene) Robison devoted a good portion of his life to the city of Aspen. He was mayor for 17 years, overseeing the tremendous (for Aspen) growth after the war. At one time during his reign, he was mayor, chief of police, fire chief and head of the sanitation department all at once. Gene presided over the dedication ceremonies for Lift One in 1947, and his daughter, Alenae Robison (Peglia), was the first person to ride on that lift.According to Gene’s grandson, Eric Strickland, pretty much everyone in town took off whenever there was a fire alarm in those days. He can remember being left stranded at the post office one time with his brother while his granddad took off to fight a fire. He also recalls that Gene gave Puppy Smith and Jim (Marky) Markalunas their first jobs with the city.In 1960, Mike Garrish beat out Gene to become the new mayor. Mike had 261 votes to Gene’s 120. The 381 votes cast in that election set a record, being 25 more than ever cast before. Mike said of Gene, “He wasn’t exactly crooked, he was more of a Daley type of guy.” Georgia Hanson

Bill Stirling1942-presentMayor 1983-1991Bill Stirling came to Aspen after a stint with the Peace Corps in Africa to be a ski bum and a bartender and ended up as a mayor and real estate broker. Long before Bill had political thoughts, Bill was willing to “bare all” in the local calendar and to go up against the Aspen Skiing Company at the federal level for raising ticket prices.Bill is passionate about protecting animals. He is an avid reader, skier, tennis player and member of the Choral Society. Bill Stirling was elected mayor five times in eight years, a record matched by no one else. During Bill’s tenure as mayor, he held office hours on a bench in the Hyman Avenue Mall – rain, snow, sleet or sunshine.Some of the traits that make Bill a character are his inability to be on time, never taking offers of junkets or entertainments while in public office, and his vegetarian dogs. Kathryn Koch

Eve Homeyer1915-presentMayor 1970-1973In 1959 an adventurous, energetic and recently widowed Eve Homeyer, a Nebraska-born Mount Holyoke graduate with an astronomy degree, moved to Aspen. First a ski bum at Aspen Highlands, she later owned and ran the House of Ireland, a charming import store specializing in fabrics and sweaters. Distressed by development that provided for no open space, Eve ran for mayor in 1969. Eve was the first woman to be elected mayor of Aspen, serving two terms from 1970 to 1973. Under Eve’s leadership, among other accomplishments, the city passed the 6th- and 7th-penny sales taxes, purchased the golf course property, Jenny Adair Sawmill Park, and raised $88,000 in 10 days to buy Rubey Park.Eve promised, if elected, to never buy nor drive a car – a promise she faithfully has kept. For 35 years, the stately strawberry blonde has been a familiar figure, walking and riding the bus. She served on the RFTA board from 1983-1998.Eve literally walks the talk. Helen Klanderud

Mike Garrish1912-2004Mayor 1960-1964Growing up in Aspen, Mike Garrish (nee Garich – teachers at the Lincoln School changed the spelling to Garrish) worked on farms, on the railroad, in the mines … and served with the Army during World War II.Mike became a lifetime gardener of renown. “Our father died young of miner’s consumption,” he says, “and we had to garden to have something to eat in the winter.”Carrots and potatoes we could leave in the ground all winter and they stayed good to eat. If you marked the row you could dig down through the snow and find them.”Mike served on City Council for 12 years then became mayor in 1960. “When I got to be mayor things happened fast. We paved the streets [the dust and mud problem had grown to be horrendous]. We upgraded the electric and water systems.”Years later Mike was a little less excited about the improvements happening. In 1992, Mike sold his cottage on Gibson Avenue and moved downvalley.”The town is worrying too much about the values of being a wealthy and popular community. It’s forgotten that the biggest priority is people,” he said. “If they’d just quit holding dozens of festivals every weekend. Everybody has a gimmick to make a buck, and Aspen is the victim.” Mary Eshbaugh Hayes, “The Story of Aspen”

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