Aspen lost a good man when Dwight Shellman died the other day, and many will miss him. Dwight came to Aspen as a young man quite by chance back in the early ’60s. His then-boss, a partner in a Denver law firm, sent him to the valley to break up a dubious romance between his daughter and a cowboy. I never heard whether Dwight succeeded in breaking up the couple, but he fell in love with the valley himself, in all its rugged splendor, and soon moved here from the Front Range.
Dwight raised a family in Aspen and threw himself into the nascent political scene. As a county commissioner, he was dogged, thorough, passionate and original. The city of Aspen and Pitkin County very likely would have become a different place without Dwight’s vision – a town more like Vail or Eagle, probably with some odd frontage roads and thousands more condo units running up the hillsides.
Because of Dwight’s heavy influence on the planning and zoning genome of the valley, some forget about his powerful role in developing the mass transportation that is now the Roaring Fork Transportation Authority. He never bragged about it, but I think he might have been prouder of that than the other work.
When it came to politics and planning, he was an engineer, an artist and a metaphysicist. And because of his distinct vision, profoundly keen intelligence and determination, he had his detractors. I watched him take some real abuse at city and county meetings from some of those who didn’t like his ideas. What set Dwight apart as a resident-politician was his poise and composure in the face of being called practically everything but the devil. I never once saw him lose his cool or return the abuse.
Above all, Dwight was simply a good man who radiated decency, defined civic duty and set very high standards for those who came after him. I’m grateful to have known him and grateful for the mark he left on the valley, and like many I will miss him very much.
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Under bluebird skies with 160 acres under their boots, hundreds of skiers and snowboarders took to Aspen Mountain for opening day Wednesday.