Snowmass election ’22: Mayor, challenger tout their experience and vision for the Village

The Aspen Times

With election season is full gear, this week’s Snowmass Sun is publishing a set of questions and answers posed to incumbent Mayor Bill Madsen and challenger Reed Lewis. Election Day is Nov. 8, and ballots were mailed out last week.

Bill Madsen
File photo

Name: Bill Madsen

Age: 57

Current occupation: Director of NASTAR

Leadership and volunteer board experience: 2020-22 Mayor of Snowmass Village; Town Council 2014-2020; Board of directors: Board of Health, Aspen Snowmass Nordic Council, RFTA, EOTC (Elected Officials Transportation Committee), JAS Aspen Snowmass, Bob Beattie Ski Foundation.

Education: University of Colorado

Family: Father George and Mother Martha arrived in Aspen in 1957. Tom Sardy lent them lumber to build the Madsen Chalet, a four-unit apartment building on 5th and Hopkins, where they lived and raised our family. George started the Aspen Daily, a single-sheet newspaper, and he hosted an interview talk show on KSNO radio and was a charter member of the Aspen Rotary Club. Martha still operates the apartment house that provides affordable housing to locals. My siblings Cindy, Tim, and Beth still live in the Roaring Fork Valley.

Family: Father George and Mother Martha arrived in Aspen in 1957. Tom Sardy lent them lumber to build the Madsen Chalet, a four-unit apartment building on 5th and Hopkins, where they lived and raised our family. George started the Aspen Daily, a single-sheet newspaper, and he hosted an interview talk show on KSNO radio and was a charter member of the Aspen Rotary Club. Martha still operates the apartment house that provides affordable housing to locals. My siblings Cindy, Tim, and Beth still live in the Roaring Fork Valley.

Who is your biggest political inspiration? My father, George Madsen, was a county commissioner from 1980-1988. Notable projects during that time span included the two largest employee-housing projects ever built in the city and county, construction of a new jail, construction of the senior center and assisted living facility, and expansion of the airport and terminal. My father believed in making decisions from personal experience; so, when the question to build a new jail was on the table, he suggested to the commissioners that they spend the night in the jail. Construction of a new jail began soon after the sleepover.

Why are you running for mayor? I am seeking a second term as mayor so that I can continue to focus on the needs of Snowmass Village residents and guests. I want to follow through on the goals of the current council. I am passionate about our world-class trail system, and I want to make sure walking and biking are the preferred modes of transportation in the village. I am a strong supporter of public transportation and creating spaces that encourages the use of local and regional bus service. I am committed to supporting a viable workforce and providing workforce housing. I recognize that Snowmass is not a traditional town but rather a unique village, and I understand that utilizing high-quality creative approaches requires taking reasonable risk. I want to preserve and protect open spaces and our environment and promote environmental and economic sustainability and resiliency.

Reed Lewis

Name: Reed Lewis

Age: 48

Current occupation: Entrepreneur: Daly Bottle Shop, Grain Fine Food, 81615 T-Shirt & Gift, Lys Chocolate, Real Estate

Leadership and volunteer board experience: Snowmass Village Town Council 2006-2010; Ruedi Water and Power Authority Board 2006-2010; three terms on the MSEGS(Snowmass Tourism) Board; former Snowmass Village Rotarian; Forest Conservancy Volunteer Ranger — 11 years; one term as Willows Condominiums HOA board member; AspenOUT board member — 12 years; Colgate Magazine Class Editor; Colgate Alumni Council; Created the Snowmass Village Rotary Wine Festival 2002; Created Cidermass 2018

Education: Wheeler High School Valedictorian 1992, North Stonington, Connecticut; Colgate University BA Geology 1996, Hamilton, New York

Family: Hamilton aka Hammers the Dog (often holding down the fort at 81615 or the Daly Bottle)

Who is your biggest political inspiration? I am inspired by those public officials who don’t fall into the trap of taking corporate/PAC money thereby becoming beholden to special interests over the will of the electorate by whom they were placed in office. While I appreciate the outpouring of offered financial support, I will not be accepting contributions and instead invite you to make a donation to a local social services nonprofit of your choice.

Why are you running for mayor? Snowmass Village is an exceptional town. And, it expands beyond our physical existence. We have a strong spirit and a heart here. We need stronger leadership to preserve the smaller-town character and feeling that drew us all here and continues to attract people year after year. From age 9 to 18, I sang with the nonprofit Chorus of Westerly, Rhode Island, and, from these formative years, gained a strong understanding of the power of a community coming together to give to something greater than ourselves. I have carried this tradition of giving back throughout my life and know it is time now to offer my broad experience to help move our town in the most positive direction. I understand our resort community from several perspectives, as my personal relationship with Snowmass has evolved over the last 26 years. I’ve worked resort restaurants and retail, hotels, and even the former SVRA. I’ve held up to 5 jobs at one time in order to live the dream we have here! Since 2001, I have run several businesses on the Snowmass Mall, giving me an even deeper insight to how optimistic one must remain to cope with the cyclical nature of resort-town realities.

I understand the housing crunch as well as anyone. I couch surfed my first six months in the valley finally landing a two-bedroom condo at Seasons 4 with six friends during my first winter. I lived at the town owned Brush Creek Apartments for five years and then was able to buy a free-market studio at the Willows where I lived for 16 years before recently purchasing the Rulons’ old home up on Faraway Road. Like you, I have worked diligently to be able to stay and live in one of the best locations in the world!

Question: Why or why not do you support ballot question 2C, which asks Snowmass voters to expand the use of the lodging and sales taxes to include workforce housing?

Bill Madsen: I support 2C because workforce housing is critical to the success of the village, and it is important for building a community. I feel strongly that having people living and working in Snowmass Village adds to our community character, it builds a connectedness, inspires communication, and provides a feeling of interdependency. When locals support locals, there is a feeling of belonging, and, when people feel like they are a part of a community, they take ownership which brings participation. The town clean-up day is a great example of a community gathering that brings people together to take care of our village. The event starts conversation, it builds camaraderie, and it brings the community together. From the Thursday night concerts to the John Bemis Thanksgiving Community Potluck Dinner, we all benefit when we come together to talk about the village that we all love. I believe in investing in our infrastructure when our sales tax has a surplus, and 2C would help us support workforce-housing goals without reducing the budget for our marketing, tourism, and group-sales teams.

Reed Lewis: I am a huge proponent of employee housing and believe it is crucial to the continued success of our community and resort. However, 2C is a sloppy and rushed ballot question failing to address several aspects of this shifting of funds. I believe lowering the 2.4% lodging tax and the 2.5% marketing, group sales, and special-events sales tax would more than adequately allow us to create a cleaner and separate workforce housing tax that is not so ambiguously mashed together in a fund for so many different uses with no clear direction on the parameters by which the funds for housing would be allotted. In light of the large increases the town has seen in sales-tax revenue in recent years, we could adequately reconfigure these sales-tax percentages and also lower the collective retail sales-tax rate from 10.4% back to 9.9%. Additionally, the current council’s ballot language failed to update the rebate, which has remained stagnant since its inception decades ago; and, with no regard to inflation or heed to the additional taxes, we are all now paying on each and every item we order online.

Snowmass Mayor Bill Madsen, left, talks while his challenger, Reed Lewis, listens during Squirm Night on Wednesday, Oct. 12, 2022, at Snowmass Town Hall in Snowmass Village.

Question: What is one amenity Snowmass does not have that you would like to see become a reality?

Bill Madsen: I believe the Ice Age Discovery has been a missed opportunity for Snowmass Village. When a young female mammoth tusk was found during excavation work to expand Ziegler Reservoir in 2010, the Denver Museum of Nature and Science took over the site and discovered more than 5,000 bones and 40 species that lived in Snowmass 150,000-plus years ago. I feel strongly that climate change will be the defining characteristic of our generation, and learning about our past will help us understand and better prepare for our future. Harry Teague designed a building in the Base Village to house the find, but there was not enough political will to complete the vision. However, the marketing team is working on a plan to re-invigorate the Ice Age Discovery using technology. The current plan is to develop an application that will allow users to immerse themselves in the history of Snowmass Village’s Ice Age and to educate them about the impacts of a changing climate. The Aspen Science Center is collaborating with TOSV to develop content and an in-person speaker series is envisioned. We may have missed the initial implementation, but the future of Ice Age Discovery in Snowmass Village is exciting, and I encourage you to get involved.

Reed Lewis: Authentic human connection is one of the greatest amenities we can offer to each other and the visitors to our town. I would love to see us strengthen our community even more. We have some great local gathering spots and events that are already well-supported by a diverse cross section of our community, and I believe we can do even more to foster pride in our neighborhoods and our town as a whole. We come out en masse for the John Bemis Thanksgiving Potluck, the Free Thursday Night Concert Series, and for our Annual Town Clean Up Day. I would love to encourage more traditions like these. For example, the Upper Ridge Run neighborhood has been getting together for an informal potluck each summer for over 30 years, and it has provided a great way for full- and part-time residents to meet and mingle. I’d also like to see us re-energize the Snowmass Community Fund to increase our support for the arts, humanities, and social services right here in our Village. There are amazing organizations doing great work up and down the valley, but I think we could really get excited for elevating this local non-profit to support more Snowmass Village special.

Question:Do you think development in Snowmass Village is growing too fast, too slow, or just about right?

Bill Madsen: When I first moved to Snowmass Village from Aspen, the town had a nickname: Slowmass. Today, Snowmass is a much more vibrant community, and development has helped provide the stimulus to add events and excitement. The Planning Commission and the Town Council did an excellent job of updating the Comprehensive Plan, so that development is focused in the four CPAs (Comprehensively Planned Areas). The West Village (Mall), Base Village, The Center, and the Town Park are the CPAs, and that is where we can expect development. The pace is often determined by the property owners, but we have a plan in place that will keep us from seeing urban sprawl across the village. I believe we should invest in our infrastructure, but we must keep a careful eye on not paving paradise.

Reed Lewis: Snowmass Village is about 95% built-out. As I shared in last week’s debate, we already have several yet-to-be-built buildings coming on line in the Base Village in the next few years, as well as the Center redevelopment which has also already been approved. Our town has been under some sort of major construction for the last 18 years, and I believe it is time to pause and let the dust settle (literally) before rushing into additional projects and approvals.  We need thoughtful planning to reduce the impact on our daily enjoyment of the town we call home.

Question:Why should voters pick you over your opponent?

Bill Madsen: Snowmass Village is about having fun and bonding with friends and family. I believe the mayor of the Village should exude these attributes. I love participating in all the activities that make Snowmass Village a world class destination with friends, family, and guests, and those experiences create a special connection. I completed my undergraduate studies at the University of Colorado, but I earned my Ph.D. in Fun in the Roaring Fork Valley. I have mastered many of the skills that make Snowmass Village a sporting destination, and I think locals enjoy having a Doctor of Fun as the mayor of Snowmass Village.

Reed Lewis: Thank you to everyone who’s reached out over the last several weeks to share their thoughts about our town. As I’ve listened, I’ve been reminded of how passionately everyone who calls Snowmass Village home feels about our paradise. And, it’s much more than a place; it’s a feeling. As we live, work, and play here, let’s remember that feeling. That energetic shift you feel as you round the bend coming up Brush Creek into the beautiful, natural amphitheater in which our town sits. The friendly friends, neighbors, and returning guests we see at the post office, restaurants, or on the trails. And, of course, the stunning vistas we get to experience on a “daily” basis from almost every vantage point in town. When elected, I will continue to listen and ask the tough questions. Thank you for your participation in our local election, and I would be honored to have your vote to help lead our town into the best version of itself we can create.