Snowmass hopes new position will help communication rift |

Snowmass hopes new position will help communication rift

Steve Benson

In an effort to improve communication and boost trust between town officials and residents, Snowmass Village has created a new position: public information officer.

Christine Nolen, a Snowmass Village resident for nearly 12 years, has been hired for the position.

“Chris’ number one role is to get the information people want and desire in order for them to make their own conclusions,” Carey Shanks, the town’s economic resources director, said. “And as a hopeful byproduct they come to trust government to be out there doing the town’s work.”

Shanks said it’s an inherent but unfortunate characteristic for citizens to distrust government, and critics of Base Village may feel this is a move by the town to create an opportunity to spin information.

“One would expect certain individuals or groups of individuals within the community to think that, wouldn’t they?” Shanks said. “I would ask those people to hold my feet to the fire to make sure we’re not doing that – you’d be hard pressed to find [the town] spinning any information.”

Mary Brown, who represents Shell Properties and the Gateway LLC, firms that own land in town, said her clients are concerned about the “significant number of variances from the established codes that are required to make Base Village work.”

But, despite her concerns with Base Village, Brown said she does not believe Nolen will be spinning information.

“For the [town] to have improved communication is a good idea,” she said. “I have felt that representations have been misconstrued, so if they have somebody who can make that more clear it’s a good thing.”

Nolen said her mission is to better distribute accurate, comprehensive information.

“This is not about a spin or public relations, it’s about community education,” she said. “Once we’re convinced that we’re doing the best job we can do to keep people informed and be as open and thorough as we can in communicating with them, then we’re much more confident that the decisions that will be made, whatever they are, will be much better for the village.”

While Nolen was not hired specifically to deal with the Base Village review, she will play a vital role in providing accurate information to the community as a decision on the complex project nears, Shanks said.

“This is our next logical step in making sure that the day-to-day analytical work taking place in village governance – and the decisions made as a result of that work – is clearly presented to the public in a way that will answer existing and future community questions,” Mike Segrest, Snowmass Village town manager, said.

Segrest added that the town’s been looking to hire a public information officer for years, and Nolen was the perfect fit.

“Chris is dialed in – she’s a village leader, a communications pro, and an experienced member of the Aspen/Snowmass business and cultural communities,” he said.

Steve Benson’s e-mail address is