Snowmass Village mayor rivals keep it calm in Squirm Night debate |

Snowmass Village mayor rivals keep it calm in Squirm Night debate

The Squirm Night debate was well-mannered, with the candidates rarely rebutting each other, even while talking about heated topics like development

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.
Austin Colbert/The Aspen Times

Incumbent Snowmass Village Mayor Bill Madsen and challenger Reed Lewis got away squirm-free earlier this month as Squirm Night this week made an appearance at Snowmass Village Town Hall.

They made short work of a series of questions about their experience, platforms and Snowmass trivia between more serious inquiries as Kaya Williams from Aspen Public Radio, Aspen Daily News Editor Megan Tackett and The Aspen Times Editor Don Rogers moderated the first of two forums broadcast by Grassroots Community Television. The second was with the four candidates running for Snowmass Town Council.

The program can be viewed here:

Development in Snowmass has been a hot topic for a while. One theme of many discussions in Snowmass has been “just big enough.”

“Currently, I think we’re in a spot where we need to just sort of settle and kind of see how it plays out. We still have a good amount of Base Village that needs to be completed, and we already have approvals for the Snowmass Town Center, and we don’t even know what impact that’s going to be,” Lewis said.

When Madsen first ran for Town Council in 2014, his main focus was to get the base village going. He said the council was mindful in the development, and, although it was challenging, he believes it matches up well with base villages in other ski towns.

“I really am proud of the base village. If you go down there in the afternoon, you see kids running around playing on the rink or on the art in the summertime, parents hanging out. It’s really a welcoming place,” Madsen said.

Snowmass Mayor Bill Madsen talks during Squirm Night on Wednesday, Oct. 12, 2022, in Snowmass.
Austin Colbert/The Aspen Times

As in most ski towns, there is a constant struggle with the line between resort and community. In past interviews, he has said Snowmass has felt like more like a community than ever, while Lewis has been hearing from community members the town is leaning too much toward resort.

“A sense of community is relatively subjective. I feel there are more and more people in this town who are working and spending their lives here than in the past. I think that’s what really creates a community, and that’s the sense of community we all want to have in a small town,” Madsen said.

Lewis said he believes there is a way to restore the balance in the community and lean away from the resort aspect of Snowmass.

“I think there is a feeling here. We all chose to live here, even though it’s a lot more expensive than a lot of other places. It’s kind of one of those places that you have to want to be here to be here,” he said.

Using the Thanksgiving Potluck as an example, he said there are opportunities to bring the entire community together as friends and neighbors.

When asked to define the community character of the village and its biggest threat, he brought up the housing crisis. He said, each year, more places locals live are going up for sale, causing people to move downvalley.

“I’ve seen a lot less people living and working here in the last several years. I think we do a great job, but we could do better with the amount of people we do have in employee housing,” he said.

Madsen defined the character of the town as evolving.

“As more people make Snowmass a full-time residence, the community changes. I think some of the greatest threats are not providing for those folks who are living here full time,” he said.

Reed Lewis, who is running for Snowmass mayor, talks during Squirm Night on Wednesday, Oct. 12, 2022.
Austin Colbert/The Aspen Times

The debate was well mannered, with the candidates rarely rebutting each other and never raising their voices above polite.

Offered the chance to ask each other questions, Madsen asked Lewis if he’d recuse himself from decisions about the Snowmass Mall.

“The short answer would be yes,” Lewis said, depending on the topic.

And, he asked the mayor what he would have done differently if he had a chance to go back for do-overs.

Madsen couldn’t think of anything: “I think the team we have on the council is really good about really diving into the issues and figuring out the best solutions to certain challenges. So, I don’t really have any regrets.”

They leaned into thoughtfulness, their personal histories in the community — neither seeking in this venue to make great distinctions in outlook or direction in the governance of Snowmass, highlighting, perhaps, that what makes for solid governance doesn’t necessarily translate to high theater.