Marolt: Stepping out of some awfully big running shoes
Dude, what happened? You were undefeated for what, 26 years? I lost count when I ran out of fingers and toes. Just one more measly victory and your last runoff could have been into a Rocky Mountain sunset. A runoff, for crying out loud! Those are nothing compared with the recalls you coasted through. After 14 years as a county commissioner and three terms as mayor of Aspen, you come up short for a council seat? Just like New England in Super Bowl XLII, our heavily favored Aspen patriot couldn’t be perfect.
Look, Mick, you know I’m not criticizing; I’m in shock. My last memory of you when you weren’t in office is you and me chatting it up outside the batting cage set up in the Red Brick gym. I was a senior on the high school baseball team and you were cutting your teeth as a cub sports reporter at The Aspen Times. That was two lifetimes ago — yours plus mine!
You hinted several times that you had lost a little steam for the campaign trail. I don’t know — maybe the Aspen voters sensed that and cut you a break to get you on your way to early retirement — a gift of sorts. I don’t know why we’d suddenly start putting your well-being ahead of ours, though. It’s just not the Aspen way.
Maybe anxiety got to the voters. You remember spring 1984? Of course you do. It was a winter of record snowfall. The cornice on Mountain Boy up Independence Pass was 30 feet high. We wondered what it would be like to jump off. Unfortunately, somebody had a camera, and so our wonder turned into a commitment. I remember the photographer waiting for the perfect light while I stood on top getting more nervous. I couldn’t take the anticipation and yelled, “I’m going,” and I went.
That leap turned the future into the past and exchanged my worries for complaints. I crashed spectacularly, but the outcome became known, and that was more comfortable than standing at the top, knees shaking under a load of uncertainty.
We knew you weren’t going to be looking out for us in office forever; we sensed the end was near. The opportunity to elect someone who kind of thinks like you presented itself, and we jumped at the chance rather than prolonging unease with a future political climate unknown. Like I said, I don’t know; I’m just trying to sort this out.
The thing is, you always claimed to be a regular guy, but you weren’t. Sure, you were approachable and made yourself available to talk about everything from bicycle chains to land-use code. We saw you just about every day and everywhere. You lived modestly. You dressed like a local slob. You owned the same convertible VW Rabbit so long that it passed from being cool to being hopelessly out of style and is now retro-hip. But you also had staying power, and not just in the etch-another-hash-mark-in-the-wall kind of way that so many locals do, marking time for bragging rights. You are one of the rarest of Aspenites — one who has been meaningfully involved in this town since the day you got here.
You made it look easy, except to the people who watched closely or knew better from experience. As you know, my father was involved in local politics. The stress almost killed him, literally, and that made me understand it is not a game for those with nothing on the table.
Oh, well — what’s done is done, as they say. I suppose you could run again, but if the wind was leaving the telltale hanging in your sail this time around, I’m guessing you might not have the patience left to tack upwind again in the next election.
Here’s the thing, though: I bet you are going to enjoy not being in office maybe a lot more than you expect, and I don’t think having a bunch more spare time is the reason — you still have plenty of energy to use that up. The thing I think you are going to realize, now that you are out of office, is how much this community sincerely appreciates you, and not just a little over half of us, as has been apparent for the past quarter of a century.
Congratulations, Mick. You are stepping out of the distorting shadows of politics and into the mountain sunlight, where your years of dedication, caring and commitment to Aspen will become apparent to everyone. Thanks for everything!
Roger Marolt thinks there’s still plenty of tread left on the big, well-worn running shoes Bert Myrin is stepping into. Email at email@example.com.
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