Britta Gustafson: Local officials and our vision of the future |

Britta Gustafson: Local officials and our vision of the future

Britta Gustafson
Then Again

As our beleaguered country stumbles toward the Nov. 3 general election, eyes are understandably focused on the presidency. We often end up thinking nationally, not locally. But when our leaders at the very top fail us, it is often local officials who step in and make change.

This pandemic has been shining its spotlight on the effectiveness of local leadership, proving that it is time for our view of local elections to change. Voting for our local officials brings us closer to the world where decisions are made fairly and for the population at large, not just along political lines.

Here in Snowmass, our council members are often leaders in supporting climate action. They support local businesses and families in need. They make the decisions that affect our daily lives. They see the future through our unique lens. They put the health and safety of everyday people first and see their neighbors and friends in the statistics and fears. And when broken politics at the national levels are floundering, our local officials help fill the void.

While it’s difficult to avoid being drawn into all of the rhetoric and commotion taking place at the national level with Election Day drawing near, at a local level that partisanship seems to melt away. There is arguably little concern about party affiliations and more consideration of the local issues that exist just within our valley. Certainly efficient operation of government and maintenance of our Snowmass valley infrastructure is important, along with issues such as growth, land use, sustainable workforce, transportation, housing and of course health and safety.

So as we step back and look at the various local issues, it seems to me that they are tied to our vision of the future. In what kind of place would we want to live?

With a very finite amount of land area still available, and a potentially fragile supply chain to contend with, it is apparent that as our community evolves, increasingly careful consideration of how the resort operation can be sustained and maintained into the future should be top of mind. It’s also important for our existing community to actively participate in what the character of our small valley will become.

We need to be aware of how the workforce, necessary to operate our world-class resort, can be supported and how the very desirable character of our town can be retained in the face of intense pressures to build, develop and at times sell out.

I, for one, love the small town flavor of Snowmass. The fact that we agree to feel compassion and exercise caution while respecting one another sets the tone here. Our immediate and intimate connection to our wilderness, the community support and the emotional connectivity contribute to the allure that also brings in the tourist dollars; these also are the primary reasons we love living here and work so hard to stay.

I hope that our elected officials can be sensitive and smart about how we evolve over time and that they will continue to have a long-term vision at heart. As the Greek proverb reminds us, “society grows great when elders plant trees whose shade they know they shall never sit in.”

But maintaining our small-town character goes beyond the physical spaces. We are responsible for the stewardship of this place, supporting each other in times of need and keeping the special features of our village, those unique highlights that make this such a desirable place to live and to visit. We determine what “Just Big Enough” really means when we vote on our council members; and it should not be a facade.

So, it seems to me that the No. 1 issue facing our local elected officials should be the use of our dwindling open space and developable land. It’s a micro view of our planet and it affects our daily lives, health and long-term options. And as I consider the upcoming local election, I’m looking for leaders who can share that collective vision to maintain our special place.

While voting, we are participating in the creation of our future, and I’m looking to those who have the knowledge, commitment and background, as well as the depth of perspective to help achieve this common vision.

All of our Town Council candidates have expressed interest in supporting many of these ideologies, however I believe experience matters. I feel we are fortunate to have Tom Fridstein, who is a Planning Commission member as well as a devoted volunteer, a professional with training and the background as a planner and designer who also loves this community and also is deeply rooted here, running for a council seat. I believe Fridstein’s attributes will serve us well as we look forward to a future that is good for our community, as well as one that is less polarized than at a national level.

In Snowmass, I trust our collective choices and I know we will continue to support each other. We must all engage in the opportunity to vote for our future, despite frustrations that trickle down from above. I’m going to do my homework and devote energy to our local election, and I urge our community to do the same.

Let’s exchange a piece of my mind for a little peace of mind; after all, if we always agree what will we talk about? Britta Gustafson appreciates an open mind; share yours and email her at