Marolt: The hunt for Hunt’s replacement ends with The Baker
Hunt Walker, town of Snowmass Village public works director, is retiring. He’s been doing a great job for a long time. He’s earned this. We’re going to miss him. Hooray!
It sounds like the town is in the process of doing a national search to find a replacement for him. There’s no need. The perfect replacement is already on the payroll. He’s been doing a great job for a long time. He’s earned this. If they don’t promote him, we are going to miss a great opportunity. Hooey!
The hunt for Hunt’s replacement should end at the end of his right hand. That’s where the man who can fix anything mechanical, logical, physical or logistical can be found.
His name is John Baker, and he’s been working for the town since it was only aspiring to someday become a village and long before it needed a renaissance. He’s the guy who gives local insomniacs hope that daylight is only a few hours away when he drives by in his snow grader at four in the morning during the darkest nights of winter. He fits this community like this community fits him.
Baker’s official title is road supervisor, but that’s about like describing Willie Mays as a center fielder. I think he probably earned that title because, by running all over this town looking for things that are broken and organizing the crews to fix them, he has memorized every stretch of road around here so intimately that he can sense a pothole forming in his sleep. Come to think of it, throughout all the years he has been scrambling around doing the town’s dirty work, he has probably worn out more than his fair share of local blacktop. It only makes sense that he should fix it.
In the interest of full disclosure, I have to tell you that Baker is a friend of mine and that he has “helped” me fix approximately 10,000 things around my house that were busted or broken or never worked to begin with. But I think lots of people in town can claim a similar relationship with him.
I also have worked with him on some cabins I manage about a mile and a half from the middle of nowhere and only accessible by one of the gnarliest Jeep roads in North America or by a top-secret custom-built super-high-altitude, retrofitted Sikorski helicopter that we do not now nor ever will we have access to. My official title in the project is “manager” and his is “the guy who works his butt off and figures things out so that the manager can keep his title.”
The problems with properly maintaining these cabins are immense. If you are ever hiking deep in the heart of the Rocky Mountains at an altitude where you feel lightheaded and you come across the carcass of what you think must have been an old mining cabin, you can rest assured that the former owners of the remains most likely expired trying in futility to keep up with the deleterious effects of the elements in order to preserve their real estate investment. A trip to the hardware store to pick up a wingnut you forgot to pack costs you about 22 cents and a full day of molar-rattling travel back and forth.
My point in telling you this is that, against all odds, these cabins are not a moldering pile of archaeological artifacts and ruins, and it is not because of me. It is because of Baker, who could suitably pass for a butcher or candlestick maker if the job unexpectedly required it. The guy can figure out how to fix anything and operate a cadre of all types of heavy equipment.
John Baker is an asset to this community and is so solidly reliable that I know we take him for granted. If the search for Hunt Walker’s replacement doesn’t stop here, Town Council and the town manager should be issued moving violations. As far as I am concerned, the point of conducting a nationwide search for a replacement for the director of public works position in the town is moot and a waste of time and money. I don’t care whom the search uncovers — that person would have to either rely completely on John Baker to get up to speed or reinvent the wheel of town maintenance. It would be so much easier to just promote from within and give Baker the opportunity to keep doing what he’s doing with a nice raise and the fancy title that he has earned.
Roger Marolt has lived in Snowmass Village long enough to appreciate John Baker. Contact him at roger@marolt llp.com.
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As development cranked up at the soon-to-be Snowmass-at-Aspen ski area, the Aspen Illustrated News published a photo spread in May 1967 of the construction happening throughout town.