Snowmass council wants to get young adults more involved |

Snowmass council wants to get young adults more involved

Jill Beathard
Snowmass Sun

The Snowmass Village Town Council is looking for ways to get more young residents involved in the community.

The council heard a presentation at its meeting on Aug. 4 from the Aspen Next Generation Advisory Commission, a board made up of members from ages 18 to 40. The board was sanctioned in January and provides feedback to the Aspen City Council on issues that pertain to that age group.

“We came to be through an organic process,” Chairman Skippy Mesirow said. “Our organization both fit the needs of young people looking to have an impact on the future of their town as well as the town’s need to have more input from an age group that perhaps hadn’t been heard over the last several years, even though historically Aspen has had a very active younger population.”

The board conducted a survey among Aspen residents of that age group and set out to find what the biggest obstacles were to allowing young people to live in Aspen long-term. The commission found that the two biggest issues were housing and the ability to have a sustainable career, so it formed subcommittees to focus on those topics.

Co-chairwoman Christine Benedetti said the board is currently working with the Aspen council to hold a stakeholder meeting on housing and discuss what the community’s desire is for family-friendly housing in the long term. As for career paths, Mesirow said one thing the board has discussed is young people’s ability to use technology to work from anywhere. He currently is working with a group of individuals to bring a business incubator space to Aspen, and there is talk of using the former Aspen Art Museum space for something like that, he said.

“I applaud those efforts,” Councilwoman Markey Butler said. “Is there a way that we could work together on it, or do we need a whole separate group?”

Councilman Jason Haber pointed out that some of the members of the commission were Snowmass residents or had some tie to the community.

“Apathy is one of the challenges you face,” Haber said to Benedetti and Mesirow. “How do you engage that group effectively to give them hope that maybe there is a long-term possibility for them here? And from your experience here in Snowmass, do you see growing interest in that age demographic to get involved in these kinds of interests?”

Benedetti told Haber that the group began meeting because Aspen’s community relations director set it up — with lunch. She added that young, passionate people who want to stay in the area will show up.

“I think that exists here in Snowmass,” she said.

Aspen’s group is for people age 18 to 40, but Snowmass might decide it wants to engage a different group, Mesirow said.

“How do you guys see the deficit in interaction of young people in this process affecting the town?” Mesirow said. “And where would you like to see young people having a role?”

“To me, it’s just about bringing energy and bringing creativity and fresh eyes,” Haber said. “A lot of the folks that were here for the founding of this community are still very engaged and kind of carrying a lot of the load of moving things forward. It’s at a point, to some degree, where there is an opportunity for evolution … to really get people that are going to be invested for the next 40 years to bring some input on the decisions that influence that.”

Part of the problem with involving those people might be the time it takes, he said.

Butler said she agreed with Haber.

“If you look at our various boards and our commissions, we don’t see a lot of young individuals,” Butler said. “The question becomes one of how we might be able to energize the group and try to be very diligent about how much time they really have to spend.”

“Apathy is not ‘I don’t want to be involved,’” Mesirow said. “It’s ‘I don’t want to spend my time because I don’t think it will have an impact.’”

The council members are having a strategic planning session in September, and they agreed to discuss it more then. Snowmass could form a group as formal as Aspen’s, or it might just want to pull young people together for informal gatherings from time to time, Mesirow said.

“That’s for you guys to discuss,” Mesirow said.

“While we’re a city of Aspen commission, half of our board doesn’t actually live in Aspen,” Benedetti said. “Everything we’re doing ultimately affects Aspen, but it affects the entire valley.”