Snowmass Mayor Markey Butler leaves legacy as first female mayor, strong facilitator
Fierce. A strong facilitator. Passionate. Extremely hard-working. A true community leader.
These are just a few of the characteristics and phrases used to describe Markey Butler, the town of Snowmass Village’s first female mayor.
Butler, who was first elected in 2014, is finishing up her third and final two-year term as mayor of Snowmass, a role town staff and her fellow council members feel she’s commanded with her facilitation skills and focus on what’s best for the Snowmass community.
On a September afternoon in Snowmass Town Hall as she headed into her final month as mayor, Butler met with the Snowmass Sun to talk about her experiences while in the elected position and her service as both a Town Council member and chair of the town’s Planning Commission.
Butler and her husband, Jerry, first started coming out to Snowmass from Ann Arbor, Michigan, to ski in the ’80s. Butler said she, Jerry and their two daughters quickly fell in love with the village area, deciding to purchase a second home in town in 1988.
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The Longevity Project is an annual campaign to help educate readers about what it takes to live a long, fulfilling life in our valley. This year Kevin shares his story of hope and celebration of life with his presentation Cracked, Not Broken as we explore the critical and relevant topic of mental health.
In the late ’90s, Butler said Jerry retired and moved to the village full-time while she — CEO of Arbor Hospice at the time — finished up her work in Michigan. She moved to Snowmass full-time herself in the early 2000s to retire as well — or so she thought.
“I thought I was going to retire,” Butler said of moving to Snowmass full-time. “But there was a ‘hospice of the valley,’ it was owned by Valley View Hospital and I was on the advisory board, and one day at a meeting the hospital administration announced they were closing and they did. … Fast forward, I was cornered at a Rotary meeting to help start another hospice organization, so we did.”
A nurse with decades of experience working as the head of nursing at a children’s hospital in Detroit and a hospital in Ann Arbor, and as the CEO of her own health care consulting company and two large hospice organizations, Butler was well-equipped to spearhead the creation of the Roaring Fork’s HomeCare & Hospice of the Valley.
She said she ran the end-of-life care organization as executive director for 10 years before retiring in 2018.
But retirement is a loose term for Markey Butler, who has worn many local leadership hats over the years and has never really stopped working. After moving full-time to Snowmass, it didn’t take Butler long to get involved in town government, first serving on the town Planning Commission for two years, Town Council for six years and most recently as mayor for six years.
Butler said she’s always been an avid student of politics, serving on several task forces and committees in Michigan before moving to Snowmass. Butler also is the current chair of the Pitkin County Board of Health and serves or has served on various area volunteer committees and boards over the years, including those for the Roaring Fork Transportation Authority, Jazz Aspen Snowmass, Rotary Club of Snowmass Village, Hospice & Palliative Care of the Rockies and more.
According to Bob Sirkus, current Snowmass Town Council member, Butler has always been pretty quiet about her ongoing commitments and contributions to the valley community.
Sirkus and his wife have known the Butlers for years, purchasing the Butlers’ old condo in the late ’90s. But it wasn’t until Sirkus was appointed onto Planning Commission when Butler was serving as chair that he really got to know her as a person and as a leader.
“Markey made it clear that she knew how to run a meeting,” Sirkus said of his time serving with Markey on Planning Commission. “She knew how to give people the opportunity to share their opinion and helped guide the discussions, … and she’s used some of the same techniques as mayor.”
Sirkus went on to say he always wondered how she was able to head HomeCare & Hospice of the Valley for so many years while also serving on Town Council and the various other organizations she’s a part of — and that while she’ll be missed as Snowmass mayor, he doesn’t think the community will miss Markey much because she’ll still be very involved.
“I don’t know what Markey will do next but I know she’ll do something. I don’t think she’s finished serving the community yet,” Sirkus said. “Yes, (Town Council members) have to adjust to a different style perhaps under the new mayor’s leadership, but as for Markey I think she’ll still be very active in town and we will continue to hear from her moving forward.”
Over her tenure as mayor, Butler has established herself as a strong facilitator of thorough council discussion that more often than not leads to consensus-driven decision-making, bringing a number of key town projects and initiatives to fruition.
For example, in 2015 Snowmass Town Council had to navigate the restart of Base Village development with East West Partners; went on to create the Parks, Open Space, Trails and Recreation plan and board; revamp the town’s public art acquisition process and advisory board; create the 2018 Town Comprehensive Plan; and most recently move forward toward the final approval of the Snowmass Center redevelopment, Town Park redesign project, changes to the last phase of Base Village development and Snowmass Inn purchase.
Butler also has been instrumental over the past year in both the county and local COVID-19 response, guiding Board of Health decision-making as chair and heading the Mayor’s Economic Recovery Task Force in Snowmass to help local businesses get through the early pandemic period.
Similar to Sirkus, Tom Goode, current councilman and Snowmass mayoral candidate, feels Butler’s leadership has been outstanding over the past year, and that he’s going to miss the current council’s ability to work as a team and reach consensus on difficult issues.
“I will miss her in her role, she was by far a great person to work under,” Goode said. “She was a facilitator, she led the team and we were a team. I’ve enjoyed every minute of it.”
Current Councilwoman Alyssa Shenk expressed similar thoughts. Shenk said she feels Butler’s leadership has shown through in her ability to guide deep discussion and her institutional knowledge, and that Butler’s been a role model for Shenk as the first woman to serve as mayor in Snowmass.
Shenk, who has worked alongside Butler as an Aspen Skiing Co. ambassador at Snowmass outside of Town Council, also said she feels Butler’s ability to connect with so many different locals has helped inform her decision-making and driven her to ensure everyone’s opinions are heard.
“Markey really knows how to keep things moving forward and how to navigate our meetings and get us to think together as a group for the common good,” Shenk said. “… and just being the first woman mayor ever for the town is really amazing and I think just paves the way for a lot more opportunities for women. It’s just really inspiring.”
Bill Madsen, current councilman and Snowmass mayoral candidate, echoed Shenk’s sentiments. He said he feels Butler’s legacy will be that she served as the first female mayor of Snowmass, and that he’s learned a lot from her leadership style over the years.
“I just think being the first female mayor of Snowmass is such a huge accomplishment and I hope we have more women who want to get involved moving forward,” Madsen said. “It’s really important to have that voice on council and I think she’s really led that way.”
For Butler, serving on Planning Commission and Town Council both as a member and as mayor hasn’t been easy but has really allowed her to understand the processes that keep the town of Snowmass Village running and the needs of the entire Snowmass community. She said she’ll miss the collegiality of the current Town Council team and work they’ve been able to get done together as a result, but that she’s excited for a break.
“This council hasn’t always agreed on everything, but we all care a lot about each other and they’re just amazing and all very committed to this,” Butler said of the current Town Council. “You have to have a commitment to love your village and your community and have to care deeply about every human person living in your community to do this. And I think we all do that and we all honor and respect the environment we live in.”
When asked what advice she has for the next mayor and Snowmass mayors to come, Butler said they should keep the focus on what the town goals are and how to best meet those goals for the entire village community as a united Town Council by taking the time to listen to the people that live here.
“Keep your eye on what they need, what the goals are. How do you continue to build and create the best community?” Butler said. “That’s the number one thing. Keep that strategic vision in mind and take the time to listen… know that you do not always have the right answers alone.”
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