First-time candidates Neil Hastings, Neal Elinoff and Mike Wisniewski, along with incumbent boardmembers Andrew Karow and Jonathan Sweet, are seeking the two open Class A Residential seats. Steve Togni, general manager of Mountain Lodge, and Eric Sather, general manager of the Peaks, are both seeking the one available Class B Hotel/Lodging seat.
Candidates Scott Leigh, regional manager of Telluride Sports, and Michael Perkins, owner of Telluride Coffee Company, along with incumbent boardmember and owner of Black Bear Trading Co. Bob Franzese, are seeking the one available Class C Service/Retail Business seat.
All of the candidates were present at the MVOA meeting, with the exception of Wisniewski, to give their opinions about where the association currently stands and what it needs to accomplish in the near future. Every one of the candidates touched on Mountain Village’s current vitality “situation.”
“I think the Town of Mountain Village is going through an incredible growth period, with lots of changes and tremendous opportunities, and we can make an impact,” Togni said. “I think I am the guy who can help bring some new ideas and concepts and events. The biggest thing I would like to bring into focus is helping our employee base. We need to begin talking about where they are going to live and work and how we as a community can bring them in. I hope you will take a serious look at what I can bring.”
Hastings remarks echoed Togni’s.
“I am concerned about the people who live here, not the second home owners who are here two weeks out of the year,” Hastings said. “I am a worker bee, I am not rich. I love Mountain Village and the whole Telluride area and I want to give to my community. We need to look very closely to what has worked up here and to continue to find ways to bring money into Mountain Village.”
For incumbent boardmember and current president of the MVOA, Sweet said the opportunity to continue what he has started with the board is enough for him to run for reelection.
“My primary focus for running is to continue that transition that we have started in a very proactive and productive way,” Sweet said.
Elinoff, like Hastings, suggested he would represent full-time residents in a manner they have been represented in the past. “I guess my job would be to listen to the long-term worker residents,” Elinoff said. “I think Telski controls [some of the decisions MVOA makes] and if elected I at least will have a say and maybe try to get Telski to move towards a direction of the people who make the difference in the community, as opposed to the second home owners. The second home owners aren’t really residents, even though they are here.”
Incumbent candidate Karow, like incumbent Sweet, said he would like to finish the work he has begun.
“Why am I running again? We need to finish what we have started,” Karow said. “We are in a transition and if I am around for another [term] we will need to get solid footing on the ground and that will start when the executive director search is completed. From the residential standpoint, we need to get on the same page with the town and Telski.”
Other candidates – among them Franzese – would like to make sure that Mountain Village is not exporting money and employment to surrounding towns.
“We need to address affordable housing,” Franzese said. “We export a tremendous amount of money to places like Montrose. These are millions of dollars that we need. We need to keep the people here and the families here in order to improve our economy and to have a stable workforce. Talk to any business owner in town, they will say, ‘How do I get employees that want to be a part of this community?’ We need to address that.”
Sather also cited employment of locals as an issue. “I think there is a definite need for affordable housing, and gaining employees is something I am concerned with,” Sather said. “I also see more challenges ahead concerning the expansions in Durango and Montrose, that are competing for employment as well. We don’t have adequate childcare here in Mountain Village and in Telluride.”
“Creating more vitality is something I am really excited about,” Leigh said. “I want to create a seamless experience for our guests, and that runs from checking in at their lodging to the ski shop to eating out. I am focused on their experience. I am also here to bring a new look and new ideas and I would like to help move things along and put a positive spin on things.”
Perkins suggested that the current employee situation is a problem.
“I put my name on the ballot to see if I could support Mountain Village,” Perkins said. “As Bob [Franzese] knows, we have employee problems and that is the biggest problem I have encountered so far.”
Although there were few comments and question from the public, former Mountain Village Mayor Rube Felicelli questioned Sweet’s reasoning for running again.
“When I was a member of town council, you said if you were reelected to town council you probably wouldn’t run again [for MVOA] and yet you are running again,” Felicelli reminded Sweet. “My observation with being on council before I left is there is a definite conflict between the board and the town council. There were many times you have had to recuse yourself on both sides. My problem is that I am not getting the representation that I deserve.”
Sweet replied that, “I would argue based on what’s happened, when I ran for council, the expectation was that people ran for change.”
Arguing that change has not yet occurred, he said, “I decided it was important for me to continue with the MVOA. I think the council, as it stands, is the status quo. I think if I am [re-]elected to the MVOA, that I would at some time step down from council.”
Ballots have already been sent to Mountain Village homeowners. According to the MVOA website, anyone who owns a unit of density in Mountain Village (one unit = one vote) or owns or leases a business (number of votes is based on the commercial square footage of the business) is eligible to vote in the annual elections.
Ballots must be received by MVOA at 113 Lost Creek Lane, Suite A, Mountain Village, Colo., 81435, no later than Aug. 23 at 5 p.m.
For candidate bios, visit www.mvoa.org.