Snowmass Village Town Council race draws one incumbent, four hopefuls | News

Editor’s note: The Snowmass Village Town Council race has attracted five candidates vying for two council seats. Incumbent Alyssa Shenk and four challengers, Tom Fridstein, Jeff Kremer, Matthew Owens and Gray Warr, hope to be elected on Tuesday, Nov. 3. In the first of this multi-part series, the candidates speak, in their own words, about issues of the day.

Tom Fridstein

Occupation: Architect

Political experience: Chairman of Snowmass Village Planning Commission and ­member for five years; President of Snowmass Village Rotary Club 2019-2020; member of ASE Vision Committee.

Years in Snowmass Village: Five years full-time, 45 years part-time.

Aspen Daily News: What one thing would you like to see happen in Snowmass Village? What is the most important issue currently facing the town?



Tom Fridstein: The most important issue facing Snowmass Village is our response to the health, social, and economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. Town council must thoughtfully meet each evolving challenge the pandemic presents to determine the most appropriate actions to sustain our economic viability while protecting the health of our residents and visitors. Winter will be extremely challenging as dining, shopping and socializing moves indoors. There is no playbook to guide us through this unprecedented crisis, we need to listen to the health experts and government agencies and chart an intelligent path for the village.

ADN: What are your ideas on reducing the town’s budget if sales tax revenues drop this winter because of COVID-19?

TF: The 2021 budget should identify non-essential items of discretionary spending that could be deferred to future years if revenues drop, such as public works improvements including redeveloping Town Park, building a new Transit Center, and 5G/fiber implementation. The budget should continue to contribute to the reserve fund so we are prepared for a long-term economic recovery. I hope we would not need to reduce any of the talented and dedicated town staff.

ADN: How big is too big for the redevelopment of the Snowmass Center?

TF: Creating a wonderful commercial town center for the residents of Snowmass Village is the critical measure of the redevelopment of the Snowmass Center. This is the one place all full-time and most part-time residents visit daily, and the commercial area of the development should become an attractive, inviting, and functional destination for the town’s residents with great shops and restaurants, public spaces, abundant parking, and easy traffic flows. If the developers create such an amenity for the town, they can develop a significant amount of residential buildings behind the commercial center going up the slope and away from Brush Creek Road.

Jeff Kremer

Occupation: Retired, after committing 40 years of my career to behavioral health care (mental health and chemical dependency). Over the years, I worked as a clinician, clinical supervisor and program director. The final 20 years, I was on the senior management team of two area organizations.


Political Experience: To this point, I have never served in a governing capacity. Beginning in 2016, I participated for one-and-a-half years on the Parks, Open Space, Trails and Recreation Steering Committee (POSTR) here in Snowmass Village. From that, I transitioned to be the first Chair of the POSTR Advisory Board, a position I held until November of 2019. That experience afforded me the opportunity to interact with the council, citizens, town staff and other advisory boards.

Over the years, I have had the opportunity to present at many BOCC and Aspen City Council meetings on behalf of the nonprofit human services agencies, including my own. I have been active in a variety of issues campaigns, particularly helping the Healthy Community Fund to get traction with Pitkin County voters as a tax supported funding source for human services agencies.

Years in Snowmass Village: I first lived in Snowmass Village for a six-month period in 1985. The spectacular setting and environment of our town left a deep impression on me. I returned with my wife, Annette in 1991 and we raised our two children in the village. Thus, we have lived in Snowmass Village for the past 29 years.

Aspen Daily News: What is one thing you would like to see happen in Snowmass Village? What is the most important issue facing the town?

Jeff Kremer: Being community oriented, I would like to see a redesigned entrance more welcoming and worthy of our town. This would include elimination of the dirt parking lot and refurbishment of the pond and wetlands creating more recreational opportunities and a wetlands sanctuary. This issue has lingered in the town for years, if not decades. It would also open the door to new amenities in Town Park for the benefit of area citizens, second home owners and visitors.

It would be difficult not to say the most important issue facing the town is COVID-19. This pandemic has negatively affected our businesses, vitality and the ability to generate tax revenues, not to mention our ability to connect as human beings. I am optimistic that American science and medicine will be able to significantly put a dent in this scourge in the not too distant future. In the meantime, we need to be aware that locally owned small businesses and some residents may need what help we can provide as a town.

Aspen Daily News: What are your ideas on reducing the town’s budget if sales tax revenues drop this winter because of COVID-19?

JK: First, we should recognize that Snowmass Village council and town management have taken a prudent approach to budgeting over the years, including building a reserve. That does not mean the budget could not be under threat if COVID-19 persists in the future. While year to date tax collections are behind 2019, there is some encouraging news in the picture. July sales tax revenues stand at -6.5% against 2019. The real estate transfer tax (RETT) is also down for the year, but July collections were 31% over the same period in 2019. I think there is a reasonable expectation that collections for both will be similar for August.

If the reality is cuts must be made, we must first look to delaying capital and other expenses first. There could be salary freezes. Staff vacancies may go unfilled and new hires put on hold. The elephant in the room is always staff cuts. The last time I am aware of this happening in Snowmass Village government was 2008. This must be a last resort and, if on council, will do everything in my power to avoid that action.

Aspen Daily News: How big is too big for the redevelopment of Snowmass Center?

JK: First, we need to acknowledge that the Snowmass Center is in the final step of its approval process with council. Council is currently waiting to see if the revised plan lines up with changes that were agreed upon between the town and Eastwood. That said, unless there are significant deviations, Snowmass Center will be redeveloped.

Is it too big? I am aware current council pushed back on a number of things in the application including height, view lines, parking, and winter-time shadows to name a few. In my opinion, the Snowmass Center application is another instance of development or redevelopment “super-sizing” in our town. It is not just a Center, but a small village in its own right. This includes a good number of private residences with some employee units which I do support. “Too big” is in the eye of the beholder and I have stated my view.

Matthew Owens

Occupation: 1. Housing Operations Manager, Aspen Skiing Co. (Resigned Sept. 2 – last day at SkiCo is Oct. 15). 2. Owner – Mr. Project Property Management LLC (Fall 2017- Current)

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Political experience: This is my first time running for an official office. I have been a part of many grassroots political endeavors over the past 10 years. For example, I worked heavily on Colorado Proposition 105 by going door to door sharing research and advocating for GMO labeling with local residents.

Years in Snowmass Village: Full-time resident for over 16 years

Aspen Daily News: What is one thing you would like to see happen in Snowmass Village? What is the most important issue currently facing the town?

Matthew Owens: The most important issue facing the town (other than COVID-19) is the longtime challenge of affordable employee housing. Years ago, it was determined by TOSV that we needed at least another 400 employee housing beds. Currently that number has been hovering around 200. While this is still a priority of the town, this project is way behind schedule. Meanwhile we have created a large Base Village which requires a large workforce to operate. I would like to see this project complete as soon as possible. When we return to normal, we need to be able to fully staff this large infrastructure we have constructed.

ADN: What are your ideas on reducing the town’s budget if sales tax revenues drop this winter because of COVID-19?

MO: This is a likely scenario and one that has to be planned for with an open mind and people must be willing to consider options they may not have in the past. Budgets will have to be strongly reevaluated and most likely reallocated. It’s important to have lots of options and war game each scenario. Some areas may have to work with less of a budget while others may require more. Some of these changes may be short term and others may be longer. There is no “perfect” answer for this right now. We’ll have to take things in stride as we work towards returning to normal. It is important to find the right balance and remain flexible as things change day to day.

ADN: How big is too big for the redevelopment of the Snowmass Center?

MO: The space where the Snowmass Center is located seems to have a bit of flexibility. Currently the Center is a bit too small and seems somewhat dysfunctional at times. I do not suggest that we build a large monstrosity that impacts views of the mountains or takes away that small town feeling of Snowmass Village. However, the idea of “slightly larger” may be necessary and I think that can be done without having a long-lasting negative impact. There is some room here to add a slightly larger facility that would help the parking, traffic flow, foot traffic and business access that could really help our town.

Alyssa Shenk

Occupation: Attorney; development & events coordinator for Pathfinders.

Political experience: Snowmass Village Town Council, 2014-present; RFTA Board of Directors, alternate; Northwest Colorado Council of Governments, Executive Committee; Aspen Sister Cities, Board of Directors

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Years in Snowmass Village: 13 years (16 total in the valley)

Aspen Daily News: What one thing would you like to see happen in Snowmass Village? What is the most important issue currently facing the town?

Alyssa Shenk: To remain a sustainable and resilient community well into the future, we need to continue working to preserve open space and protect our precious and fragile environment. Supporting the local economy is essential, too, all while being mindful of our guiding principles as we evaluate and balance growth.

As our community continues to grow and adapt, the most imperative issue in front of us will be maintaining a quality of life that is well balanced and reflective of our unique small village character and local values. Snowmass Village is exceptional for where it is and what it has to offer and it’s all made possible by the people who live and work here. We have a duty to meet the needs of our workforce and full-time residents by continuing to explore affordable housing opportunities that allow for us to maintain our diverse and connected community that is genuine, fun, active and healthy.

ADN: What are your ideas on reducing the town’s budget if sales tax revenues drop this winter because of COVID-19?

AS: Despite living in uncertain times, Snowmass Village is fortunate to have leaders in place that continue to place a high priority on strong fiscal responsibility. Town staff takes great care in preparing the budget each year alongside a detailed review by all departments and town council. We have a strong reserve fund that has enabled us, thus far, to not have to make any significant changes to staff positions or programming. By remaining conservative in our spending and maintaining a high level of fiscal responsibility, we are well positioned to not have to make significant budgetary reductions even if we see a decrease in sales tax revenues this winter.

ADN: How big is too big for the redevelopment of the Snowmass Center?

AS: The Snowmass Center development application is currently pending review by the town ­council, therefore, I cannot comment on the specifics. However, it is imperative when evaluating any development application that we look to the 2018 Comprehensive Plan to ensure that we are balancing growth with our community aspirations in order to protect our unique small village character and local values.

During the Comprehensive Plan process, the community collectively defined seven guiding principles to assist in setting priorities and goals for the town: stewardship, vibrant, genuine, active & healthy, balanced, connected and inclusive. The town council has an obligation to adhere to the will of the community while monitoring the progress of current projects and making critical decisions regarding future development. We need to remain diligent in our application of these principles as they relate to growth to ensure continued alignment with the character of our town and the notion of “Just Big Enough.”

Gray Warr

Occupation: Snowmass Ski School Adult Alpine program coordinator

Political experience: None

Years in Snowmass Village: Eight

Aspen Daily News: What one thing would you like to see happen in Snowmass Village? What is the most important issue currently facing the town?

council candidate-gray warr.jpeg

Gray Warr: Currently the most important issue facing Snowmass Village is COVID, however before that and in the future, I feel the most important issue is affordable housing. There has always been a need and always been a shortfall of housing. There are many year-round workers in Snowmass Village that still drive here from downvalley. Also, working for SkiCo we hire a lot of seasonal employees and I would like to see that they have a place to stay close to the resort. With all new construction I would like to see energy costs offset by the implementation of renewable energies whether solar, geothermic, wind, etc.

ADN: What are your ideas on reducing the town’s budget if sales tax revenues drop this winter because of COVID-19?

GW: The last thing that would happen is to lay anybody off or affect their health care benefits. First, I would seek out the ideas of department heads on ways to slow spending and reduce expenses such as freezing nonessential hiring, pausing raises and cutting down on unnecessary travel and overtime. Postponing nonvital equipment upgrades and incentive programs. I’d also get the public involved. Listening to others is paramount for decision-making.

ADN: How big is too big for the redevelopment of the Snowmass Center?

GW: It’s too big when it becomes a distraction. I believe in tasteful. I believe in upgrading buildings that have outlived their useful lifespan or become inefficient.