Last Wednesday, Jan. 29, marked the first day residents could file an affidavit to appear on the April municipal election ballot, and already two candidates have emerged in the race for Breckenridge Town Council.
Eric Buck, 60, announced his campaign for the nonpartisan office Monday, Feb. 3, during a monthly Summit County Republicans meeting.
Buck grew up in Virginia and studied history at the University of Virginia before earning an MBA from The College of William & Mary. He worked for 25 years as a financial analyst in New York City before a vacation to Colorado inspired a move in 2004 to Breckenridge, where he now works as a real estate broker for RE/MAX.
This is Buck’s first campaign for public office, and at the Republicans meeting earlier this week he outlined a platform that focuses on small-business growth, tourism, parking, restoring private property rights and returning to a philosophy of putting the needs of Breckenridge residents first.
“I’m running because I’m frustrated with the direction of the current Breck town council, which appears to be more focused on solar panels and plastic bags than issues more important to Breckenridge,” Buck said. “That’s why my campaign slogan is ‘Breck First,’ because any decisions should focus first on the potential impacts to residents and business owners.”
Chief among Buck’s frustrations is Breckenridge’s point-based building permit process, which rewards home builders for working green energy technology, such as solar panels, into construction plans, but penalizes future property tax contributors for luxury items like hot tubs and heated driveways.
The point system also results in a lengthy permitting process, Buck said, as future homeowners find themselves trying to offset negative points accrued for a hot tub by revamping plans to incorporate tree-planting projects, which garner positive points.
“Trying to manage energy usage, in my opinion, is not the business of the town council,” Buck said. “If someone wants to put in a hot tub or install a heated driveway — and can afford to pay for the energy costs — then they should be allowed to do so.
“An item like a hot tub should either be acceptable or not acceptable, and I would prefer to see the town adopt absolute policy.”
Boosting tourism to the area, particularly during Breckenridge’s shoulder seasons, also will be a priority for Buck if he is elected. Tourism, in Buck’s opinion, is closely tied to his other important initiatives of improving parking and encouraging small-business growth.
Although sometimes overlooked, Buck said, parking plays a vital role in tourism and small-business growth. However, the current town council is trying to reduce the number of spaces downtown. The ultimate goal, Buck said, is to push all vehicles out to Airport Road and require residents and visitors to catch a shuttle to Main Street.
“If I have to park on Airport Road and I’m a visitor — even a visitor from the Front Range — I’m going to end my day on the mountain by riding the gondola down a shuttle, the shuttle to my car and then I’m going to leave,” Buck said. “We’re reducing parking downtown when we should be adding more parking to make it easier for people to visit our local businesses.”
Tourism and small-business growth also are priorities for Erin Gigliello, who launched last week her first campaign for public office.
Gigliello, 32, was raised in New Hampshire and studied art with a focus on business at Stonehill College in Massachusetts. She moved to Breckenridge 10 years ago and currently serves as the general manager for TV8 Summit and Outside Television Summit County.
Although linked to Buck in their shared pursuit of encouraging small-business development and tourism, Gigliello said she thinks one of the keys to encouraging business growth is increasing Breckenridge’s affordable-housing inventory to grow a strong, year-round workforce community. Education also would play a major role in attracting businesses to town, Gigliello said.
“I don’t want to overstep those boundaries of deciding what types of businesses can come here or not, but through education I think Breck could help address our turnover problem,” she said. “By talking about what it takes and what types of businesses are already here we can give potential business owners the knowledge they need to be competitive and profitable.”
Gigliello said there are opportunities to boost shoulder-season tourist traffic by being strategic in the types of events Breckenridge hosts in the future and by considering indoor events when the weather is difficult to predict during the spring and fall months.
“I would also continue to preserve open space because I think recreation is what attracted all of us here in the first place,” she said.
Another important item on Gigliello’s agenda is advocating for a more transparent government by expanding on the successes of www.engagebreckenridge.com and providing more opportunities for community involvement beyond a town council meeting.
“Too often people feel like they are caught off guard about topics talked about in town council,” Gigliello said. “I think there is an opportunity to hold quarterly or biannual community meetings to talk about issues coming up in the future.”
The town of Breckenridge municipal election takes place April 1 and three seats are open this year. Although they have not officially declared their candidacies, incumbent Councilmember Mark Burke and local resident Elisabeth Lawrence are anticipated to run as well. The three candidates who garner the most votes will earn the vacant seats.