From hacky sack pro to mayor pro-tem
Ryan Summerlin May 8, 2013
1987. Golden, Colo. The hacky sack world championships.
A 14-year-old Jason Smith steps up to compete. Trying for the world record, he manages a grueling 7,845 continual kicks before succumbing to fatigue. His efforts earn him third place overall, a mere two people away from world domination in a burgeoning sport.
This was Smith’s introduction to the state of Colorado, a part of what he jokingly calls “my former life.”
As it turns out, hacky sack played a big part in Smith’s teenage years as both he and his older brother became involved in high-level competitions. In fact, Kencorp, the original hacky sack company, felt Smith’s young age — he was 10 when he started playing — would make him a good ambassador for the brand. So they sent him and his brother to Japan for the summer of 1984 to perform demonstrations.
“It was an incredible experience,” Smith said.
So it was that he came to Colorado for the world championships, flying by himself from his hometown in northwestern Ohio and staying with a family friend. From the very first impression, he knew this was a place he would return to.
“I fell in love with Colorado,” he said. “I knew that I’d be back.”
It would be a while before Smith returned to Colorado. In the mean time, he attended high school, during which he nurtured his self-described “entrepreneurial spirit” by starting up a DJ business. Unlike many other first-time businesses, this one was a success.
“That business just exploded,” he said, and he thoroughly enjoyed the ride, managing his growing business and learning the values of being an independent business owner.
Smith attended Bowling Green State University, where he focused his studies and discovered a fascination for the real estate industry.
“I realized pretty early on that real estate was my calling,” he said. “I loved working with people, and as I was doing the DJ business, I’d meet with young couples that were getting married. And they’d always be talking about, one of the first thing we want to do is buy a house. … I thought, ‘I need to take the next step.’ I enjoyed working with people in that capacity and I just realized, this is a great transition. And I’ve always been fascinated by the business .. bringing people together, communicating, problem solving.”
After graduation, Smith got his real estate license and started work at the No.1 brokerage in northwestern Ohio. He spent three years learning and loving the job.
Soon, however, he heard Colorado calling and decided it was time to answer.
“I came out to Summit County not knowing anybody,” he said. He had skied in the county once, but although he enjoys winter sports, it wasn’t what ultimately drew him here. “I came out here because at the end of the day, I figured this is an incredibly sustaining market.”
Not only did the make-up of the county fit his business scheme, the place itself touched him.
“This end of the county, the Dillon, Silverthorne, Keystone area, it was just a natural fit for me. It felt like home. It felt more like home than any place I ever lived. When I pulled through here in 1998, and got off at exit 205, I knew I was home. It was wonderful, just a wonderful feeling.”
He started working for Dennis Krueger at Summit Real Estate Professionals and is enthusiastic in the recollection of his time learning with that company. In 2010 he and two partners formed Colorado Real Estate Company, a business that he is still expanding and enthusiastic about today.
A family man
After he moved to Summit County, Smith reconnected with an acquaintance from his Ohio hometown, Janelle, who was working at a dude ranch in Steamboat Springs. The friendship continued, strengthening over the years until it became a long-distance relationship and, in 2004, a loving marriage.
As it turns out, the two had grown up on the same street in the same small town, but it wasn’t until they both went to Colorado that they finally connected.
If there’s one thing that Smith seems more excited to talk about than real estate, it’s his family. Just 10 months ago he welcomed the newest addition, Justin, following behind his brothers Josh, 4 years, and Joey, 6 years.
While the family had been living comfortably in a house on Gold Run Circle in Dillon, with a fifth member it was time to expand. After a long search, Smith and his wife found the perfect place. There was only one problem — it was outside the limits of the town of Dillon.
Since April 2010, Smith served on the Dillon Town Council, eventually becoming mayor pro-tem. The job allowed a productive outlet for his enthusiasm about Summit County and the town of Dillon in general. But if he bought the house on Rainbow Drive, he would give up his Dillon zip code and therefore his seat on the council.
Although he loved every second of his time on the town council, Smith made the decision to put his family first.
“My last night on council, I had to choke back the tears. It was very difficult for me, because the lessons learned, the experience I had, and most importantly, the relationships, I cannot put a value on those,” he said. “It was hard for me to say goodbye, and I don’t want to think about it as goodbye, I’m just down the street, but I had to give that up, something that was so important to me. It was hard for me to do, because I will always believe in the town of Dillon, I’ll always believe in their potential. I think it’s awesome.”
Yet in the end, the sacrifice was one Smith was willing to make, because it would improve the lives of his wife and children. While he can’t participate directly in the politics of the town of Dillon, he plans to participate directly in the style of life, through the lake, through the town and through the mountains.
“Three words — quality of life,” he said, as to what brings and keeps people in Summit County. “I went out yesterday on my deck, I took a deep breath and I said two words — ‘thank you.’ Thank you I’m here.”
Not only does he enjoy being here himself, but he brings people in through his real estate business.
“People want to be a part of Summit County, this is an amazing place,” he said. “I help bring people into the mountains and make them a part of it, not just a drive by, not just a destination. (People say), ‘Jason, give me my own piece of the mountains,’ and I think, at the end of the day, that’s what I love about being up here and the jobs that I do.
“Dillon’s got an amazing future and Summit County, too. Great things are in store for anyone who calls this place home.”