Administrator leaves Breck after long tenure
BRECKENRIDGE – Twenty years of work as a town administrative assistant adds up to a lot of numbers.
Like, 460 council agendas, 2,038 pages of minutes taken, 1.84 million agenda packets, three mayors and three town managers. That’s just a sample of what Pat Butler has seen in her two-decade stint with the town of Breckenridge.
Butler’s last day with the town is July 9. She’s leaving to join Tim Casey of Mountain Marketing Associates in a new endeavor developing ranch properties throughout the West.
Since Casey extended the offer, Butler’s had a bit of time to reminisce about her years with the town, evaluate how it’s evolved and ponder what she’ll miss – and what she won’t.
When Butler was hired in 1983, there was no golf course, rec center, ice rink or Riverwalk Center. There was one stoplight in town. She had to go to Denver for a week’s training to learn how to use a word processor.
“It was a lot more laid-back then, more of a small town,” she said. “There wasn’t such a focus on the ski area. The locals were the only ones here.”
Town hall had just moved from Colorado Mountain College. Lincoln West Mall hadn’t been built. Where FirstBank stands today was Crofutt’s Knapsack, a sort-of hostel. There were two gas stations, one at what is now the Blue River Plaza and another at the northwest corner of South Park and Main streets.
“And, of course, it wasn’t Starbucks,” Butler said of the little yellow building at 225 S. Main St. “It was Frank Brown’s house.”
In the early 1980s, the town council was just beginning to help the town grow into a year-round destination resort. It put density on land to encourage development. It approved the construction of an 18-hole golf course – and faced a lawsuit from course designer and golfer Jack Nicklaus when wet soils threatened the integrity of the course.
Butler had no television, and sick people had to go to Vail to see a doctor. (She, incidentally, has taken only three sick days in 20 years.) Locals made grocery runs to Vail or Leadville.
“And you couldn’t buy ice cream,” she said of those trips over the hill. “You couldn’t make it back before it would melt.”
Under the leadership of town councils led by then-Mayor Steve West, the town paved roads, buried overhead wires, built sidewalks and implemented “tourist taxes” to fund infrastructure and marketing.
“At that time, everyone was fat and happy,” Butler said. “Now we’re in a stage where revenue is down and we’re watching our spending. I don’t want to say we’re putting the brakes on, but we’re regrouping.”
The town is approaching build-out, as well, and the focus seems to be changing once again, Butler said. The town council has adopted environmental stewardship as one of its tenets and, as in the 1980s, still is trying to find affordable housing for the worker bee population. Art, too, is moving to the forefront.
“One thing that’s never changed is parking,” Butler said. “There was no parking in 1983, and there’s no parking in 2003. We just haven’t been able to keep up with growth.”
She’s seen three mayors, three town managers and four police chiefs during her tenure. The average pay when she started was about $3 an hour, and ski lift tickets cost $10.
Butler, too, is looking for a change from the routine of fixing office equipment, answering council’s questions, writing the mayor’s speeches and helping citizens.
“The town is like a comfortable pair of old bedroom slippers,” she said. “Wouldn’t you like a new pair of shoes? The idea of starting something from the ground level with a new team of people is exciting. I need a spark. I could’ve retired with the town, but I wanted to push harder and do something different. It’ll be an exciting new challenge. I’d kick myself if I passed it up.”
Jane Stebbins can be reached at (970) 668-3998, ext. 228, or email@example.com.
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