Breckenridge mourns death of former town Councilman Mark Burke

Summit County democratic candidate Mark Burke speaks in front of voters to fill the vacant commissioner’s seat left by former commissioner Dan Gibbs Wednesday, Jan. 23, at the Summit County Community Center in Frisco.
Hugh Carey /

Some saw him as their mentor. Others admired his commitment to public service, the community and its people. To most everyone who knew him, though, Mark Burke was a genuine friend. 

Breckenridge is mourning the loss of the former town councilman, business owner, husband, father and “man of the people,” as Burke died Monday at his second home in Denver. He was 58 years old.

The town of Breckenridge announced Burke’s death Tuesday morning on social media, and people soon began expressing their grief and condolences for his family in the comments.

As they recalled their memories of Burke, a man who came from Enfield, Connecticut, to make Breckenridge his home, they wrote that he was “thoughtful,” “wonderful,” “dedicated,” “kind,” “a mentor,” and even “a legend.”

It’s apparent that Burke impacted many lives in a lot of different ways, but he might be best known across Summit County for serving two consecutive terms on Breckenridge Town Council, as he was first elected in 2010 and reelected four years later.

“Mark was a dedicated and loyal public servant and community member whose legacy will be evident in Breckenridge for years to come,” the town’s statement reads. “We send our condolences to all of Mark’s family and friends.”

In an interview with the Summit Daily News as he was about to leave office, the outgoing councilman recalled coming into the position believing he’d be “pro-business” only to find out he’d often champion social issues like early childhood education, youth athletics, school funding and the environment.

Councilman Mark Burke, center, gets a standing ovation during a Breckenridge Town Council meeting in April 2018.
Eli Pace /

Burke served on council as the town rebounded from the Great Recession, and he has been credited for playing important roles in many of the town’s greatest achievements during his eight years in office.

Some of the projects he was most proud of included the rapid construction of Breckenridge’s Arts District, the addition of numerous workforce-housing units and the creation of the Summit County South Branch Library in Breckenridge, which Burke thought was a true “gem” for the community.

But for Burke, there was something about working with people that he loved above all else.

Breckenridge honors Mark Burke

Breckenridge Town Council paid tribute to Mark Burke, a two-term councilman who died Monday in Denver, during Tuesday night’s meeting. Below are some council members’ statements about their former colleague.

“He was just fiercely loyal to the community. You could not say a bad word about Breckenridge to him.”

— Mayor Eric Mamula

“He was always a supporter of our community and town — generous with his money, generous with his time and always generous with his opinion. That was great because what you see is what you got with Mark. He just had a passion for always doing the right thing for our community.” 

— Councilwoman Wendy Wolfe

“He just really cared. He cared about this community, he cared about the people around him and more about how people were feeling than the competition or the argument. It was important to him his friendship remained with everyone.”

— Councilwoman Erin Gigliello

“When I think of Mark, I think passion and loyalty. When Mark got his mind on something, he just had such great passion. Anyone who crossed paths with him when he was getting that turf field at the high school knows that.”

— Councilman Dick Carleton

“Certainly he was a strong advocate in those areas in which he had an interest, but he could always find the middle ground. At the end of the day, he conducted himself, I felt, in a way that was always in the best interest of the community he loved and that he supported generously with this time and checkbook … Unfortunately the good ones seem to leave us too soon, and Mark was certainly a good one.”

— Councilman Gary Gallagher

“Everything that’s been said up to now, it’s true. Mark was good dude. … For me, one of the things that was most endearing was he was almost impossible to offend. … He was a good guy, and I’ll miss him, too. He passed too soon, but you know what, he had a lot of fun.”

— Councilman Jeffrey Bergeron

“I really believe our greatest asset is our staff,” he told the newspaper last year. “I really do. … I think there’s a strong feeling now that our staff, our people, are the most significant asset we have, and I like to think I played a little role in that.”

Breckenridge Mayor Eric Mamula worked with Burke when Mamula was a councilman and after Mamula became mayor. Over the phone, Mamula applauded Burke’s kindness, good nature, generosity and just being “a great councilman” over the eight years he served.

“I always enjoyed my time with Mark,” the mayor said.

Like so many others, the currently serving council members were “shocked” to learn of Burke’s death, and they took a moment to honor their “buddy” during Tuesday night’s council meeting. 

Another one of Burke’s many friends was Drew Adkins, principal at Summit High School. Adkins was so impressed by Burke’s support for the school district that he once nominated Burke and Burke’s business partner in Burke and Riley’s Irish Pub for the Outstanding Philanthropist Award, which they won.

In the nomination letter, Adkins said the community was lucky to have people like Burke and Jack Riley, who “build their lives around the single, basic premise: the more they give to others, the more they will get back.”

On Tuesday, Adkins recalled how Burke devoted “a tremendous” amount of his time to important school indicatives, including building the turf field, boosting school funding, supporting youth sports and rallying community members around these causes, even after Burke’s own children had graduated.

“We couldn’t have done a lot of the things we’ve done for Summit County’s youth without Mark,” Adkins said.

Burke left public office when his second council term expired in April 2018, and he had been suffering from some problems with his health. 

At the time, Burke predicted he would miss the people he worked with the most, and he wouldn’t rule out another run at public service, though he didn’t know exactly what that might be.

Less than a year later, Burke would seek a seat on the Summit Board of County Commissioners, as one of the three positions came open this winter due to a state office appointment. During the vetting process, Burke was asked to describe himself in one word; his was “genuine.”

“I would agree with that,” said Councilwoman Elisabeth Lawrence, who was friends with Burke before they served together on Breckenridge Town Council. “Mark was the definition of a people person to me.”

Some people run for public office because they have something to offer like business acumen or want to fix a specific problem, Lawrence said. No doubt, Burke possessed those qualities, but Lawrence thinks his reasons went much deeper than that, as she believes it was “a duty or his calling” to serve people.

“It was in his blood,” Lawrence said of Burke and public service. “And he came from a very genuine place. Always, he was trying to do what’s best for people.”

Lawrence still remembers the kindness Burke showed her and her daughter when Lawrence was a single mother trying to make it in Breckenridge and Burke would go far out of his way to do nice things for them. 

In doing so, Lawrence said, he created some of the “sweetest memories” and Lawrence’s daughter still carries them with her today.

“That’s just how generous he was,” Lawrence said, adding that many people might not know Burke did so many nice things for people.

Burke is survived by his wife, Tracy, and their three children, Ashley, Jeff and James Burke. Funeral arrangements will be announced once they’re complete.

“He put his heart and soul into everything he did, everything,” Tracy Burke said. “He just loved people.”

The Town of Breckenridge is saddened to learn of the passing of former council member Mark Burke. Mark was a dedicated…

Posted by Town of Breckenridge, CO Government on Tuesday, April 23, 2019

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