Frisco bids farewell to Mayor Gary Wilkinson after 12 years with council
FRISCO — Frisco will bid farewell to Mayor Gary Wilkinson next week as the council swears in its newly elected members, marking an end to Wilkinson’s 12 years of service as an elected official for the town.
A New York native, Wilkinson first moved to Frisco with his family in 1966 and has been able to watch it mature from a far-flung mountain town to a fully realized community.
“Frisco is a real community now, with restaurants, businesses and diversity,” Wilkinson said. “When we moved here, we had to go outside the county for medical help or to go to the supermarket. It was a little isolated.
“When the interstate went in, people started moving here. It was a big transition. But Frisco’s been able to maintain its community feel and its small-town character. I’m proud of that. I’m proud of the people that have come and adopted this town as their own and who have gotten involved in the community.”
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Wilkinson moved to Evergreen with his family in 1961 and took frequent trips up to Summit County to ski at Breckenridge Ski Resort in its inaugural season. Repeated $8 stays at the Frisco Lodge eventually gave way to their move to the town in 1966.
Wilkinson graduated from Summit High School and earned a degree in mining engineering from Colorado School of Mines. He’d go on to work at the Climax Mine into the mid-’80s before going into land surveying, a move he said first sparked his desire to get involved in government work.
“Seeing how land is developed, zoning and all those things really got me interested in local government,” Wilkinson said.
He joined the Ten Mile Planning Commission and the countywide Planning Commission before being elected to the Frisco Town Council in 2008. He was elected to his first of two mayoral terms in 2012.
During his time with the town, Wilkinson helped to complete a number of notable projects, including the creation of the Peak One Neighborhood, the Basecamp Retail Center, and major upgrades to the Peninsula Recreation Area and the town’s Main Street.
“In a nutshell, he was the best mayor I ever worked with,” said Bill Efting, Frisco’s former town manager. “We had some really huge projects while I was there, and without Gary, I’m not positive they would have happened or been so successful.”
Those who worked with Wilkinson said he was mild mannered, lead by example and got along well with his fellow council members and town staff.
Wilkinson also took the time to share his knowledge and wisdom from more than 50 years living in Frisco and to help groom the next generation of the town’s leadership.
“It’s inspiring to see his passion for the history of the town and his role in it,” said Hunter Mortensen, a Frisco native who will be sworn in as mayor on Tuesday. “He’s always had a good finger on the pulse of the community. Thinking about the different eras of the town, he knows parts of Frisco that I was never around for. It’s always fun to hear him talk about those things. It’s been great to be able to see that perspective and to have that context for where we are today.”
Wilkinson is sticking around in Frisco and will remain active in the community as part of Denver Water’s Citizen Advisory Committee, serving as Summit County surveyor and wherever else he can help.
Though, his retirement from town government will give him a chance to take better advantage of life on the Western Slope. Wilkinson said he’s looking forward to traveling and camping with his wife, Joyce, and spending time with his grandchildren. He continued to say that while he’s looking forward to the next chapter, he would miss his spot at the head of the council chambers on occasion.
“I enjoyed being at the helm,” Wilkinson said. “I enjoyed the conversations and listening to the input from our citizens. I’ll miss that.”
While circumstances aren’t ideal in Frisco, Summit County or the rest of the country due to myriad hardships brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic, Wilkinson said Frisco is in a good position to emerge strong on the other side.
“Over the last eight years, we’ve had almost unprecedented growth,” he said. “You know it’s not sustainable, but you never expect it to come to such an abrupt end. People are going to struggle. It’s sad to see that happen in this community we’ve all worked so hard on. But we’ve been able to put Frisco in a good spot. We’ve diversified our community, and that will pay off in the long run. …
“Frisco has a lot going for it. It’s a wonderful place, a wonderful town. It has a great group of citizens that love our town. And I think if we’re patient and innovative, we will come out as strong as ever.”
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