The new mayor of Buena Vista, Duff Lacy, sees his election not as a divisive development, as some have tried to paint it, but as a development that can encourage collaboration.
“There are a lot of big changes in the works for Buena Vista, but I think my election – the election in general – can be a way to bring this place together,” says Lacy. “For me, it’s good that I’ve been a trustee first, so a lot of what is happening I’ve already been involved in. I’m just involved in even more now.”
His plan, he says, is to listen – in fact, to do a lot of listening to people.
“I want to start doing coffee talks right away, maybe the first Wednesday of every month, to find out what people really want to see. When we make decisions, how do you the people want to be involved in the decisions of your government? You have to give feedback and then understand that you elected them to make the tough decisions.
“We got folks engaged during the election, and it’s important to keep the conversations going. My campaign promise was I work for the people. I can’t build roads, but it’s our job to keep them in repair. If you’re a business, I can’t make you profitable, but I can create the conditions for a real community that people and tourists want to come to.”
Lacy says in addition to coffee talks, he’s thinking of something even more inclusive of the community. “I want to have a town hall meeting. Let’s get everyone together and listen to them. If the community center isn’t big enough, than maybe we use the school or maybe we have it outdoors in the park. The point is to get folks together.”
Lacy says the town is not planning to disband any of its advisory boards. Instead, with Buena Vista trustees continuing as liaisons to the advisory boards, he wants to challenge them to be more productive and to do a better job of telling the community what they do. He also plans to attend at least one meeting of each advisory board. His model, he says, is the action instigated by the Chaffee County Economic Development Corporation. “They do so much but don’t necessarily tell the community the good results of their actions. I wish people knew more about what they do.”
Among Lacy’s other top priorities is the application of the town’s new Unified Development Code, which has taken two years to develop and approve.
Lacy says with workforce housing as a real need throughout the county, Buena Vista is making progress. “Year to date, we have 28 single-family home permits, and last year, all year, we only had 17. West of town we’ve got the growing subdivision called The Farm that is owned workforce housing. Urban Inc. is completing Collegiate Commons for the rental market. We’re keeping an eye on things, but we’re starting to move toward critical mass. The 2016 housing assessment gave us a projection of how much housing we have to build every year to keep up, and we’re starting to address it. If we add enough housing, then maybe housing prices will mellow out, and that would be a good thing for people here.”
Lacy said he is looking forward to being deeply involved in the work process. “An example is the work session with the Main Street Work Group during our May 22 meeting.”
Lacy is concerned that there are those who want to continue divisiveness.
“I said during the campaign that no matter what happened, I wanted to get together with Jed Selby (his opponent for mayor) to talk about the goals we share. We’ve already gotten together once, and he’s going to show me his new hotel. There’s some common ground there. You can’t live here and not share common goals – we’re both looking at the same mountain, we don’t want to change the mountain.
“The misconceptions happen when groups of people don’t talk. I probably see a lot more of the different groups than Jed does. Sometimes just having coffee with folks helps.”
The challenge of getting people to see this – in the town and across the county – is a topic Lacy does think about.
“We have to create ways to get people to move out of their comfort zone. People say they don’t respect another group? Why? You’ve never met them … how can you assume that you know where they’re coming from? You say that, well, that decision is to do with East Main when you live on West Main? It’s all Main Street.”
Regarding the perceived divide between Buena Vista and Salida, he said, “I think we should try to knit the county together – this rivalry between BV and Salida – it’s the parents, not the kids. It’s not north and south, east and west. We’re all in this together.”