Meet Jed Selby and you’re likely struck by his intensity and straight-forward passion for Buena Vista.
“I haven’t talked with anyone here who doesn’t love this town. You don’t get relocated here from a corporate job – you choose it. For that reason, there’s a lot of spirit in this town. We’re local businesses, we’re authentic, and I hope that we’re welcoming.”
Selby has paddled the Arkansas since 1996 and spent a decade traveling the world as a professional kayaker, competing and even winning FIBArk in 2003, before landing in Buena Vista.
Looking for a piece of land to develop a kayak park, he purchased the land that became South Main in 2003. The family’s roots are deep; his wife’s family has lived in Buena Vista since the 1970s.
Selby says the outdoors is his passion.
“Obviously, I work here, but I’m a mountain biker, a rock climber. I hike and hunt and ski, and I’m a pilot. And because I love music, the Meadows is an event area. I’m a farmer too. I moved here because I love the outdoors and recognized right away what a great little town this is.”
Selby says he’s running for mayor to help his community.
“I don’t need more to do, but I’ve learned a lot about what it takes to build rental housing … housing for people to start and grow businesses here. I think I can help people bring their dreams to reality.”
Selby says his signature issue is the housing supply. “It’s easy to say we want affordable housing in Buena Vista. It’s another thing to deliver really well-thought-out affordable housing that is the best solution available. It’s the most obvious shortcoming we have.
“The town has grown a lot and housing hasn’t kept up. That has a lot to do with the need for more types of housing; affordable, workforce, high-end housing. The challenge is to maintain our small-town character. It’s a code challenge and a design challenge.”
Selby says the town doesn’t need cookie-cutter houses like those in Denver suburbs, nor does it need huge apartment buildings, both of which would be out of character.
“We need many small-scale projects, but unfortunately small builders usually don’t have the resources to deal with the codes. We have hundreds of vacant lots downtown where we already maintain the streets and the lights. We need places for people to live in proximity to downtown retail, and property owners need to get value for their property. It’s infill development, which is in the comp plan, and at the same time we need to respect the historic scale of our town.”
Wages aren’t keeping up with the cost of living, says Selby, noting that the high degree of seasonal jobs has families struggling. He says the solution is attracting more year-round jobs and businesses that recognize Buena Vista’s quality of life and will put down roots here. He pointed to Eddyline Brewery and Deerhammer Distilling Co. as recent successes.
“People who have the potential to move a company here need to believe in a vision for the place. Those same people are going to want to create better-paying jobs: investments improving the lives of almost everyone in a town.”
The candidate has developed a five-point list of what he sees as the most important issues. In addition to housing and attracting business to add year-round jobs, Selby says that supporting year-round recreation as a renewable, sustainable and stable job base in the local economy is important, including continued improvements to the Town River Park. Another of his priorities is water and the need to develop a 100-year supply and storage strategy.
“You build your economy on what you have an abundance of. If it’s Kansas, it’s wheat. Here in our valley, it’s a world-class outdoor infrastructure.”
Selby is especially concerned about creating a shared vision for the town, which he says requires more communication to get past the social divides that threaten true community.
“One very special thing about BV is nobody is here by accident. Families have to go out of their way to be here. It’s a good, safe place – a great place to raise a family. I know there is a lot of growth and that’s scary when you feel it’s happening to you and you’re not part of it.
“We need to shape a vision where everyone can see where they fit – not just now but in 20 years. How does it feel? How does it function? Do we have a small town anymore? We don’t want to be Breckenridge and we don’t have to be.”