Ken DePaul is at home in Stagecoach. He loves the expansive views and sharing them with visitors. He has multiple pairs of cowboy boots -- alligator, lizard and ostrich, to name a few -- as well as Western hats and shirts.
That, along with the fact that he's involved with half a dozen local organizations, gives DePaul the air of a Colorado native. But as he speaks, his New Jersey accent and East Coast wit is hard to miss -- not to mention his killer New York-style pizza.
DePaul and his wife, Kathy, have lived in Stagecoach for the past four years, after spending the first part of their lives in New Jersey.
DePaul grew up in New Jersey, went to college in Orange, N.J., and took a job at a major chemical company, where he worked for 30 years.
When he retired a year ago, he found some time on his hands. He has quickly filled it up.
DePaul has devoted himself to various groups and is continually adding to his workload.
"I always believed that as a person that can get involved with these organizations, you do have some kind of an impact or voice, and a lot of times your voice will be heard, and you can make changes," DePaul said.
DePaul started locally with the Eagles Watch Property Owners Association, of which he is president, as well as the Stagecoach Property Owners Association, of which he is vice president. He also serves as the chairman for architectural design for SPOA.
He then was elected treasurer and chief financial officer for the Morrison Creek Water District and for the Water Activity Enterprise, which serve the Stagecoach area. He did not even know his name was on the candidate's list until he went in to vote.
"People know me," DePaul said. "If it's a good challenge or something I believe will help the community, I'll jump on that bandwagon."
He also is president of the Yampa Investment Club, and recently, he became president of the South Routt Economic Development Council. Now he is running for the Oak Creek Fire District Board, for the "fire hat and patches," he joked. The real reason, he said, was to be a part of keeping the area safe from fires. Just two years ago, he watched a nearby wildfire from his own windows.
His desire to have "positive impact on the growth" of the South Routt area has encouraged DePaul to jump into the community in full force.
Kathy DePaul said she would not expect any less from a man who needs to keep his mind busy and contribute to the community.
He always has been outgoing, talking with anyone and everyone he meets at the grocery store or out for a walk, she said. These days, she said, it seems as if he already knows most people he comes across.
With his business smarts, experience with environmental regulations and chemical products and a military background that includes a stint in Vietnam and two purple hearts, a bronze star and a presidential citation award, DePaul said he can bring important insight to the community.
"Out here, I saw a bigger need for people that had my kind of background," he said.
His vision for South Routt in his lifetime is first and foremost to improve and expand the area's infrastructure. That is a common denominator in economic growth, he said.
Mike Wiley, who lives in Stagecoach and is helping his mother build a house there, said DePaul is levelheaded and helpful. In an area where many property owners live in other cities or states, it's nice to have a resident involved, Wiley said.
"He has a real interest in Stagecoach itself and what could happen in the future," Wiley said.
DePaul's interest in the area was sparked about 10 years ago when he and Kathy started coming to Steamboat Springs for a week each year to visit family. Once, as they were about to fly home, they had an epiphany.
"We looked at each other sitting on the runway saying, 'Why are we going back to New Jersey?'" DePaul remembered.
That year, they looked for a home and found one in Stagecoach, the sort of place they had always hoped to live.
"I very humbly thank God that we did take this move," DePaul said. Although it was a "little scary" after being in the same spot for 30 years, it was worth it, he said.
"This was probably the best decision we ever (made)," he said. "If I only knew what we were getting into, I would have done it 10 years earlier."