'Stress creates productivity'

Oak Creek's new treasurer keeps busy with two businesses, new position

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Karrie Littman's saying always has been, "Stress creates productivity."

There's not denying that Karrie, 43, stays busy -- she recently took the job of Oak Creek treasurer, while still running her catering company and bookkeeping services -- but her frequent smile makes it hard to believe that she stays stressed.

She said she's happy to fill the treasurer position because she enjoys the challenge of learning a new position, then figuring out how to improve it.

"I enjoy the number-crunching, I enjoy making it all work, I enjoy having the responsibility," Karrie said.

Besides that, she said she enjoys being back in the public eye and seeing everyone from town.

From 1991 to 2001, Karrie owned Big Tuna's restaurant with her husband, Mark Littman. The couple was in the public eye until Mark died of a sudden heart attack when the couple was scuba diving in May 2001.

Karrie eventually had to move on from that business, and although she knew she could move anywhere, she wanted to stay in Oak Creek.

In the few years since, she opened her catering and bookkeeping businesses, survived breast cancer and taken the job of town treasurer.

"I always believe that we were put on this earth with all of the natural resources around, and a good head on our shoulders, and it was our decision how to use it," she said.

"I don't believe in wasting days. I like to take advantage of opportunities, and (I like) being a friend and having friends."

Karrie's story begins in Iowa, where she and her three older brothers were raised by a single mom. When Karrie was 15, her mother died of a brain tumor.

Karrie lived for a year with her grandmother, then moved to Berthoud to finish high school. She lived with her godparents and their three children.

She went on to a community college, and after a year of school, she got married. She and her husband separated seven years later.

Karrie started working as a receptionist at a stock brokerage, and in two years, made her way onto the trading desk as a stockbroker (she calls herself a "quick study").

"It was fascinating to me," Karrie said about the work. The change of money and the speed of the job made for constant excitement.

She traded for three years, and during that period, she met Mark.

"It was kind of almost one of those 'love at first sights,'" Karrie said.

In two years, they were married. For their honeymoon, they toured the hot springs of Colorado and fell in love with Strawberry Park Hot Springs in Steamboat Springs.

"Five months later, we quit our jobs, sold everything and moved up to Routt County," Littman said.

There, the couple lived in a tent for six weeks in October and November -- it was so cold one night that the cord on their electric heater froze -- and then in a small mobile home on a ranch. Eventually they bought a home in Oak Creek.

They started off packing meat, then worked for the Steamboat Ski Area and picked up other jobs.

When Mark had the chance to go into a partnership to open up Big Tuna's restaurant, he jumped on it. Two months after the restaurant opened, Karrie realized the business was going to succeed, so she quit her job as a bank teller and came to work at the restaurant full time.

Mark's dad had owned a catfish restaurant in Memphis, Tenn., and Mark loved to cook, so the restaurant was a natural fit. As it turned out, it also was a natural for Karrie.

She quickly learned the fine points of serving food at a restaurant -- such as making mass quantities of food and presenting it well on a plate.

"The business fascinated me," she said. "It gave me the same kind of rush as the market did."

When Mark died, Karrie couldn't stand the thought of Big Tuna's shutting down, so she tried to keep it open on her own. The community was a huge support, she said, but in the end, she realized both her and Mark's personalities were needed to make the restaurant work.

After closing the restaurant briefly, she found long-time patrons who wanted to open it. After a few weeks of training them, she turned the restaurant over.

Karrie and Mark had shared a dream of having a mobile catering company, so after a winter of soul searching, she decided to go for it.

She loved the immediate gratification that comes with serving food.

"With food service, you make it, you serve it, people enjoy it, and if you're doing your job right, they'll tell you how much they like it," she said.

She bought a mobile catering wagon and established Karrie's Kick-Ass Katering, serving the food for which Big Tuna's was known -- homemade salsas, green chile and guacamole, and barbecue, including ribs, pulled-pork sandwiches and sliced brisket. For the past three years, she has toured across the state for fairs, festivals and more. She can cater anything from prime rib dinners to lunches of burgers, hot dogs and chicken.

During that time, she began dating another man, who she is still with today.

And, she survived breast cancer. Doctors discovered the cancer early, and though Karrie had to go through a bilateral mastectomy and reconstruction, she is now 100 percent healthy.

"I'm as strong as I was before and probably even a little stronger in character," she said.

A year ago, she started a small bookkeeping business, and then she decided to go for the treasurer position.

"I decided I just really wasn't busy enough, so I took a real job," Karrie said with a laugh.

"I am happy where I'm at," she said. "This is perfect. If I'm not challenged enough, I'll just start a new business."

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