Steve Aigner was recently hired as the new community organizer for Community Alliance of the Yampa Valley.
Steamboat Springs Steve Aigner believes there are plenty of gifted people in Routt County willing to share their talents and opinions. Now, if he can just get them to lend an ear.
"For Steamboat to be sustainable, we have to work to build bridges between differences," said Aigner, who was recently tapped to succeed Maggie Berglund as community organizer of the Community Alliance of the Yampa Valley. "There are a lot of strong personalities and strong opinions, and people are very good at voicing those opinions. I think we need to listen more carefully so we can discern what we share with each other."
The Community Alliance is part of Western Colorado Congress, an organization that, in its own words, strives "to create healthy, sustainable communities, social and economic justice, environmental stewardship and a truly democratic society." As community organizer, it is Aigner's charge to rally Yampa Valley residents around those values.
It won't be a foreign line of work for Aigner, who has a doctorate in sociology, a master's degree in community practice and related professional experience. Aigner worked with white Detroit suburbanites to address institutional racism there, and he taught community development as a professor at Iowa State University.
Aigner was most recently a member of the Community Alliance's board of directors. As that body was writing a job description for Berglund's replacement, Aigner realized he was a good fit for the job.
"We're really excited to have Steve on board," said Mark Schofield, director of organizing for Western Colorado Congress. "He has just an incredible background in terms of understanding the value of community organizing. He has tremendous experience organizing people to effect change in their communities. : Steve turned out to be a real logical choice."
Aigner, 63, retired to Steamboat Springs, following all three of his grown children, who moved here after falling in love with the community on family vacations. While the Yampa Valley is a far cry from Ames, Iowa - not to mention Detroit - Aigner said he is comfortable addressing the unique issues facing this community.
"I've worked with all types in my life," Aigner said. "I feel comfortable with almost all kinds of issues and all kinds of people. That's the good thing about being old. You've seen a lot."
While much of his retirement in Steamboat has been spent golfing and skiing, Aigner also has served on a committee for Vision 2030 and the citizen's committee that helped form the city's watershed protection ordinance. In his new role with the Community Alliance, Aigner will concentrate much of his efforts on Steamboat 700, the proposed development west of Steamboat that could be annexed into city limits and provide a site for about 2,000 homes, plus commercial space, parks and urban amenities.
"For the foreseeable future : our primary focus will be on Steamboat 700 and its potential to fulfill the expectations that almost everyone has," Aigner said. "There are a lot of balls in the air, and they need to be nailed down in a pre-annexation agreement. : We're here to help the City Council focus on that responsibility."
Although Steamboat 700 will be a major focus, Aigner said he won't neglect areas of Routt County outside of Steamboat Springs.
"The job of the organizer is to get out and about and connect with people," Aigner said. "The whole valley needs to be integrated to reach the mission" of the Community Alliance.