Steamboat Springs After a certain number of years, the debates, disagreements, failures and achievements all seem to blend together.
At least that’s the way it seems to be for Steve Ivancie and Loui Antonucci, who will take a combined 20 years of Steamboat Springs City Council experience away from Centennial Hall when they step down Tuesday night. The two were often on different sides of council issues — affordable housing, the pace and scope of growth and the ban on smoking in public places, for example — but as they sat with city staff in Centennial Hall on Thursday, the talk quickly turned to fond reminiscing, rather than bitter rehashing, of old times and old battles that already seemed like water under the bridge.
City staff and administrators were quick to praise the dedication of Ivancie and Antonucci, who have served on City Council since 2001. Antonucci also served from 1989 to 1993.
“They stayed true to their platform discussions,” said Chris Wilson, director of the city’s Parks, Open Space and Recreational Services Department, citing the pair’s long-term commitment to fostering local recreation. “They really stepped up their game from the start. We’re really going to miss these two guys.”
Deputy City Manager Wendy DuBord has served as interim city manager twice in the past eight years, during Antonucci’s and Ivancie’s council service. She cited Ivancie’s effort to secure energy impact grants for the city, traveling to meetings across Northwest Colorado and beyond to get state funding for the city’s Public Works Department, the new Steamboat Springs Community Center and more.
“Steve was always great at pitching the case,” DuBord said.
She praised Antonucci’s ability to run an efficient, organized meeting as council president and said most residents don’t realize how much preparation occurs outside Centennial Hall.
“They have no idea how many hours you guys spend in meetings that aren’t part of City Council,” DuBord said.
Ivancie speculated that the dedication and willingness to work could, for both of them, have been born while making it through tough times in Steamboat decades ago.
“Those of us who have lived here for 10, 20, 30 years know what it takes,” Ivancie said. “If you didn’t have three jobs, you were unemployed.”
Antonucci came to Steamboat in about 1974. Ivancie arrived around 1980. The two remember working all kinds of odd jobs. Ivancie delivered pizzas and surveyed with Skidge Moon before, eventually, becoming a project manager for Jake’s Drafting. Antonucci began his Steamboat career at Storm Meadows Condominiums before, eventually, owning and then selling the Old Town Pub and moving into construction and real estate.
Throughout those years, they’ve seen familiar civic issues come up time and again.
Antonucci lost a re-election bid in 1993 because, he said when campaigning in 2001, he was unfairly characterized as “pro-growth.” When Ivancie campaigned against Kathi Meyer for the at-large seat in 2001, a race he won by just 45 votes, Ivancie said he wanted to model himself after an outgoing councilman who strongly supported affordable housing and protecting the interests of working-class residents.
That councilman was Jim Engelken, who served on City Council from 1995 to 2001 and will be sworn in for another tour of duty Tuesday.
Ivancie said Engelken “will be very well suited” to the role of council historian — someone who can frame issues in the perspective of previous City Council debates and decisions.
“I don’t know how many times we’re faced with an issue we’re revisiting from the past,” Ivancie said, citing expansions of the urban growth boundary and regulations for vacation home rentals as examples.
At one point Thursday, Antonucci referred to the incoming council as “those kids — I mean, council members.” But he and Ivancie expressed confidence in the group to be sworn in Tuesday, the majority of which began serving on the council after the 2007 election that saw five new members win seats.
“I have no qualms about their experience and their ability to step up and handle a very challenging economic situation,” Ivancie said, referring to ongoing city budget cuts and plummeting sales tax revenues.
As to their own futures, both left the door open to returning to public service.
Antonucci said “maybe” to the possibility of a future campaign, such as a return to City Council when the city’s charter allows.
“Right now, I don’t have any plans to do that,” Antonucci said. “I honestly think the new blood on council is needed and is good for the community.”
Ivancie made a more certain statement about his plans looking forward.
“You hate to see the experience and skills you’ve developed atrophy. I certainly would be open to public service in the future,” Ivancie said. “I’m drawn to it, and I enjoy it — I’ll be looking at opportunities.”
When asked to elaborate, Ivancie said one possibility is the state House District 57 seat held by Republican Randy Baumgardner, a Grand County rancher. That seat is up for election in 2010.