City council candidate Jim Engelken, left, a former member of the Steamboat Springs City Council, is concerned about where the current council and the city are headed.

Photo by John F. Russell

City council candidate Jim Engelken, left, a former member of the Steamboat Springs City Council, is concerned about where the current council and the city are headed.

Engelken supports more open space, less growth



Jim Engelken is running for a seat on the Steamboat Springs City Council.

Election 2009

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— Jim Engelken generally speaks in a levelheaded, calm tone, with a stable demeanor befitting a man who has worked for the same company for more than 30 years and lived in a tiny condominium for more than a decade while saving to buy his first house.

Not many things faze him.

But he can't hide simmering anger when discussing some actions of the current Steamboat Springs City Council.

"I'm very concerned about the direction this council is taking us. This is a very aggressively pro-growth council," Engelken said last week at his home on Pamela Lane. "They allowed Thunderhead to buy their way out of a height variance; they allowed Atira to tear down Ski Time Square."

Engelken, 51, is running for the two-year, at-large City Council seat, against landscaper Kyle Pietras. Engelken moved to Steamboat Springs in 1979 as a Safeway employee. He has worked at the grocery store since then and served on the City Council from 1995 to 2001. He served on a local water commission earlier this decade and was an original and longtime board member of the Regional Affordable Living Foundation, which began in 1998 and was the precursor to the Yampa Valley Housing Authority. Engelken's wife, Nancy, is the city's community housing coordinator.

During his years on City Council, Jim Engelken said, his chief accomplishments involved preservation of open space, "doubling the size of Steamboat Springs Transit and tripling ridership," and helping fund those projects and others through partnerships and a vigorous grant program.

Former City Councilman Ken Brenner served on the council with Engelken from 1997 to 2001.

"Jim, I thought, personified the true spirit of being a public servant. I never saw him do anything even remotely that gained any benefit for himself," Brenner said. "He consistently would reference our community plan and other planning documents, long-term documents, and their intent : and he was never afraid to tell us when we weren't headed in the right direction."

Engelken said plainly last week that in his mind, the current council is headed in the wrong direction - and that he and two other candidates this fall are seeking a change of course.

"There's a huge gray area between where this council is at and where a no-growth council would be," Engelken said. "I think you look at Kevin Bennett, Ken Solomon and me, and what we're looking at is a path down the middle."

As examples of his disagreement with the current council, Engelken cited development plans and action after the April 2007 purchase of Thunderhead Lodge and Ski Time Square, by Washington, D.C., real estate developers Cafritz Interests, for $53.9 million. The properties were demolished in summer 2008. In May 2009, City Council approved a Thunderhead development plan allowing two buildings more than 100 feet tall and 30 feet above code, in exchange for concessions including a $235,000 affordable housing payment from local developers The Atira Group.

At the time, attorney Paul Sachs, representing homeowners in the neighboring Kutuk Condominiums, spoke strongly against the deal.

"Instead of addressing your concerns, they've given you $235,000 to proceed in exactly the same manner," Sachs told the council.

Engelken said last week that he couldn't believe his ears when that deal was approved. Or when a previous City Council approved several variances for Howelsen Place in June 2006. Or when the current City Council ended the employment of former City Manager Alan Lanning in July 2008 and then, in September 2008, only narrowly rejected an ordinance that would have prevented the city from collecting an estimated $4.6 million in building use-tax payments. Or when the current City Council decreased the city's affordable housing regulations.

Engelken said a more moderate course is needed in city leadership.

"This community is a very moderate community politically," he said. "That's where the City Council needs to be."

Customer service

Occupational therapist Liz Leipold said she has known Engelken since the early 1980s, through community and outdoor activities - and because she shops at Safeway.

"He's done many jobs at Safeway, in all different departments, and one of the things he does really well is he has always listened to the customers and the employees to provide the best service," Leipold said. "I know some of his greatest qualities are he's very honest, he's extremely organized, he has always had a passion for politics, and he's always had a passion for Steamboat."

Leipold said Engelken put a huge amount of time into his prior City Council service.

"He read and studied and researched every issue that came up. I saw him do it with those fat, those really fat books he had," she said. "He studied and researched issues independently."

Engelken brushed off the perception, held by some, that while he was on City Council his votes mirrored those of Bennett, who served as council president from 1993 to 2001. Engelken said that although he and Bennett "had some of the same concerns" on City Council, his own record stands alone and perceptions of mirrored votes don't affect his campaign.

"We're two different people, and we have different priorities," Engelken said.

Paul Stettner served on the water commission with Engelken. He agreed with Leipold's take on Engelken's attention to detail. That attention is needed to manage future local growth, Stettner said.

"He would make sure all the T's are crossed and the I's are dotted," Stettner said.

Linda Kakela, a former grants analyst and director of intergovernmental services for the city, said local bus riders have Engelken to thank.

"A major role that Jim Engelken played was in multi-modal transportation," Kakela said. "He represented council on a number of regional partnerships and went to state transportation commission meetings in Denver to demonstrate the council's political will."

Brenner said he supports Engelken's candidacy.

"I'm actually kind of excited to see Jim back. I don't think we've ever had a better City Council person," Brenner said. "Jim never wavered when it was time to vote. He stuck by his guns and his principles."


Paul Hughes 7 years, 6 months ago

If any one person was responsible for "doubling the size of Steamboat Springs Transit and tripling ridership," it was George Krawzoff, not Jim Engelken. Simply voting the right way on George's proposals doesn't give him the right to claim responsibility for George's accomplishments.


steamboatsprings 7 years, 6 months ago

I am concerned about any candidate who expresses his anger so easily. We need level headed unemotional leaders who don't have such a strong personal agenda that they get angry so easily.


Barb Tuchlinsky 7 years, 6 months ago

Jim, good luck on your campaign. You have my vote. It's time we have a few more City Council members without a vested interest in rapid growth. I know Jim as a person of integrity, and I trust that he has Steamboat's best interests in mind. Jim is very level headed. His "anger", as reported in this article, really shows his passion for "doing the right thing" and not giving in to the developers as so often we have seen over the past several years. We only have to look at his past council record to see what Jim's interests are, or more importantly - not. We do not have this insight from his opponent, only his "reassurance" that he won't let his business interests interfere with his decisions.


Roger Good 7 years, 6 months ago

Hey Steamboat Pilot What about when Engleken tried to become a developer

And yes, you DID tie yourself with Mr Bennett


Karen_Dixon 7 years, 6 months ago

Sprakle; Anyone with half a brain, including Rob, can read past minutes and check facts. But don't take his word for it or the Pilots.... do the research yourself.


steamboatsprings 7 years, 6 months ago

dlg01, that you for the link in your post above. Interesting to learn that Jim is a developer himself after the folksy comments about how he is just a guy that has always worked at Safeway. It's getting harder to trust his integrity, if he can't tell us straight now why should he once he is safely in office.


sparkle 7 years, 6 months ago

Hey, Rob, Just how long have you lived in our valley? What gives you the experience with the issues in the past to report as such an authority? Please take a break during this election, as your repetitive "dual blogs" re: Pietras and Engelken are obviously a cheap means and opportunity to keep your name out there in preparation for your upcoming radio show.


Barb Tuchlinsky 7 years, 6 months ago

Hey dlg01, What a cherry picker you are. You failed to state that the property that you refer to in your Pilot link was not annexed and developed by Jim and Kevin.

A quote from this article: "Bennett and Engelken decided in October not to purchase the property or pursue their original plan of a 28-lot, single-family home development on the site. "After taking a close look at the overall market and the concerns of the neighbors, we decided to withdraw," Bennett said." "Certainly that night at the planning commission (meeting) played into our decision," Bennett said. "But in the end, we are not in the development business. We just wanted to build something that would be affordable and competitive housing."

Hmmmm, seems like they took heed to the concerns of the people that this development would impact. What a refreshing perspective.


Fred Duckels 7 years, 6 months ago

The Community Alliance has dominated politics here for a long time and I think a break from their influence and agenda is healthy. The present council provided relief from the embarassments of the past, and why go back?


Mark Scully 7 years, 6 months ago

I am the father of two young SSMS boys and I am amazed at the logic of an "antidevelopment" platform as fostered by old-line ex-city council members. First of all, what do you think drives revenue for our schools? - Our sales tax is driven by tourism and second home owners. Secondly we are in a very challenging economic time where our city services and staffing are being cut each planning session. What we need is smart, city leaders focused on todays issues not yesterdays debates. Lets not go backwards, lets move forward. Being against all new matters of economic creation but for "parks" or "open space" is silly, political pandering. Who pays for all that?


Rob Douglas 7 years, 6 months ago

This article - in combination with the companion piece about candidate Pietras (who I support) serves as a sad example of how the press attempts to influence political races, even at the local level.

The Pietras article takes Pietras to task as a newbie to the political process for not being completely up-to-speed on issues that he will have plenty of time to study and weigh the merits of as a councilman.

Yet this piece - in what can only be called an endorsement piece masquerading as a news article about Engelken - so-called "reporter" Mike Lawrence didn't ask a single specific question about any of the hundreds of votes or political positions Engelken took over his six year stint on the city council a decade ago or his political machinations since he left the council.

Perhaps on Monday, someone at the SP&T could introduce Lawrence, the editors and management to the archives section of the paper that they so studiously avoided in their coverage of these two candidates.

Nice job SP&T. Next time the management of the SP&T wants to endorse a candidate, they should have the courage and integrity to do so on the editorial page.


jody patten 7 years, 6 months ago

If Jim Engelken had truly been interested in creating affordable housing, he could have led that effort during his last term on the city council (when land was still available within current city limits, and affordably). RALF achieved very little as compared with the current YV Housing Authority, which actually understands that partnering the public and private sectors is critical to successfully building a variety of community housing. Sadly, Jim wants another term, at a time when his no-growth agenda would only bring us ever-closer to being Aspen...a community of the wealthy, with the vast majority of middle class commuting in long distances to work. Our very character is at stake here folks. Tired old approaches won't take us boldly into the future.


sparkle 7 years, 6 months ago

Thanks Karen for link. jpatten: How much do you personally gain from this project? Are you in any way related to Peter Patten? What is his involvement in this project, and how much does he stand to gain financially if it goes through?


elphaba 7 years, 6 months ago

Mr. Engleken and Mr. Bennett were partners in a development company. It is absurd to say Jim is an indpedent thinker and also absurd to think they are against growth and development. The reason they backed out of the Hayden development was they got caught by the residents of Hayden!


stillinsteamboat 7 years, 6 months ago

Let the mud slinging begin. Thank you Jim and good luck!


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