Steamboat Springs After more than a decade of working with Yampa Valley Data Partners, Scott Ford is moving on.
The oft-cited economic analyst who handled data work for the nonprofit organization said he decided to resign after he felt he was pressured to not take public stances on controversial civic issues.
Along with Roger Good, Ford wrote an open letter to the Steamboat Springs City Council critiquing the timing and terms of the city's deal to sell its downtown emergency services building to BAP, Big Agnes and Honey Stinger for $2.1 million.
The letter circulated while Yampa Valley Data Partners Executive Director Kate Nowak was on vacation during the first part of December. When she returned from vacation, Ford said, Nowak approached Ford about his involvement with the letter.
According to Ford, Nowak questioned why he had become so involved in the opposition to the sale and that the line between him and the organization as a whole was too "fuzzy." Ford also said Nowak told him Steamboat Springs Interim City Manager Deb Hinsvark and Steamboat Springs Chamber Resort Association CEO Tom Kern were upset about Ford’s stance on the issue and questioned the reliability of future economic data and information coming from what could be seen as a biased source.
Nowak declined to comment for this article.
Ford said that he did not link himself with Yampa Valley Data Partners when expressing his stance on the building sale and that his letter co-authored with Good was written from the perspective of a private citizen about an issue YVDP was not contracted to work on.
Hinsvark acknowledged that she talked with Nowak after Ford and Good's letter was circulated, but she said she didn't discuss issues related to the city's funding of Yampa Valley Data Partners (the nonprofit received some city funds in 2012) or Ford’s status with the organization. She declined to discuss the nature of the conversation with Nowak.
Hinsvark said she used some economic data from Ford in an early presentation on the deal to sell the emergency services building. Ford said he did a quick calculation of the economic footprint for the companies involved in the sale that was passed from the Chamber to Hinsvark.
Kern said Tuesday that he was sorry to hear that Ford had resigned, and that Ford had always provided solid economic data and information. While he acknowledged that he spoke with Nowak after Ford and Good's letter opposing the sale was circulated, Kern declined to comment on the nature of their conversation.
Following conversations with Nowak, Ford said he was presented with three options: terminate his relationship with YVDP, provide only contracted services with limited public interaction, or continue as before but limiting public activity seen as controversial.
Ford turned in a letter terminating his relationship with YVDP to board Chairman Tyler Jacobs, who works for the Steamboat Pilot & Today. Jacobs and other YVDP board members declined to comment about Ford's departure, but Jacobs issued a statement on behalf of the board Tuesday.
"It was Scott Ford's choice to terminate his relationship with Yampa Valley Data Partners," the statement read. "YVDP wishes to thank Scott for his past service and we wish him all the best in the future."
“It broke my heart,” Ford said about how the issue has been handled. But he said he wasn’t willing to compromise his ability to speak publicly on civic issues.
As a result, his lengthy tenure with Yampa Valley Data Partners is over.
Ford, a self-described numbers geek, said he took to work with YVDP like “a duck to water.”
“After a while, you understand how to operate the databases quickly,” he said. “How you take data and do the necessary analysis so that it becomes actionable information. And that’s the key: How it becomes actionable.”
Life goes on, Ford said, and he “still dig(s) data.”
“I just discover so much stuff. So my antenna is always on looking for data,” he said. “I enjoy the insights that it gives — an understanding of what I would call the complexity of our mosaic.”
To reach Michael Schrantz, call 970-871-4206 or email mschrantz@SteamboatToday.com