Terry Minger (LF ’77) has won the prestigious Torch Award for helping build Vail Colorado. His Loeb classmate Bob Daylor (LF ’77) writes about Minger’s significant achievement and the recent ceremony to honor him.
While Vail now has this very toney resort reputation, Terry was hired as the very first town manager when it went from being a seasonal ski development in rural Eagle County to becoming incorporated as a Colorado municipality. The transformation was fueled by committed 10th Mountain Division veterans, eastern skiers largely from Vermont and New Hampshire, and Texas oil money. (The 10th Mountain Division, now headquartered at Fort Drum, NY, trained in the mountain ranges surrounding Gore Creek valley in Colorado to enable it to pursue Hitler’s German Army into the Alps. After the war veterans of the 10th Mountain combat units returned to Colorado to ski where they trained. Their knowledge of the conditions and terrain was key for the area’s mutation from summer sheepherding ranges to ski resort.)
Terry made Vail a “real” year round place beyond fixing winter skiing injuries: it became a strong manager/town council municipality in 1966 and Terry was hired as town manager in 1969. Among his many accomplishments was drafting a petition and organizing political support to get the Colorado Legislature to approve the first-in-the-state Home Rule Charter for a town. That revision in governance allowed assessment of real estate transfer taxes for affordable housing and open space acquisition and much more creative zoning and development controls. He made sure affordable housing for municipal, service, and hospitality workers was integrated into development agreements. He developed viable public works, police, and fire services and a health care facility. He developed the first in the nation “red, yellow, green” avalanche risk zoning overlay districts and alpine building codes. That has really been the foundation of the Vail Valley that we see today.
He also was instrumental in organizing influential leaders, many of whom were only seasonal residents, to make Vail a year round community by creating the Vail Symposium and bringing the Denver Symphony to its summer home, similar to the Boston Symphony Orchestra at Tanglewood. Terry’s managerial and interpersonal skills with the rich and famous made much of this possible. Terry was like the butler Carson in Downton Abbey: at home with the royals upstairs but in charge of everything that made it all work downstairs. He left a home in the prairies of the Midwest and never left the Rockies. Even after his years in Vail he continued to lead planning and environmental issues in the Mountain States as the executive director of Robert Redford’s Environmental Resources Institute.
The Torch Award ceremony was held in Vail on December 11th. My wife Sue and I had always planned to attend to represent the Loeb Fellowship and affirm my long personal friendship with my classmate, but I was honored to be asked to speak about Terry’s lifetime achievements and about our time as Loebs. The ceremony was wonderful, a couple of hundred guests, including a lot of A-Listers.
When I was preparing my remarks I remembered that years ago Terry told me he almost didn’t take the job in Vail. In 1969 his more senior city manager allies advised him not to take it, that they would get him into a management position in a real city, not some developer’s ski town. I was reminded of the Robert Frost poem “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening,” about choosing the path less traveled. The closing line is “And that made all the difference.”
Thank you Terry for choosing that path and setting the foundation for today’s Vail. You have made all the difference.