From the Crag to City Hall: One-on-One with Mayor Andy Beerman
Andy Beerman has reached his fair share of summits. He’s a seasoned rock climber and business owner whose passion for community and environment culminated in a different kind of ascent last fall: the mayor’s office. From student activist to top political dog, this mountaineer-turned-hotelier-turned-mayor talks about the Park City experience and how gratitude, traffic, nostalgia, social equity, and eco-stewardship intersect in this complex mountain town.
- Hometown: Worthington, OH
- Education: Miami University, OH. Major: Outdoor education and environmental studies, BA in philosophy
- Business: Co-owns real estate portion of the Treasure Mountain Inn with his wife, Thea Leonard
- Dog: Rufus, mixed breed
- First cause: Protecting the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and Tongass National Forest
- First taste of politics: Elected President of Historic Park City Alliance in 2010 and won a City Council seat in 2011
- Plan B, if he lost the election: Climbing Aconcagua in the Andes Mountains
- Favorite Park City tradition/event: Solstice mountain bike ride
- Least favorite aspect of public service: Meetings
What brought you to Park City, and why did you stay?
I discovered the West when I was 14 and immediately fell in love with the mountains. I spent my summers in Alaska, first as a student for National Outdoor Leadership School and eventually as an instructor. In 1991, I took a map out and drew an X on all my favorite climbing areas. Salt Lake City was square in the middle, so I made it my basecamp. I moved to Park City in 1995 when Charlie Sturgis offered me a job at White Pine Touring. I met my wife, Thea Leonard, and her father, and they recruited me to manage their hotel, Treasure Mountain Inn. Eventually, Thea and I got married and we bought the hotel.
How does your administration compare to that of your predecessor, Jack Thomas?
Our critical priorities of transportation, housing, and energy remain the same—and we will continue the conversation Mayor Thomas began about social equity and inclusiveness. As far as setting the tone as mayor, my focus is on optimism, inclusion, and gratitude. It’s putting things into perspective and realizing that we live other people’s vacations here. We have it really good. But there are members of our community, some of the immigrant workforce and entry-level workers, who are experiencing growing inequities. We should focus on helping them.
How can government address social equity?
Social issues are usually addressed by the federal government, the state, or the county. But with what’s happening right now on the national level, cities all around the country are on their own in this regard. There’s a desire among our citizens for us to do more in this area, so we’re really looking at how we can use social inequity as a filter in our decision making. Council also held a Shark Tank–style contest called the Equity Innovation Challenge, offering $50,000 to the city department that came up with a new “something” to improve equity within their department. The winners ranged from purchasing more Spanish-language materials for the library to a mobile recreation trailer.
What do you see as our collective responsibility as a community dealing with growth?
Growth has always been the bugaboo in town. But the real enemy is sprawl. It increases pressures on resources and destroys those natural boundaries that define our town. Park City has taken a fairly aggressive stance against sprawl with our open-space purchases, which started with Mayor Brad Olch, and open-space acquisition continues to be a priority, most recently with Treasure Hill. Yes, it is very expensive, but it’s always been expensive. When the City spent $4 million on the Osguthorpe Farm in 1990, everyone thought the council had gone insane. As [former city planner] Myles Rademan likes to say, every dairy farmer in the county was doing a tap dance. But the alternative was a shopping center. I couldn’t imagine driving into Park City today and the first thing you see is a strip mall.
What are other big challenges and opportunities facing Park City?
AB: We’re aggressively addressing traffic in several ways, but it’s going to take a mode and mental shift by our residents. The possibility of the Olympics returning to Utah could be a big help in allowing us to address this priority. Utah’s pitch is to create a compact, sustainable Games. We’re trying to build a compact, sustainable town. So, it’s an opportunity to show the world how that can be done.
If Park City were a person, how would you describe him or her?
I’d say we’ve hit middle age but are still figuring out what we want to be when we grow up. We accomplished a lot of what we set out to do when we were young, and now we’re in a reevaluation period. We’re very nostalgic, which can be good because we really fight to protect the things we think are essential. But it can be not so good if we start viewing all change as bad.