Tom Hale

Former San Miguel County commissioner Tom Hale, left, is pictured with his longtime friend and business partner Terry Starr and a canine counterpart in this undated photo. (Courtesy photo)

The San Miguel County Board of Commissioners, along with True North Youth Program, is establishing a new scholarship for high school seniors in the Telluride and Norwood schools: the Tom Hale Memorial Scholarship. 

Hale served as county commissioner from 1976 until 1984. Hale, a pioneer in Colorado politics as well as local government, died on Jan. 23, 2018, in Georgetown.

Hale’s friends, family and former colleagues in government have banded together to create a scholarship that would speak to Hale’s legacy of public service.  John Mansfield, Hale’s longtime friend, initiated the scholarship fund and encouraged others to donate. County commissioners also will be donating toward the fund. 

“Tom Hale was a real pioneer in the days when San Miguel County was transitioning from a dying mining economy to a burgeoning resort economy” Commissioner Joan May said. “He took some chances and wasn’t afraid to be a lone voice of progress. He was visionary, but he also was a strong leader in preserving the area’s important history. It’s so fitting that a True North Scholarship will honor his legacy, keeping Tom Hale in the minds and hearts of citizens for years to come.” 

Tom Hale’s son, Kip, and his wife, Nancy, assisted in the establishment of the scholarship. Kip Hale worked with representatives of True North to make sure that the scholarship would be geared toward students who demonstrated a commitment to public and community service, which aligns with True North’s programming of providing high school students with community service opportunities.

Kip Hale said, ”My father embodied public service. To say he did it out of a sense of duty is too simplistic; rather he pursued a career in public service as it made him the happiest and most fulfilled. From the issues that meant a lot to him — such as historic preservation, land use, economic growth for all — to how he handled himself on a daily basis, he was the consummate public servant that virtually everyone admired.” 

Carmen Warfield, chief deputy clerk of the commissioners’ board, recently announced the public reading of the county proclamation for the Tom Hale Scholarship will be today (Wednesday) at 9:30 a.m. on the second floor of Telluride’s Miramonte Building. The public is welcome to attend the reading.

Former colleague and longtime friend Art Goodtimes said, “Tom Hale was the first progressive elected to a very conservative board (in the mid-1970s) . . . Tom was a great inspiration. He never failed to get a bit of his agenda slipped into the mix by being very good at making motions that supported the majority.”

Tom Hale is credited with numerous influential county projects, including the establishment of Telluride’s Historical Commission, which mandated that all future buildings be in line with the region’s heritage; the passage of laws and regulations that guaranteed low-income housing within town limits; and the creation of the nation’s first and only regional gondola transportation system to connect the Town of Telluride with Mountain Village.

Tom Hale and his business partner, Terry Starr, also are credited with helping jumpstart KOTO Community Radio by giving the station a 10-year lease that cost only one dollar a year. 

“Tom Hale was one of the true visionaries to settle in the San Miguel Valley in the early 1970’s,” said Terry Tice, another longtime friend of Tom Hale.

“He was particularly struck with the historic character of the Town of Telluride and worked tirelessly to secure a National Historic Landmark designation for the community, and then to bolster the town’s architectural review process to ensure the protections that really mattered.  He was the champion of the ‘mass and scale’ consciousness moving through the minds of the people living here.  He went on to become District 1 county commissioner and clearly demonstrated his keen ability to form alliances and work with various factions throughout the county.”  

Tice added: “Through it all he maintained a very approachable demeanor and never lacked a sense of humor. His contributions to the way in which Telluride and San Miguel County have developed and moved forward were simply immense.  I shall forever remember him as a fine man and exemplary citizen.”

According to the proclamation, “Mr. Hale will also be remembered for his approachability, professionalism, ingenuity, integrity, trustworthiness, dry sense of humor, and fondness for vodka martinis.”

The new scholarship will ensure generations to come also remember Tom Hale.

The proclamation concludes, “Now therefore be it resolved that the San Miguel County Board of Commissioners recognizes the profound and lasting contributions of Tom Hale to San Miguel County and the State of Colorado by designating the Tom Hale Memorial Scholarship, to be given each year to a graduating High School Student in San Miguel County who demonstrates a commitment to public service, environmental preservation, and/or historic preservation; and by designating January 23, 2018, to be Tom Hale Day in San Miguel County.” 

All graduating Telluride and Norwood seniors are invited to apply for the Tom Hale Memorial Scholarship. Scholarship deadlines vary between Telluride and Norwood. For application information, consult each school’s respective guidance counselor. 

Donations to the scholarship fund are welcome. To make a donation to the scholarship in honor of Tom Hale, make checks payable to Telluride High School, and indicate “True North - Tom Hale Scholarship, countywide” in the memo. Checks can be sent to Karen Lavender at Telluride High School, 725 W. Colorado Ave., Telluride, Colorado, 81435. 

For more information about the scholarship, email