Town Council candidate Meehan Fee. (Courtesy photo)

Each week leading up to Election Day, Nov. 2, the Daily Planet will publish Telluride Town Council candidate answers to a questionnaire compiled by Planet editorial staff. They will be published in the order in which they were received.

Why are you running?

As a business owner within the service industry of Telluride, I have a unique perspective on the challenges we face as a community, but also on the incredible successes and intangible qualities that make this community the special place that it is. I have faced the struggles that our community members are so worried about. We have all worked alongside each other for all of these years, and so I truly understand the day-to-day needs of our workforce. Our integral and vital workforce deserves a voice on Town Council, someone who can speak to their needs, their wishes and the future lives they want to create here.

Through my experience in developing and growing a successful business, I can speak to how to guide our council in ensuring a path forward that will provide the economic and housing stability that our community desperately needs, while protecting all that make Telluride the unique destination that it is — our deep sense of community, the amazing people that live here, and the arts and culture that inspire us all.

My skills in collaborative leadership are one of my greatest strengths. I seek compromise and mutual understanding every single day throughout the course of my work. Each event we plan and every conversation we have is team oriented. The professional teams I lead are composed of multiple entities, each with their own particular set of needs, requirements and viewpoints. By focusing on the needs of the greater whole and the final product, we are able to achieve a final product that achieves success for everyone involved.

The depth of my connections to the organizations and individuals within our community will benefit everyone, should I be elected. I have strong, working relationships with our existing council members, as well as the members of San Miguel County (commissioners) and Mountain Village town council. I have strong, working relationships with our business community, including Telluride Ski & Golf. And I have volunteered my time to our incredible nonprofit community organizations, including the San Miguel Resource Center, One to One Mentoring, Telluride Foundation, the Telluride schools, the Telluride Adaptive Program, and more. When we can start a conversation from a place of mutual history and respect, we can reach common ground much more quickly — and when we do so, we can create and achieve the solutions that will serve us all both now and into the future.

Housing. What ideas/solutions will you bring to the table?

Workforce housing in the region is a very layered issue, and the solutions will look different to different people. And therefore, we need layers of solutions that address multiple situations — whether it is our newest community members and temporary workforce, our long-time couples and families, or our contributing artist community — while still protecting our need for a predictable economy.

Our existing council has approved and is moving forward with many promising projects — Sunnyside, Voodoo, Carhenge, Virginia Placer, SWAP — but we still need more. Stop-gap solutions like the utilization of Town Park or county parks for long-term camping, and a concerted effort to match current ADU/EDU homeowners with the locals that are looking for housing will be vital to stabilization of this crisis as we build out the solution.

We are a small piece of a greater whole — and a comprehensive regional solution is the only way that we can create the housing that we will need to serve our workforce. Further, we have incredible businesses and stakeholders in the region that want to participate in the process. By bringing private entities into the conversations, and allowing them to be an active part of the solution, we will ensure that we can build more housing faster than we could as a municipality alone.

Are short-term rentals a problem, or not, in your view? What are your thoughts on the two town ballot issues that seek to limit business licenses (and other measures) before the voters? Do you have a property you rent short-term?

Short-term rentals are not inherently a problem (and no, I don't have a property that I rent short-term), but the robust rental market has illuminated a major issue in destination markets, and especially here in Telluride. As our economy stabilized and grew after the recession, our municipality did not take the steps necessary to provide the infrastructure and support the community would need alongside of that very predictable growth. The pandemic, and the urban flight that resulted from it, has exacerbated an issue that has always existed, but it raised it to a crisis level.

It has been incredible to witness our community rally to a cause the way we all have regarding affordable housing, and as a result, council has the mandate from their citizens to move forward aggressively in building the solution to our housing crisis. Both ballot measures were created to attempt to solve this crisis, but both will need further adjustment if they pass. While I applaud Proposition 300 for starting this conversation, it will not create a meaningful increase in long-term housing for our workforce. The potential impacts of this initiative are too concerning and too shortsighted to be a responsible solution. However, I do strongly believe that regulation on our short-term rental industry is needed. The development of those regulations need to be guided by experts through a comprehensive planning process. As a community, we must fully analyze the effects of these decisions, and make an informed choice based on economic modeling and non-biased facts before we act. To do otherwise would be irresponsible.

Do you currently serve on any town or nonprofit boards/commissions/prior experience as an elected official?

I currently sit on the San Miguel County's Economic Recovery Committee, which was developed in light of the COVID-19 pandemic to address the concerns and needs of the community. I previously served on the board of the Telluride Reparatory Theater (before it was Telluride Theater), and spent over a decade on the board of the San Miguel Resource Center. Currently, I support the work of Telluride Adaptive Sports, One to One Mentoring, Mountainfilm and others through event and fundraising guidance. I also mentor small business owners in the community.

What is your long-term vision for your community?

I want a well balanced community — one where the needs of the businesses, the desires of our community for happy and healthy lives, and the protection of our natural resources are all prioritized equally for a sustainable future.

When each of us came to Telluride for the first time, we were all drawn to this incredible community — a town full of risk takers, adventurers, artists and passionate community members. I want future generations to feel the same way when they enter this box canyon -— that they’ve found their tribe, their home. Telluride is truly a special town, and we should all be mindful that we are all stewards of this community for a short period of time. We need to make sure that we create a better place than the one we found for the generations that come behind us.

What is marketing’s role in Telluride’s future? What do you think is appropriate/effective for our community?

I believe that the definition of marketing, as it relates to Telluride, needs to remain expanded as it has for the past 18 months. Prior to that time, marketing efforts were focused outside of the destination, in order to draw visitors to the community. However, current efforts are focused on internal marketing — messaging to those who are already here or those that have come in order to preserve and protect our community, its assets and its residents.

Both serve an essential role in the economic health of our town. We will need both in the future to preserve this town, our economy and our way of life. External marketing will always be necessary — after all, it is visitation that provides the initial dollars in our circular economy. The current Destination Management Organization model that the tourism board has been following is essential to addressing the community’s needs in managing that economy and the visitors it brings. Their ambassador program and messaging efforts have provided a clearer set of expectations to our visitors, and I believe this programming should be expanded further. We need our visitors to know what is expected of them, how to preserve and protect our natural resources, and how to respect our community members while they are here. Our visitors and part-time residents love this community as much as we all do, and by marketing to them, we can ensure that they understand what is expected and appreciated by our full time residents.

What’s working in town government/what’s not?

After the past year and a half, I would hope that it goes without saying that we have amazing individuals working in our government offices! Each and every one of them was called to work harder than ever anticipated, to make incredibly difficult decisions and to continuously pivot as new challenges arose. As a member of an industry that was mandated to cease operations during that time, I was able to observe, advise and listen as town staff worked tirelessly. Everyone, from council members to staff were receptive, attentive, compassionate and made incredibly hard decisions based on the best information they had at the time.

However, I think the past year highlighted the need for more in-depth planning and situational contingencies to be put in place. Our housing crisis could have been avoided if we had stringently begun these conversations much earlier. How much happier would we be as a community right now if the town had implemented any sort of visitor traffic management plan this summer, as was recommended by community stakeholders? We needed stronger governmental support of our businesses and economy, for mental health and well being of the community. I want to be that advocate for our working community, and believe I can be.

Tell us a little about yourself … skier, day job, family, etc.

I moved to Telluride from New York to “ski for a winter,” much like everyone, it seems. I was convinced to stay for a summer, and completely fell in love with everything this town had to offer. My very best friends are still the friends I made on a softball field that summer. I still play softball — summer nights in Town Park will always be my favorite moments of each year. Like most people here, I spent my 20s moving from home to home multiple times, had tons of amazing roommates, and waking up every single day knowing how lucky I am to have found Telluride.

I met my husband Daniel here, and we’ve raised his son Gus here as well. Throughout these years, we’ve been so fortunate to have an entire community surrounding Gus — inspiring his choices, supporting his decisions, and allowing him to grow into the incredible person he is. This town has done the same for both Dan and I as well. As we started and grew our own businesses, that same support and guidance surrounded us in each phase of our professional development.

I own and operate a nationally recognized and award winning events company, and have worked in the hospitality industry, specifically in destination management and events for the entire duration of my time here. It’s incredibly special to watch as our guests fall in love with this community, and it always galvanizes me to ensure that the innate spirit of this town remains that way so that everyone can experience it, even if it is just once. As a company, we return 20 percent of our revenues, and 20 percent of our time to various nonprofits, in order for our success to benefit the Telluride community as a whole.

I look forward to further serving the community of Telluride.