Meet the Candidates

Election day is May 3 and six people are running for four open seats on the Eagle River Water & Sanitation District board of directors:

  • Director District 1: Timm Paxson
  • Director District 3: Steve Coyer and Eric Heil
  • Director District 5: Kate Burchenal
  • Director District 7: Rick Pylman and Mike Trueblood

Timm Paxson

Timm Paxson

Candidate in Director District 1

Tell us a little bit about yourself.

I am a Colorado native born in 1944 in Delta. When I was eight, we moved to California where I attended Pomona College and received a Bachelor of Arts in chemistry. In the middle of graduate school at UCLA, I was drafted into the Army in 1969. Fortunately, I was stationed at Fitzsimmons Medical Hospital in Denver.  It was during this tour of duty that I became aware of the importance of protecting the wilderness, water quality, and water rights (scarcity of water in the West).

After the Army I returned to UCLA, completed my Doctorate in Chemistry, and began a career with Shell Chemical. We lived in Houston for 30 years, but during those years we skied all over the Rockies and enjoyed hiking and wilderness backpacking in the summers. We retired in 2004 and we moved to Vail full time and have lived here almost 20 years now.

I have always been an avid outdoors person: ski, backpack, fly fish, hike, kayak, and I have climbed all of Colorado’s 14ers. I also enjoy woodworking and home improvement projects.

Our mission is to provide efficient, effective, and reliable water and wastewater utility services in a manner that respects the natural environment. What makes our mission meaningful to you?

Serving on the ERWSD board has given me the opportunity to continue applying my knowledge as a chemist and scientist with a focus on issues regarding water quality.

Now that I am retired, I have the time and energy to devote to community issues.  Not only can I continue to apply my scientific knowledge, but I am also able to help maintain and advocate for increased water quality in the Eagle River drainage.

What are some of your relevant experiences within our community?

For nine years we participated in the Community Guest Services program on Vail Mountain. I have worked with the Eagle River Watershed Council since 2006 and have been involved in a number of projects and served on the board for 6 years. Several examples include monthly water sampling below the Eagle Mine and analysis team (14 years), Edwards Eagle River Restoration and annual temperature monitoring (also 14 years), and monthly telecons and reports with the CDPHE and EPA managers of the Eagle Mine Superfund site.

I also volunteer with Betty Ford Alpine gardens weeding, planting, and general maintenance. This summer I hope to work with the biologist in the high alpines counting and cataloging high altitude plant life.

Why is water important in your life?

There is nothing that can compare to camping by a high alpine lake and looking up toward the mountain peaks and watch the streams cascading down the steep cliffs. The water is pure and sparking clear.

But you also know that water is essential to all life on Earth and necessary for the survival of all living species. That is why water quality is all important.

Steve Coyer

Steve Coyer

Candidate in Director District 3

Tell us a little bit about yourself.

My wife, Amy, and I have been married for 47 years and have lived full-time in Avon for 23 of them – we love living in the valley. I was raised in Michigan, graduated from the University of Michigan with Honors and Distinction in Economics in 1973, and earned my MBA from Harvard in 1980. I had a successful business career in information services, and retired fairly young, when we moved to Avon in 1999. I am a dedicated golfer and was fortunate to play competitive amateur golf for a dozen years or so, which culminated by my playing in the British Amateur in 1997. Once here, I got involved in The Youth Foundation, which would later merge with the Vail Valley Foundation and be renamed YouthPower365. I have been chair of that organization for many years now, and am passionate about improving the opportunities for the children in our valley. I serve on the Board and Executive Committee of the VVF.

Our mission is to provide efficient, effective, and reliable water and wastewater utility services in a manner that respects the natural environment. What makes our mission meaningful to you?

Living in such a beautiful area, one can easily neglect to see what a physical challenge it is to provide fresh water and wastewater services to our vertically-oriented communities. While a portion of our residents live on the valley floor, a large percentage live thousands of feet above the river that provides us with our water. Getting fresh water to these communities is a significant challenge, and is not an inexpensive proposition. Making the capital investments in pumping stations and water tanks, not to mention the capital required to construct and operate efficient wastewater treatment plants, is critical to providing services to our residents, 24/7/365. Taking water from the Eagle River as our source of fresh water, and returning treated wastewater back to that river, we have to respect this lifeblood of our community. And in this day and age of drought conditions, it is even more important that we use that river in a way that will allow it to sustain us for generations to come.

What are some of your relevant experiences within our community?

While I have always been interested in Western U.S. water issues, it wasn’t until I got involved in the planning and construction of a new water tank for my community in Avon that I learned how important the Eagle River Water & Sanitation District is – as well as our sister organization, the Upper Eagle Regional Water Authority. It was a complicated situation that required sensitive negotiations between the community’s homeowners association (of which I was President), the Town of Avon, and the UERWA. The process provided insight into the complexity of the business, and I found myself interested enough that I sought a seat on the ERWSD Board – a seat I have held for about six years. By the way, I have donated the earnings I have received for being a board member to the Eagle River Watershed Council, an organization that protects our important creeks, streams, and rivers.

Why is water important in your life?

Water is, obviously, critical to life everywhere, but here in the valley it is important for recreation as well as a necessity of life. Fishing, skiing, golfing – all rely on Mother Nature to provide water to sustain these activities. Most of us would not live here in the valley if we didn’t have enough of this important resource to provide some of the greatest recreational activities in the U.S. I treasure our rivers and streams and am proud to be able to work on the board of a great organization, the ERWSD, which exists to be the best caretaker it can possibly be.

Eric Heil

Eric Heil

Candidate in Director District 3

Tell us a little bit about yourself.

I am a resident of downtown Avon. I have served the Avon community as the Town Manager since 2019 and prior to that as the Town Attorney since 2008. My career has been dedicated to serving Colorado communities since 1992, including representing the tiny, remote towns of Ophir and Rico front range cities, fire districts, water and sanitation districts and hospital districts. But my heart has always been with the mountain communities of Colorado, including Avon and Eagle County.

Our mission is to provide efficient, effective, and reliable water and wastewater utility services in a manner that respects the natural environment. What makes our mission meaningful to you?

I support the mission of the Eagle River Water & Sanitation District to provide efficient and reliable water and wastewater utility services. I appreciate the complex regulatory and legal environment for water and wastewater utilities.

What are some of your relevant experiences within our community?

My decades of local governmental and legal experience will bring valuable leadership to the Board of Directors to meet the challenges of a growing community. In addition, my understanding of the redevelopment needs of the Town of Avon, future development of the Village (at Avon) and extreme need for more community housing will bring a necessary and beneficial perspective to the Eagle River Water & Sanitation District.

Why is water important in your life?

Water supplies and water quality are essential to our way of life and local economy. Water is a limited resource that must be quantified and allocated to support community housing. Our community has an expectation and mandate that we maintain and improve water quality to preserve the natural environment we cherish. I will be committed to providing the best stewardship possible to meet our community goals.

Kate Burchenal

Kate Burchenal

Candidate in Director District 5

Tell us a little bit about yourself.

I grew up in Denver, but as a family we spent most weekends in and around Vail skiing and hiking. After four years in Vermont for college, I was drawn back to the mountains of Colorado and this valley in particular. I have been living in Minturn ever since (minus a brief hiatus in Santa Barbara for grad school) pursuing my career in water resources management and generally enjoying all that this valley has to offer. I do all the usual mountain activities – mountain biking, hiking, etc. – but skiing is definitely my passion!

Our mission is to provide efficient, effective, and reliable water and wastewater utility services in a manner that respects the natural environment. What makes our mission meaningful to you?

My interest in water has always been from an environmental perspective. Water is central to our community and our mountain way of life, and as such we must be thoughtful about how we utilize that resource and grow in a manner that is congruent with and supportive of the natural environment on which we depend. I am inspired by ERWSD’s commitment to serving our community in a way that is collaborative and respectful of the assets that make our valley such a special place to live and play.

What are some of your relevant experiences within our community?

I spent three years as the Education & Outreach Coordinator for Eagle River Watershed Council and that’s where I really got to know the community and became deeply interested in water management. I went on to pursue my graduate studies in Water Resources Management at UC Santa Barbara but knew I wanted to get back to this place as quickly as I could. I work for Airborne Snow Observatories, Inc., a company that measures snowpack (and the water content in that snow) from airplanes to be used as a tool for better understanding where our water is and when it will runoff in our rivers and streams. I am also on the board of the Eagle River Watershed Council, and love being able to apply my knowledge and insight to support causes that I love right here at home.

Why is water important in your life?

Water underpins all of humanity, but it has a particular flavor here in the West. The Eagle River and its tributaries are at the heart of our community – driving our economy and enabling our outdoor recreation lifestyles. I love the community and people that are supported by these waterways, and I am passionate about protecting the inherent values of the waterways themselves.

Rick Pylman

Rick Pylman

Candidate in Director District 7

Tell us a little bit about yourself.

I came to Vail at 21 years-old – straight out of college. Now 62, I’m shifting into retirement. I spent my first summer painting houses and living in a tent pitched a little east of the Intermountain water tank.

After a winter working in a ski shop I was hired as a land planner for Eagle County. I spent 12 years in local government planning, working for Eagle County, the Town of Avon and the Town of Vail. For the last 29 years I have been in private practice and have been involved in many local projects.

I have been married to Cricket Pylman for 35 years and we raised two children here. We live in the Homestead neighborhood of Edwards and have both been active in many community endeavors.

Our mission is to provide efficient, effective, and reliable water and wastewater utility services in a manner that respects the natural environment. What makes our mission meaningful to you?

The basic mission of every governmental entity that provides services should be to provide those in an efficient, cost-effective and reliable manner. The ERWSD has been excellent in following that mission and as previous Boards and staff have evolved that excellence has become a culture and a standard.

My professional life brought me into many working relationships with the staff and I believe the staff walks the talk on this mission statement. I will work to ensure that standard continues and improves.

The more interesting part of the mission, the part that is perhaps a little more meaningful to me, is the “respects the natural environment”. There is a real role for the Board of Directors in policy decisions here, trying to balance efficient costs against the hard choices of environmental issues. As a water and wastewater provider ERWSD is integrally involved in our river system and watershed. With my background in land planning and as an avid river user (fisherman & rafter) I feel I can contribute to providing leadership to this all-important aspect of the mission statement.

What are some of your relevant experiences within our community?

As a local land planner I am well aware of the need for efficient, reliable water service and of the challenges in providing that service. I have a working knowledge of Colorado water rights laws and western water rights issues. I’m aware of the need for intelligent, water-wise design and sound, long range thinking.

I previously served two terms on this board, from 2006 to 2014.  After an 8-year hiatus I am ready to re-join the board and again contribute.

Why is water important in your life?

Water is critical to everything that is important to me. Safe and cost-efficient water and wastewater service is important to community health and to community prosperity.

The efficient and environmentally wise use of water is important to community beauty through landscape design, to recreation such as skiing, golf, parks and playfields, to all of the various forms of river recreation as well as to ranching and agriculture.

Mike Trueblood

Mike Trueblood

Candidate in Director District 7

Tell us a little bit about yourself.

I live in Edwards with my wife, Heidi, and youngest daughter Josephine, a 2020 graduate of Vail Ski and Snowboard Academy. Our oldest daughter Gabrielle is graduating in May of 2022 from CU Boulder.  In my free time, I enjoy skiing, skinning, mountain biking, camping and traveling.  I graduated from the University of Colorado, with a Bachelor of Science in Business and Accounting.  While at CU, I was NCAA All American on the Alpine Ski Team and a member of the 1991 National Championship Team.

I am involved in the Eagle County community having served on the Edwards Metro District Board. I worked for Ski and Snowboard Club Vail from 2012 to 2016 and for Vail Resorts from 2016 to 2021. I currently work with Heidi supporting our real estate business.

Our mission is to provide efficient, effective, and reliable water and wastewater utility services in a manner that respects the natural environment. What makes our mission meaningful to you?

The ERWSD mission is meaningful to me because it is one of the main foundations supporting the sustainability and appeal of Eagle County. Without sufficient water we don’t have winter sports and attractions, we don’t have meaningful summer activities, and most importantly we can’t sustain a stable population. For Eagle County to continue to be an amazing place for people to visit and to live, it is critical that the community work together to ensure that water sources and facilities are managed carefully and receive sufficient investment and resources.

What are some of your relevant experiences within our community?

Most recently I have been serving on the Edwards Metro District Board and I believe I have represented the residents of the Edwards area in a thoughtful and collaborative manner to encourage innovative initiatives and enhancements. For example, the Metro District has piloted an E Bike program in which over 120 residents over the last year have been able to put $200 towards the purchase of an E-Bike for use as a fun, alternate commuting option in our community. The Edwards Metro Board is also working closely with other districts and entities to bring abut other beneficial infrastructure improvements which will enhance quality of life in the Edwards area.

I worked for Vail Resorts from 2016 to 2021 including three years at Beaver Creek as Sr. Director of Village Operations. During my time at Beaver Creek my responsibilities included managing various master associations and working with metro districts, and I was on the board of the Holland Creek Metro District. Here I became familiar with water issues including operations, water rights and the importance of conservation and prudent water management. I believe these experiences have provided good perspective on how to reconcile multiple priorities and seek constructive solutions.

Why is water important in your life?

Learning about water usage and management across multiple communities has led me to believe that the current rate of water use across the county is not sustainable over the long term. While we will continue to see growth and development in Eagle County, water sources to support both current and future use are potentially declining due to changes in our weather patterns. With increased focus on reasonable water usage and a commitment to work together county wide we can offset many of the water related risks and keep Eagle County a highly desirable and special location.