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When no means yes, a farewell to Gillie

There are easy jobs and there are not-so-easy jobs. Bob Gillie is leaving a not-so-easy job. He is the guy who had to say “No” a lot. As the Crested Butte building and zoning director who oversaw the Board of Zoning and Architectural Review (BOZAR), he said no to developers. He said no to business owners. He has said no to homeowners and non-profit directors. He said no to friends and said no to the Town Council. He has said no to previous town managers. He sometimes said no with a smile and oftentimes he said no in frustration.

But if you like how the town of Crested Butte looks and feels, then you should appreciate Bob’s ability to say no. And let’s keep in mind that most times (but certainly not all the time) he eventually said “Yes”—but it was after compromise and process. And nine times out of ten it resulted in a better project than what was first proposed.

Gillie spent close to three decades with the town and he has a passion for the spirit of Crested Butte. He translated that passion through what mayor Glenn Michel once described as “the built environment” of the community. When people wanted approval for things that worked in other mountain resort communities but went against the rules and spirit in Crested Butte Gillie would stand up for old Crested Butte. He stood up for the unique scale of this town. He stood up for the purity of architecture in this town. He stood up for things most people don’t even think about such as the grid system and the historical connections of the present to the old mining town.

I’m sure it wasn’t always easy. Saying “Yes” is a whole heck of a lot easier than telling someone “No.” Lord knows there are some who will be toasting Gillie’s June 2 retirement and they probably won’t be at the town’s Depot party honoring his service.

Now admittedly I sometimes felt he said “No” too often and for reasons based on Crested Butte’s past rather than the Crested Butte present. But I’ve been wrong before and the proof is in the pudding. Those moving here now want to live in town. Those working here who can’t afford the real estate prices still want to live in town. In that vein, Gillie avidly helped guide the town so workers would still be able to live in Crested Butte and not just commute to jobs here.

Tourists come here for many reasons but it is the uniqueness of this small town that stays with them after they leave. Those developers and business owners who have been miffed when he said no still built and did business in town because they knew the town is more special, more valuable and more a real draw than other places in the valley. That is due in large part to Gillie. On the most straightforward economic measure, the property in Crested Butte is worth more than anywhere else in the valley. Why is that? In large part it is because Crested Butte remains unique in the face of people wanting to make it so much like other mountain resort towns.

So here’s a nod of appreciation to Gillie and all he has done for decades to help make Crested Butte what it is today. If you value what Crested Butte feels like, you owe a big part of that to Gillie. Let’s hope those moving into the regulatory chair continue to share some of his values and the necessary ability to sometimes just say no.

Take a second to understand that in the big picture saying “No” can actually mean “Yes” when it comes to making decisions that try to preserve what it is we want and value as a community. Gillie, while not always smooth in how he did it, had the fortitude to do it well for 27 years.

—Mark Reaman

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