Monday, August 3, 2020

Profile: Lois Rozman

by Dawne Belloise and Mark Reaman

LeMars, Iowa, was a great place for Lois Rozman to grow up.    It was a small, nice community where she had lots of cousins and family. Her parents hailed from the same area and had also grown up and spent almost their entire lives there before moving to Hotchkiss in 1982, settling on some acreage with fruit orchards and gardens.

photo by Lydia Stern

Lois proudly points out that her mother will be 93 years old this week. Lois remembers that when she was a kid, her mom canned everything fresh from their garden. “We had a healthy lifestyle before it was the in thing to do,” Lois says, hoping to be able to follow her mom’s footsteps into the kitchen to do some canning herself now that she has actual free time. After 25 years of excellent service to the town of Crested Butte as finance director, Lois officially passed off the ledgers to a new director at the end of December 2017, and she’s ready for new adventures.

As a child, Lois was very active in school sports, as a sprinter and playing both basketball and softball. “I even played on the Brown Baggers softball team when I first moved to Crested Butte,” she says, smiling at the memory. When she graduated from high school in 1978, she had planned to attend the University of South Dakota and enroll in a medical technology program, but destiny instead brought her to Crested Butte, where she decided to attend Western State College (WSC).

“And I never looked back,” she laughs. “My sister Evelyn Roseberry was living in Crested Butte at the time with her husband, Bill. I came to spend the summer with them,” she says, although her first visit to town was with her parents in 1975.

Lois went to work for Richard and Rudy Rozman the day after she arrived in town, cleaning rooms in their hotel, Rozman’s Lodge and Restaurant. The brothers were still building the restaurant at that time.

“When the restaurant opened, I was a waitress, doing a breakfast shift a few mornings as well as attending WSC. My intention was to go to Western State for a year and then transfer back.”

But Lois changed direction after she took a couple of science classes, “which I loved in high school but in college, chemistry class was not a good experience.” She discovered that she really liked business classes and graduated in 1982 with a degree in accounting and business. She was working at the restaurant throughout her college tenure and had started dating Rudy in 1980. They married in 1989.

Crested Butte Mountain Resort hired Lois in 1984, beginning as an accounts payable clerk and winding up as assistant to the treasurer. She left that job to work for the town of Crested Butte as finance director in 1992.

Lois says of her two and a half decades there, “I’ve been very blessed and it’s been a good run. The position has been pretty intense the past several years and I felt it was time for new blood in the position, as well as Rudy and I are looking forward to having time together to do things when we want.”

From her first years there, Lois has seen the town budget increase from $4 million to the 2017 budget of $20 million. She witnessed the town offices grow from 23 employees to 47 full-time employees, and she recalls when town government used to enjoy the “off season” when you could get caught up on things. But now, “town government is pretty much go all the time.”

Back in the day, Lois remembers, “The town didn’t have a lot of money in the early 1990s so we had to spend some time working on getting fund balances established so we could ride out economic downturns. As you well know, winter ruled from an economic standpoint in the 1990s—now summer rules.

“Crested Butte actually saw this shift much sooner than other mountain resorts,” Lois notes. “Projects in the 1990s were more necessity in nature, while now the town has some additional funds to do more nice amenities while still maintaining the necessities.”

She’s seen many changes, and has worked with many councils over the years. “A common thread is they all genuinely cared about Crested Butte,” Lois says.

“The biggest change I’ve seen is how the town has grown. There were 800 residents when I got here and there are 1,600 now. One of the most significant changes was getting the kindergarten through 12th grade back into town. It was taken away in the 1960s.” Lois says all the Rozmans graduated from the high school in town before the building later became the current town offices.

“Another big change would be the development of all the non-profits that add so much to our community. The Center for the Arts comes to mind. When I first came to town, the county shops were on that property with a big pile of black cinders they used to put on the roads in the wintertime.”

Lois married into an early history of Crested Butte. Steeped in the origins of town culture, the Rozmans were ranchers on the paternal side and miners on Mary Sedmak’s, the maternal, side. “Cheech was Rudy’s uncle but I called him Uncle Joe, even though everyone else knew him as Cheech. In my family, I will always be the newcomer, no matter how long I’ve been here,” she brandishes a smile, and laughing, proclaims, “They’re stuck with me!”

She’s looking forward to learning how to bake like Mom Rozman, “now that I have the time and, oh boy, she knew how to bake!”

Over the years, Lois and Rudy have traveled all over the world, and one year, they went back to the Rozman-Sedmak motherland, to Slovenia and Croatia and found living relatives there. “A cousin by marriage to Rudy’s mom was still living in the family house in Semic, Slovenia. It was truly like walking back in grandma Sedmak’s house. There was apple potica on top of the oven, which was the old-fashioned wood-burning cookstove just like grandma Sedmak had, and fried chicken cooking. The town was a very small town in the mountains in Slovenia. His family had been in the house for quite some time. Rudy’s great-great grandfather on the Sedmak side was born there.” Lois explains that this is the great-great-grandfather who was the first to arrive in Crested Butte in 1880, followed in 1888 by Rudy’s great-grandfather.

The couple has also traveled to China, Vietnam, Cambodia, Egypt, New Zealand, Peru, Curacao, England, Ireland, Italy and as many UNESCO sites as they can fit into their itinerary. Throughout her journeys, Lois observed, “Being out there, you meet just such great people and as long as you treat them with respect and politeness you find they’re no different from you and me. They just want to be happy and healthy and provide for their family, just like we do here.” Their next immediate trip will be to Florida to see their grandsons.

Now that she’s retired, Lois can help Rudy with outdoor work. “We live halfway between the town of Crested Butte and Mt. Crested Butte, with open space around us. It’s the original Rozman property that’s now in a conservation easement owned by the Crested Butte Land Trust. We lease the land back to hay it and the Allens put their cows here in the fall when they bring them down from the high country before moving them all the way down-valley. So there are fences to put up, and irrigation during the summer. We move the water, take care of the ditches, and hay in the fall—basic ranch work—there’s always something to do.”

Lois says, “Crested Butte has always been a vocal and very caring community and it still is. It seems a little harder to keep community-oriented goals at the forefront than it was in past days. Town is definitely busier now than in the 1990s. It has been an honor serving the Crested Butte community and working with so many great people on staff and council over the years. I’m looking forward to being able to help Rudy with ranch activities as well as skiing, hiking, sea kayaking and traveling. I don’t see myself anywhere else—maybe a couple weeks in January getting out to someplace warmer, but I see myself in 10 years right here, doing the same stuff and pretty joyful about it. There’s no place I’d rather be.”

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