February 2022 Newsletter

the power of PLACE

Gothic in Winter 2022

Imagination and ingenuity

Imagination and ingenuity

“The only real requirements for the job are imagination and ingenuity; so far as experience and expertise are concerned—forget it. The idea is to correct the successes of the past, and people who know how to do things are a drawback.” George Sibley, Part of a Winter: A Memory More Like a Dream.

I am three months into a 2-year term as Mayor of Crested Butte. I will continue as full-time Executive Director of RMBL. Other than being busy Monday evenings when Council meets, my role at RMBL is largely unchanged. Crested Butte, like many municipalities, has a weak mayor system with a Town Manager who oversees operations. I run council meetings and sign papers but am one of seven votes.

Community is what we make of it and for RMBL to thrive, the larger community must thrive. I’ve volunteered with the school, helped public health during the pandemic, served on the county’s planning commission, and been elected to a recreation district. While being Mayor has a higher profile, it’s not more work than chairing the Planning Commission, which often met all day Friday. These positions have been important for my personal and professional growth, given that I’ve had the same job for 21+ years.

Crested Butte is struggling with many of the same issues bedeviling Gothic. How do we manage growth while keeping a sense of community? How do we maintain the edges that generate an authentic sense of discovery, despite the inevitable pressure to improve services and “make things better?”


Ian Billick - Director RMBL

Ian Billick | PhD
Executive Director, RMBL


Caretaking the Lab in Winter by George Sibley

RMBL’s winter caretaker program turns 50 this year; this is an account of how it started, and of our experience as the first caretakers in the winter of 1971-72 – myself, my partner Barbara and our seven-month-old son Sam.

Barbara and I were a little burned out at what we were doing in Crested Butte – Barbara as a wooden sign artist, and me as the only employee of a very small newspaper. A job I’d gotten into because “I want to be a writer,” but three years convinced me I did not want to be a newspaper business manager, ad salesman, et cetera. We were chronically broke, so we were thinking of leaving Crested Butte, and going back to the mainstream of what passed for civilization in 1971 to find work where we could make a little money, or failing that, going to graduate school on government loans and grants to get some “real-world” credentials for finding work.

But then one evening, discussing with friends where we might go and why over spaghetti and Carlos Rossi, it kind of popped into my mind, then out of my mouth: “What I’d really like to do is persuade RMBL that they need winter caretakers, then apply for the job and move up there to work on our stuff for the winter.” Barbara looked at me, shocked, having heard nothing about this – then said, ‘What a great idea!’