The following is an interview with former Alliance intern and current Management Analyst with Pitkin County in Aspen, Colorado, Kara Silbernagel. Kara was featured in our recent Alliance publication, “Empowering Conservation Leaders.” You can view the entire newsletter here.
- What interests you about community planning and why do you care about how our community plans for the future?
Growing up in small western Colorado, I continue to be influenced by the New West/Old West dichotomy and how increasing populations and changing economies influence the sense of community that is synonymous with the West. We all want to “shut the gates” behind us once we enter a community and keep it the same as when we first arrived. But the fact is we can’t. Doing nothing is not going to keep the sense of community and the West. To maintain the community character, we must plan for the future.
- During your time as an Alliance intern, what skills did you learn that help you advocate for good planning at the town and county level?
My time at the Alliance helped me focus the remainder of my grad school and pursue opportunities at the local level. At the time I was working for the National Park Service and realized that local government was the best vehicle for me to be a part of community change.
- You drafted the Teton County Effective Population Report. What were the key takeaways of your research and what specific areas do you think our community could improve based on what you found?
No surprises here, but Teton County needs to continue to focus on housing and maintaining a stable workforce. The community needs to continue to look beyond just a lack of housing stock, but how a long-term housing shortage can contribute to a breakdown in the very social fabric of the community. After working in Aspen for the past two years, I would encourage Teton County to continue to maintain the services and retail shops that help comprise a community.
- What are you up to now and how did your internship at the Alliance help prepare you for this role?
I’m a Management Analyst with Pitkin County (Aspen, CO) working on a variety of projects including broadband access for the rural areas of the county, housing, community health and legislative policy. I live in Carbondale and remain dedicated to the impact of a commuter and tourism community. The more we can engage with all generations to become active and engaged in community action, the democratic process and local government, the more we can help build strong communities.