Russell Forrest Returns To Vail As Latest Town Manager

The Town of Vail on Tuesday issued the following press release on Russell Forrest being named the latest town manager:

The Vail Town Council has selected Russell Forrest, the current city manager for the City of Gunnison, to become Vail’s next town manager. Forrest’s appointment was formalized by the council at a special meeting today (8/23). He is expected to start with the town in late fall.

As an experienced manager in mountain communities for over 25 years, Forrest has successfully built hundreds of affordable housing units, completed large-scale infrastructure projects and addressed complex policy issues around climate change and land use planning. He has a reputation for working on complex issues while also building trusting relationships through effective communication in small mountain communities.

In announcing the selection, Mayor Kim Langmaid says Forrest’s previous tenure in Vail and subsequent roles in similar communities have positioned him well to take the helm. “Russ impressed us with his familiarity of the challenges and opportunities we have ahead of us,” she said. “His love for Vail and enthusiasm for our vision ‘to be the premier international mountain resort community’ shined through in every interaction during the interview process.”

Prior to his position in Gunnison, Forrest’s government management experience included roles as assistant county manager for Economic and Community Development in Gunnison County from 2013 to 2016, town manager for Snowmass Village from 2007 to 2013, and community development director for the Town of Vail from 1992 to 2007.

Forrest’s ability to bring at-odds groups together was highlighted during his time in Snowmass Village. He assumed the town manager role following the contentious approval of Base Village, a development which divided the community. An extensive listening and public outreach process resulted in major updates to the town’s comprehensive plan aimed at creating an acceptable balance between resort and residents, and helped restore a sense of community while enhancing the guest experience.

In his current position, Forrest has led multiple infrastructure projects and facilitated the revisioning of Gunnison Rising, a 650-acre housing and commercial development designed to provide a live, work and play environment. The project was approved in 2020 and is now under construction.

Forrest, 58, says he’s excited to be coming back to the town. “When I left Vail, I wanted to gain a diversity of experience in town management,” he said. “My goal was to compete in the future for the position of Vail town manager.”

Forrest has both a bachelor’s and a master’s degree in Urban Planning from the University of Illinois.

As Vail’s ninth town manager since Vail’s incorporation in 1966, Forrest will oversee a $120 million budget and 346 full-time equivalent employees.

Forrest was selected during a national search process following the resignation of Scott Robson in April. Stan Zemler, a former Vail town manager, has served as interim town manager during the process. Zemler’s contract will expire in October, and Deputy Town Manager Kathleen Halloran will serve as interim manager during any gap between Zemler’s departure and Forrest’s start date. Mayor Langmaid says Zemler, Halloran and the entire town staff have worked tirelessly to keep the town running smoothly during the transition.

A community welcome reception for Forrest and his family will be scheduled for later in the year.

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