Board of Directors
The vision of the Valley Housing Fund is set by a Board of Directors from the north and south ends of the Gunnison Valley. The Board has a unique skill set that includes construction, property management, engineering, local and regional government, project management, real estate law, and philanthropy. Our Board is always looking for interested individuals to share their expertise with our organization. If you would like more information about joining the board, please contact Board President, Scott Desmarais.
Meetings are held on the second Monday of each month from 4-6 and alternate between Gunnison and Crested Butte. Project-specific committees meet throughout the month as needed.
Meet the Board of Directors
Scott is a Professor of Finance and Business Analytics at Western Colorado University. He and his wife and kids have called Crested Butte their home for over 25 years and take full advantage of the numerous opportunities available to socialize with friends, ski, mountain bike, road bike, hike and meet new friends in the beautiful Gunnison Valley. He is passionate about affordable housing and strengthening the social fabric of our communities in Gunnison Valley. He has over 30 years of experience in strategy, business development, teaching and management, while supporting top private sector corporations, governments, international foundations in the Americas, Africa, Europe, Asia and the Middle East. Scott has also served as a Board member of the Crested Butte Mountain Theatre and supported several local non-profit organizations including the Gunnison Watershed School District.
Since he moved to Crested Butte in 1978, Jim Starr has been incredibly active in the community. As a Crested Butte Town Councilor and then Town Attorney, Jim helped create and implement the Town’s affordable housing program. He continued this effort throughout his three terms as County Commissioner by helping create the Gunnison County Housing Authority and establishing the current county housing program. Jim co-founded the CB Nordic Council and CB Land Trust and on the national level, he helped organize the Green Century Funds, the nation’s first fossil fuel-free investment funds. Jim’s work on the CB Land Trust and as an elected official helped him realize that creating realistic housing opportunities for residents of all income levels is critical to sustaining a vibrant Gunnison County community. He believes that as land and housing become more expensive, it is necessary to have a private sector advocate and funding partner for workforce housing to complement the historic public sector organizations.
While growing up in Kansas, Wade’s annual family vacations took him to Colorado, and it was only a matter of time until Colorado would become his home. In 2004, this became a reality for Wade and his growing family, and they have enjoyed making the Gunnison Valley their home ever since. Wade has worked for Gunnison Valley Health as it has grown since 2004 and currently serves as the Vice President of Operations. During his time in Gunnison he has seen the desire to live here grow while at the same time, the affordability and opportunity to secure housing become even more challenging. Several years ago, Wade assumed primary responsibility for employee housing at Gunnison Valley Health, as the health system strives to help existing employees remain in the valley while assisting new employees in moving here. He is eager to be even more hands-on to find solutions to our valley’s housing challenges and sees VHF as a great opportunity to help.
Kelly moved to Gunnison in 1991 to finish her BS in Sociology at Western after living in Germany for 4 years and obtaining an Associates Degree at the University of Maryland in Munich. She obtained her Real Estate license in 2001 and started her company, Gunnison Real Estate and Rentals, in 2004. She has always had a passion for housing in the area and has witnessed the difficulty that so many people experience in obtaining affordable housing. Kelly sat on the Gunnison County Board of Realtors from 2002 -2008 and was awarded Realtor of the year in 2008. She served on the Gunnison Valley Regional Housing Authority Board from 2002 – 2018, as well as the VHF board for several years. After taking a two-year hiatus, VHF is excited to have Kelly back on the board, and she is looking forward to helping with solutions to the ever-growing housing crisis in our valley.
John moved to Crested Butte in 1975 and grew up at the Old Steakhouse on Peanut Lake Road. He attended Gunnison High School and then followed in his parents footsteps, attending the University of Oklahoma. He spent over 20 years in the nonprofit world, many of which were spent living in Spain working on the Camino de Santiago. After a stint in Austin working for a tech company, he and his family returned to Crested Butte and John had a vision to help build neighborhoods people could afford to live in. He has spent the last five years working on various attainable housing projects in and around the Gunnison Valley and also with Fading West Development in Buena Vista. He believes housing that our locals can afford is the foundation for a healthy and robust community.
Since moving to Crested Butte in the 1970s, Jim “Deli” Schmidt has served on the CB Town Council for 31 years, with 10 of those years as mayor. Jim was on VHF’s original Board of Directors, and has since returned to share his institutional knowledge of both the valley and housing. He lived in local affordable housing for several decades and advocated for additional housing in his time as an elected official. Jim has played an influential role in many cherished projects in this community, including the Deli and Lupine trails, Town Ranch, the Public Policy Forum, and the Jokerville mine memorial. In 2021, a proclamation by the Town Council of Crested Butte declared November 15 as “Jim Deli Schmidt Day”.
Ralph E. Clark III (“Butch”) grew up in the midwest and earned a dual major in psychology and economics before being called to serve as a Captain and Personnel Officer in the Air Force during the Vietnam War. He later earned his MBA from Western State College (now WCU), and was appointed by the Governor to serve as the first chair of the Colorado Natural Areas Program. Butch earned his Ph.D in 1985 from the University of London in Environmental Planning, with a focus on planning for communities as they transition away from single-focused economies like mining. Butch and his wife, Judy, generously founded the Valley Housing Fund by conserving almost 1,000 acres of their property in the Lost Canyon and donating the proceeds to start VHF. This accomplished their two goals of both preserving land permanently for recreation and generating funds for affordable housing. Butch has dedicated many decades to bringing people together to prepare for a sustainable future for Gunnison County and beyond.
Meet the Staff
Lauren grew up in Evergreen, CO and attended CU-Boulder, earning a BA in Geography with a minor in Political Science. With the Great Recession looming as she was about to graduate, she secured a scholarship for an additional year at CU to earn a teaching license, hoping it would open doors to teach internationally or in a ski town. Lauren taught high school History and English for 9 years, spending her last four years of teaching at Crested Butte Community School. She served on the Mt. Crested Butte Town Council from 2017-2022 and as Mayor Pro Tem for two of those years, and advocated for affordable housing, sustainable tourism, among other local issues. Lauren moved into the nonprofit realm as the Development Director for the Crested Butte Mountain Bike Association in 2019, focusing on marketing, fundraising, and communications. In 2022, she was hired as the first full time Executive Director at the Valley Housing Fund, where she is enthusiastically committed to moving housing solutions forward in the Gunnison Valley.
Molly has lived in the Gunnison Valley for nearly 18 years, moving here from Washington, DC and originally from Colorado’s Front Range. Molly’s career has included nonprofit management, issue advocacy, political campaigns, teaching at Western Colorado University and being a founding member of Gunnison’s only nature-based early childhood center. Locally, she has served as a Gunnison County Planning Commissioner, was campaign manager for Yes on 5A- the campaign to expand the RTA, consulted with numerous nonprofits on organizational development, and opened Wonderland Nature School. For the last 12 years she worked on water and public lands policy in the West. She has an MPA from the University of Colorado-Denver, and a BA in Sociology from Western.