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 third Thursday of each month from 4-6, and are currently conducted via Zoom. Project-specific committees meet throughout the month as needed.

Articles of Incorporation
Bylaws (Updated 2022)

Meet the Board of Directors

Scott Desmarais

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.

Vice President
Jim Starr

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.

Brian Zappala

Originally from the Northeast, Brian and his wife attended the same high school and college in Lehigh Valley, PA and married in 1989 upon graduation. They have 3 adult sons and are avid outdoor enthusiasts who enjoy skiing, snowshoeing, hiking, fishing, and hunting. Brian retired from his position as Chief Operating Officer of a national civil engineering firm in 2021, allowing him to move full time to Gunnison County. His 40+ years of experience in residential design, development, and construction, paired with project management and execution skills translate directly to tackling the challenges of affordable housing in the Gunnison Valley. He approaches the housing shortage with a holistic view of the upper and lower valley and seeks a long-term, sustainable model where the collective goals of the community will be achieved.

Susan Kerns

Born and raised in the suburban San Francisco Bay Area, Susan attended Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo and UC Davis, graduating with a bachelor’s in Viticulture and Enology. She worked in the wine industry for several years before realizing that her heart was really in a more active, high alpine life. After jaunts to several mountain towns in the western US, her young family landed in Crested Butte in 1984. Susan has written for community newspapers, volunteered with the Adaptive Sports Center, has served on the Gunnison County Housing Authority and Gunnison County Planning Commission, was a founding member of the Trails Commission and Historic Preservation Commissions in the County, and helped found the Enrichment Committee at the Crested Butte Community School. Safe, affordable and energy efficient housing for all is her special interest and hope for the people of the Gunnison Valley.


Alec has lived in the Gunnison Valley since 2010 and enjoys spending time volunteering for local organizations, including being part of the Vinotok Council and a KBUT DJ. His other interests include participating in community theatre throughout the valley and spending time at the Crested Butte Museum, and in 2022 he began his 4-year term as a Mt. Crested Butte Town Councilor. His housing experience during his time here has ranged from being homeless after the flooding of the Marcellina apartments to receiving a USDA Rural Housing Loan. It is his belief that this story is representative of those that the Valley Housing Fund seeks to benefit and his experience will bring a useful perspective to the Board.

Jim G

Jim Gelwicks is an Emeritus WSU communication professor. He served on Gunnison City Council from 1987-1997 and was elected again in 2017, with a total of six and a half years as Gunnison Mayor. His additional public service includes the City of Gunnison Planning & Zoning Commission, Van Tuyl planning committee, Gunnison Regional Housing Authority,  and Gunnison County Environmental Health Commission. Jim’s volunteer activities include assisting veterans and children, and in his spare time he enjoys walking and fishing. Jim is dedicated to listening, maintaining quality of life and affordable housing, protecting our water resources, improving telecommunications, and providing for a sustainable economy.

Butch Clark

Ralph E. Clark III (“Butch”) grew up between Cincinnati and his grandfather’s farm north of Chicago, and later worked on a Dude Ranch in Wyoming as his summer job. He earned a dual major in psychology and economics and was working on his MBA when he was called to serve as a Captain and Personnel Officer in the Air Force during the Vietnam War. He later returned to Western State College (now WCU) to complete his MBA and participate in community planning efforts related to coping with recreational  and real estate development, mining and oil shale development, water, and waste 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 mining or other single-focused economies. Together with various local and academic groups, Butch seeks to bring people together to prepare for and achieve sustainability with the future in mind.

Kelly McKinnis

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.

Meet the Staff

Executive Director

Lauren grew up in Evergreen, Colorado and attended UW-Madison and CU-Boulder. She worked as a high school teacher in Collbran, CO and Portland, OR, before moving to Crested Butte in 2015 to teach at Crested Butte Community School. As an avid mountain biker and skier, it had been Lauren’s dream to live in CB. She served on Mt. Crested Butte Town Council from 2017-2022, and as Mayor Pro Tem for two of those years. In 2019, Lauren moved into the nonprofit sector as the Development Director for Crested Butte Mountain Bike Association before accepting her current role as the Executive Director of the Valley Housing Fund. In Lauren’s time on Council, she advocated for affordable housing and worked with entities throughout the county on planning efforts. Lauren is passionate about housing and is excited to help move housing solutions forward as the Director of VHF.