Candidate Statement & Bio
Born (and mostly) raised in Niskayuna, NY. As a child I grew a strong affinity for the Adirondacks, paddling and hiking from my grandparent’s cabin in Newcomb, NY. My parents were not outdoor enthusiasts, and it wasn’t until I had transportation of my own that I discovered winter sports. That discovery had a profound impact on my life and was a factor that eventually led my wife (Jennifer) and me to raise our family in Waitsfield, VT. Speaking of my family, I have two daughters, Seneca, age 14, and Clara, age 11, while the majority of my (and Jenn’s) extended family live outside of New England. I mention this, as the Mad River Valley is not only our home, but our family.
When we moved to the MRV 15 years ago, I soon found myself wanting to give back to this amazing community. I took the opportunity to join the MRVRD (Mad River Valley Recreation District) board, which I’ve served on in the roles of member, Chair, and most recently Secretary. After serving for 10yrs on that board, want to dedicate my time to something a bit closer to my heart.
If you want to preserve something of value, you must dedicate yourself to the task. As any of the MRG faithful will acknowledge, it’s a very special place, not just for the skiing, but the people and community; the sense of safety, comfort, and congeniality that we all cherish. But, talk about the skiing! There is nothing quite like MRG. Natural snow, incredible terrain options, limited skier traffic, and a passion for the sport that emanates from so many. And equally as important, the co-op model guarantees our mountain will continue to represent the values and desires of skiers, not those of a corporation.
After 10 years on the MRVRD board, helping direct limited funds to increase the recreational opportunities for tax payers, as well as from an economic development perspective, I’m ready to dedicate my volunteer hours to something even closer to my heart. I believe I can bring a valley-wide recreation economy perspective to the Mad River Glen co-op board, but in the lens of ensuring long-term sustainability of MRG. On the MRVRD Board I assisted with the creation of a strategic plan, which was a needed blueprint for our community moving forward. With this experience in hand, I joined the MRG strategic planning committee, bringing to bear previous lessons learned coupled to my professional experience. Professionally, I’m a solution architect for a large software company – feel free to review at: https://www.linkedin.com/in/jeffrey-whittingham-84a6332/
I spent 3yrs in the military after college, working closely with people from all backgrounds. Professionally, my teams are comprised from people across the globe, with varying political, social, and religious views. That being said, diversity is a real challenge for costly sports such as skiing. One of the elements that drew me to MRG was the sense of inclusion and lack of commercialization. A family can ski and eat lunch and still make their mortgage payment. My company, Cox Enterprises, has made diversity a primary focus in 2020 and as a people leader I’ve had an opportunity to slow down and really consider my actions/decisions and how we attract and retain talent. I’d suggest partnering with other organizations who are already experienced in this space to help MRG identify opportunities.
Climate change is real, I don’t think many skiers will argue that statement. Skiing on natural snow is a much better experience overall, but over the next 10-20-50 years, we need to consider the realities of a snowpack that will slowly move up the mountain. We need to consider non-winter recreation opportunities, in season opportunities for increased revenue (be it guided excursions, early ups, skinning passes, etc), coupled to infrastructure changes that will enable the mountain to be sustainable for our children and their children. Water is an enormous challenge for the mountain – even if we want to expand snowmaking, without a plan to store water, there’s no solution… Increasing skiing capacity is one option, but is in direct opposition to the skiing experience that makes MRG so unique. I joined the MRG strategic planning committee to explore our options and be an active participant in shaping the long-term vision for the co-op.