JERRY McBRIDE/Durango Herald
Some matchmaking on the sly would impact the leadership of Durango and Fort Lewis College 25 years later.
Doug Lyon was running late for his 23rd birthday party at Pronto Pizza, which is where East by Southwest sushi restaurant is now located, but found a seat had been left open next to his future wife, Chris.
“We had a big giant table and all seats filled in except next to me,” Chris Lyon said. “All our friends had us in mind (as a couple). That was the beginning.”
Until Doug met Chris, he had aspirations of working in Japan, where he spent a year as an exchange student.
Instead, the couple married and moved to the Russian Hill district of San Francisco, but made a goal to return to Durango to raise a family. They were hired by their alma mater, FLC, to teach business in 2002. The Lyons have two daughters, Haleigh, 17, and Natalie, 16.
Last summer, Doug Lyon, a professor of management, was promoted to dean of the School of Business Administration with a corner office. On Tuesday, the City Council selected Lyon, who is serving his seventh year as a councilor, to a second one-year term as mayor.
“I’m excited for him,” said his wife, Chris. “I think it’s nice that it’s his last year serving on council. It’s a nice way to end things. I know he’s looking forward to it, and we are, too.”
While the role is mostly ceremonial, the mayor is the unofficial spokesman for the city.
Interviewed last week, Lyon was already talking like a mayor.
“I think it’s going to be a great year for Durango,” he said. “We have a lot of things happening. The economy is looking up. How can you not be optimistic about the future when you live in wonderful Durango?”
It is a big change from his last one-year term as mayor in 2007-08 when the mood was more tense, he said.
“The great fear on everybody’s minds was Durango was going to change too rapidly due to pressure for growth,” said Lyon. “Not only have these fears abated, but I think the city is well-positioned to maintain what we love about Durango while still welcoming people who would like to join us.”
Lyon, who got an accounting degree from FLC and a doctorate in management from the University of Kentucky, brings his business acumen to city issues.
“He has kept us all aware of potential budgetary issues that we might be facing,” said City Councilor Dick White. “On broader issues, he is very articulate and forceful in presenting a moderately conservative perspective. He knows where he stands and doesn’t hesitate to say where that is.”
Christina Rinderle, the former mayor who is now a councilor again, appreciates that Lyon “is willing to listen to other perspectives, and if your case is compelling, he isn’t afraid to change his mind.”
But Lyon is not all business. Durango’s new mayor has a reputation for providing comic relief during council meetings.
During a discussion about smoking in city parks, councilors thought it made sense to prohibit smoking in the playgrounds, but then the discussion went off the rails as councilors wondered where it was appropriate to light up in public. Someone mentioned hookah bars, which prompted Lyon to quip, “There’s almost nothing more idiotic than five people sitting in a public park bench with a hookah (pipe).”
As an elected official, Lyon is self-deprecating, giving all the credit to the people. He notes that the city’s accomplishments always take collective effort.
“What’s my role in the Animas River Trail? Vote ‘yes,’” he said.
The new mayor fits the Durango mold as a lover of the great outdoors.
His family skis in the winter. His daughters are competitive freestyle skiers. The rest of the year, they like to ride bicycles.
For the second year in a row, they will be riding in the Iron Horse Bicycle Classic.
Councilor White remembers last year how Lyon announced with “justifiable pride” that he, his wife and their two teenage daughters had completed the Iron Horse bicycle ride to Silverton.
“That says a lot about Doug as a representative of Durango’s outdoor ethos, as well as his commitment to his family,” White said.