Wednesday, February 9, 2005

Fenton named Citizen of Year

Chamber volunteer works gives back to the community

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Express Staff Writer

Dick Fenton

First in series of 9

From fountain jerk as a kid in Newport Beach, Calif. to becoming a key Sun Valley Realtor, making turns on the mountain and in the community has become a way of life for Dick Fenton. And as an advocate for causes ranging from education to transportation to the arts, the Sun Valley/Ketchum Chamber is recognizing Fenton as its 2005 Citizen of the Year for more than 25 years of taking many turns on volunteer efforts. Fenton has participated on projects in association with the chamber's Board of Directors, the Arts Foundation, The Community School, and the Blaine County Air Transportation Advisory Group, commonly known as BCATAG.

"I was surprised because I didn't even know I was nominated," Fenton said.

His resourcefulness began to shine as a Harvard business school student, when Fenton and his friends worked out an independent study in 1967 called "Ski Area Development in New England." The school chums managed to take Fridays off to race to Stowe, Vt., for three-day crash course weekends.

"We all have a duty to give back and we all have an opportunity because we live in a small community," Fenton said. "Part of what makes this a great community is that people are willing to give their time to maintain our quality of life. Here at the firm we try and encourage everyone to get involved (in community service)."

The firm, of course, is McCann, Daech, Fenton, a real estate company now nearly 29 years old that started as Peter B. Allen Realty.

Fenton was already in Sun Valley in the early 1970s. As general manager helping to develop the Bear Valley Ski Resort in northern California, where he first got into real estate development, Fenton came to Sun Valley to gather customer service tips from the older ski resort. Sun Valley Resort recognized Fenton's skill with marketing and planning and asked him to consult with their real estate office. Fenton became the first outside developer at the resort by building the 90-unit Wildflower Condominiums in 1974.

Out of friendships that evolved on the tennis court, Fenton, Mike McCann and Sherry Daech became the real estate powerhouse they are today. Fenton, who joined in 1978, has been the managing partner for the past decade.

"It has been an odd career path," said the southern California native. "I went straight from (the University of South California) to Harvard to management consulting in (Los Angeles)."

But, Fenton admits to a certain level of restlessness and resistance to the early structure of his chosen path. Although being true to his community has paid off in many ways, it has not always been smooth sailing. As a life-long skier Fenton took one turn for the worse. The rumor was that Fenton had been killed on Upper Warm Springs after an airborne snowboarder hit him, breaking his leg in 17 places.

"I still ski," Fenton said, setting the record straight. He did go into cardiac arrest due to a fatty embolism caused by the force of the accident, but Fenton was resuscitated and patched back together at the old Moritz Hospital on Sun Valley Road. Today, fixed with a 10-inch titanium pin, Fenton's only problem is that he occasionally sets off security at the airport, which, coincidentally, is where he has offered much of his marketing and planning talent.

The airport advisory group has been active in helping to get subsidies lined up to maintain commercial air transportation into Friedman Memorial Airport at Hailey. Fenton is also a representative on the airport site selection committee as the citizens advisory groups looks at where the airport might move. In the interim, Fenton has been active in pushing for better navigation systems at the airport.

Fenton acknowledges that initially it took some cajoling to get him involved in community affairs.

"I think it was in 1978, (former Ketchum Mayor Jerry) Seiffert roped me into a citizen committee to build a new sewer plant," Fenton said, explaining how he first served the city.

Looking ahead, Fenton hopes to help with more arts development including capital campaigns for performance space. He also envisions a "Jitney" bus to facilitate running around town without using multiple parking spaces.

Awards banquet March 18

The Sun Valley-Ketchum Chamber & Visitors Bureau, along with event sponsors First Bank of Idaho and the Sun Valley Company, will honor the 2005 Community Awards winners at a banquet 6:30 p.m. Friday, March 18, at the River Run Lodge. The Awards Dinner will include a comedy performance by local veteran entertainer Chris Millspaugh.

Tickets cost $45 per person. Reservations can be made by calling Angela Shetler at 725-2103.

NEXT: Angenie McCleary, Youth Advocate of the Year.

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