Many of Jackson Hole’s hundreds of real estate agents never give a thought to or step foot in Star Valley, but for Patty Speakman it’s home.
It’s also the home of her business, the place where the Thayne resident has carved out a thriving real estate career.
Speakman, despite selling in an area 30 to 60 miles from Jackson, was named last week as the Realtor of the Year by the Teton Board of Realtors.
The announcement came at a luncheon at which Snow King and Brooks Lake Lodge owner Max Chapman was named the board’s choice as Business Person of the Year.
Speakman said she was “totally shocked” by being chosen: “It’s never an agent from down here,” she said. “We’re under the radar.”
But while Star Valley is out of the way for many Jackson Realtors, it’s seen big growth in recent years, and Speakman has been in the middle of the growth and the buying spree. She had 97 sales last year on her own. 2019, with a newly formed team, she thinks will be another great year.
“I formed a team, and when you add up all the team sales I think we’ve had more than 60 sales this year,” she said.
The typical Star Valley home is likely to be in the $350,000 range when few Jackson sales are less than $1 million.
“We do sell homes higher” than her usual range, Speakman said, but if you spend a million in Star Valley you get “a nice home, with more land, a beautiful home.”
Many buyers come from California or Arizona or Texas, “a lot of people moving out of those places and moving this way,” she said. She estimated her customers are split about 50-50 between those who become year-round residents and those looking for a second home. Some arrive in Wyoming thinking about Jackson but end up downvalley.
“They can get more for their money down here as opposed to up there,” she said. “Sometimes it’s sticker shock.”
In other ways, Speakman said, the market from Alpine to Thayne, where she lives, is like the market in Jackson: “We’re definitely a strong, active market, very low on inventory and our prices are up, for sure.”
Speakman grew up in Idaho and with her family was familiar with western Wyoming through rec visits. She became a Realtor in 2005 after a life being fascinated by houses and land, and, with her husband Ken, a photographer, publishing a realty and construction magazine.
“I’ve always had a passion for real estate,” she said. “I love going into houses, loved working with contractors, so it was a natural fit.”
Her team includes her husband, who handles photography and marketing, and Brandon and Jana Burnham and Trevor Ricks. She said the agents she works with mirror her own approach.
“I looked for people who are people-friendly, hard-working and who can build relationships,” she said. “It’s all about relationships.”
Though she does most of her work in Star Valley, she has been active in Realtor affairs, including serving three years on the board of directors. The team is part of Jackson Hole Real Estate Associates, the Christie’s affiliate in the area.
Other recent Realtor of the Year honorees have been Jeff Ward, Nancy Lee Clancy, Mercedes Huff and Jill Sassi-Neison.
Nominations for Realtor of the Year, and Business Person of the Year can come from anybody in the community, said Kurt Harland, the 2019 president of the Teton Board of Realtors and an associate broker at Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices, Brokers of Jackson Hole Real Estate.
A committee of real estate agents, including Harland, as well as Carma Miller, the board’s executive officer, perused the nominations and picked the winners.
Chapman, the board’s selection as Business Person of the Year, owns several Jackson Hole business enterprises, most significantly Snow King Mountain Resort, which is embroiled in a long approval process as it plans significant improvements to what’s known as the Town Hill.
“This guy has gone way above and beyond in ways that many business people in this community have not,” Harland said Monday. “He loves the Town Hill and he loves Jackson.”
Harland shared his prepared introductory remarks about Chapman from the luncheon:
“Our recipient has been involved with a variety of businesses in Jackson Hole for over 20 years, including Brooks Lake Lodge, Snow King Resort, Togwotee Mountain Lodge and a variety of properties in the town of Jackson. These businesses have employed hundreds of individuals over the years and have contributed to the rich diversity of business in Jackson Hole.
“Our recipient’s involvement in sustaining and enhancing the operations of Snow King Mountain over the past five years have ensured that our Town Hill continues to operate both winter and summer, serving our local population and our visitors. Through substantial investment he has helped revitalize the aging resort and position it for a vibrant future as more improvements are made in coming years.”
Chapman has served on the boards of the Grand Teton National Park Foundation, the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation and the National Forest Foundation.
Most recently, working with the Jackson Hole Land Trust, Chapman played a vital role in preserving historic buildings on the Cafe Genevieve block.
“Max held that whole block for 10 years,” said Laurie Andrews, president of the Land Trust. “ I think that with him holding that block he really showed that he cared about community character. ... and he really showed up and worked with us and gave us the opportunity as a community to make a difference and show that we really wanted to save the block in a certain way. And he was really a partner with us on that.”
Chapman said Tuesday that he learned shortly before the Teton Board of Realtors lunch that he was to be honored.
“It’s a nice recognition that maybe you’ve done something good for the community,” he said. “I certainly have a nice feeling about it.”
He was surprised to learn he’d been selected. One reason, he said, “is I’ve received so much criticism about Snow King, where people seem to really want to run me out of town ... when I’m trying to do something for Snow King.”
In the past 15 years, Chapman said, he’s put a lot of time and effort into his ventures here, which include Brooks Lake Lodge and commercial properties in town.
Earlier in his career he was mainly on the East Coast working in investment banking. Among other roles he held top executive positions at Kidder, Peabody & Co. and Nomura Securities.
He’s been coming to Jackson for 40 years and, as is the case with many, initially came for the mountains.
“I had spent a large part of the 1970s going to Europe and mountain climbing,” he said. “I’ve climbed most of the mountains in Europe.”
Eventually friends and family started telling him, “Max, there are mountains in America,” he said, and an Exum guide suggested he come to the Tetons. So around 1979 or 1980, Chapman and his 12-year-old son, also Max, climbed the Grand. Since then tackling the Tetons’ highest peak has become a family tradition: Chapman’s grandson Max reached the summit when he was 12, and his daughter Eloise did it two years ago when she was 12. This summer she climbed Moran.
“I continue to hike, but I’m not much of a climber anymore,” Chapman said.
Skiing has also been a big part of the family’s activities.
“I lived in New York for many years,” Chapman said. “We’d go up to Vermont and New Hampshire to ski. Then we said, ‘Let’s go to Wyoming to ski.’ That added to the mountain climbing and gave us a focal point to travel.”
He bought a small condo at Jackson Hole Golf and Tennis, “and five or six years later the opportunity came to purchase the Bar B Bar Ranch,” he said. “I really had a reason to come to Jackson on a regular basis.”
Recent past recipients of the Business Person of the Year award include Bill Baxter, the owner of The Wort Hotel and The Million Dollar Cowboy Bar; Lee Gardner, owner of Lee’s Tees; and Jerry Blann, who at the time was president of Jackson Hole Mountain Resort.
Editors Note: This story was correct to reflect Laurie Andrews' correct title.