Editor’s Note: I am the host, producer and photographer for the We Are Chaffee: Looking Upstream podcast. I also write a monthly guest column related to the podcast for two local newspapers in Chaffee County, Colo.: the Chaffee County Times (Buena Vista) and The Mountain Mail (Salida). This is my column based on my conversation with Jed Selby. (Show notes with transcript)

I wasn’t going to write about Jed Selby. This column is monthly and new episodes of We Are Chaffee’s “Looking Upstream” come out twice as often. That makes it easy to choose which podcast guests I highlight here. 

But I’ve decided I’d be remiss not to shine light on one of our more prominent, if sometimes perceived as controversial, citizens. To do so would have been for my own comfort, to avoid potentially stoking a fire. But that’s not what the We Are Chaffee storytelling initiative or the Looking Upstream podcast are about. 

We Are Chaffee is about community building. It’s about introducing readers (and listeners) to each other in a richer way, and cracking through the facades of division. Broadly speaking, I’m exhausted by the political and social identities we have become so comfortable using to bolster ourselves and cut down our neighbors. Maybe you’re tired, too.

I’m grateful to be able to host “Looking Upstream.” I get to be curious and have meaningful conversations with people who usually are strangers to me. I give guests opportunities to tell their stories without judgment, and we get into the heart of being human together. I see myself as a facilitator, a bridge, between guest and audience. 

And so it goes with Jed Selby. When I invited him to be on the podcast, I knew nothing about him except a few vague stories. Some of those stories gave me the impression that he is not always well received. I was curious to know why, and to learn about who he really is. 

I consider myself to be a perceptive observer of human behavior. I was glad I could go into the conversation with Selby with naivete. I would get to read him for myself. I had no idea how rare of an opportunity it would be, especially given the rumored sentiments by people who presume to know him. 

This was Jed’s first podcast appearance, and from what he tells me, he has done little to publicly tell his own story. Maybe that’s part of where he’s inadvertently fueled the fire against himself. And maybe it’s why the “Looking Upstream” episode with him is by far the most listened to – 10 times the average – in the nearly two years and almost 50 episodes of the podcast’s existence.

Jed Selby | Photo by Adam Williams

Selby and I talked about a number of critical community issues. He shared his ideas for potential solutions, at least as community discussion starters, on water, affordable housing, short-term rentals, local economics and the importance of designing the town and future we want. He also let me/us behind the curtain a bit to hear and feel who he is as a human being of flesh, blood and sensitivities, like the rest of us. 

Here’s a small sense of Selby, from “Looking Upstream,” talking with his voice cracking at certain moments about why bringing people together with music is so important to him:

“Music is so incredible because it’s this thing that, you can’t see it, you can’t smell it, and it’s one of the most powerful things in the world. It’s one of the only things that will bring people together regardless of race, beliefs. Liberals, conservatives, Christians, everyone. Everyone comes together with music. It’s the ultimate shared experience. …

“Yeah, I love music and I love bringing people together. I saw an article recently that the Surgeon General says that 50 percent of men are lonely. He called it a public health crisis. It’s an emergency. Gatherings are the best medication I’ve ever seen for that.”

With each episode of Looking Upstream, I hope we take another step toward being a more connected community here in Chaffee County. Looking Upstream, and We Are Chaffee as a whole, is a tool for checking our biases and, like I said, the facades of division. 

I don’t know if Selby’s ideas about how to solve our water and housing problems are the right answers or not. I’m not an expert in these areas. But I’d have to say the same about anyone else’s ideas, too. What I can appreciate is that Selby has given a stunning amount of study and consideration to them. Far more than I or, I suspect, other typical citizens have. So I listen. Openly.

Because I think the solutions to our shared problems lie first in listening to each other. And then in having good-faith community discussions that invite differing opinions. I welcome varied voices on Looking Upstream. Reach out to me via wearechaffee.org. 

Til the next episode, listen and learn from my “Looking Upstream” podcast conversation with Jed Selby at wearechaffee.org/episodes or on any podcast player. You also can send feedback via the website.

Adam Williams hosts the We Are Chaffee: Looking Upstream podcast every other Tuesday. Follow @wearechaffeepod on Instagram.