Locals 2020: Vicki Burns remains real deal for Craig with lasting work in real estate, nonprofit ventures

Andy Bockelman / For Craig Press
Brass Key Realty owner Vicki Burns stands in front of a number of awards inside the Brass Key Realty office in Craig.

As much as Vicki Burns enjoys the excitement and novelty of travel, it’s the tail end of any vacation that she may appreciate the most.

“I always love coming home,” Burns said.

Part of that comes from the relief any traveler feels upon their return, but for Burns, it’s enhanced to a greater degree because of the place she calls home. And, it’s that enthusiasm for Northwest Colorado she hopes to instill in clients and friends alike.

As the owner of Brass Key Realty, Burns often serves as a liaison for people experiencing the region for the first time. It was a position she was in when she first came to Craig in the mid-1970s.

“I’ve been in Craig now 44 years. My first husband came out to be an electrician on the power plant,” she said.

Admittedly, she wasn’t certain about staying in Craig at first as the energy boom the town was experiencing meant a lot of sudden changes. And though she had lived in other spots around the country, it was also a drastic shift from the place where she grew up in Florida, an alumnus of North Miami Senior High School and later Miami-Dade Junior College.

Even so, the area worked its charms on her, and she proudly refers to herself as a “permanent transplant.”

Burns’ three children grew up primarily in Craig, with her two daughters currently living in Boston and Denver, while her son remains in town.

“After being here for so long, I couldn’t see raising kids or living anywhere else because of the friendly, low-key lifestyle and not the craziness and the hurry-up pace of the big city,” she said. “It seemed like the right place to stay. Freedom of movement, clean, fresh air, wildlife abundantly found right outside town.”

Though she spent several years working in different fields — including working as a licensed tax practitioner, which she still does today — it was real estate where she found a calling, having been in the profession for 35 years.

Burns noted her father’s history in accounting helped nudge her into an office environment. Taking further classes for a business degree also contributed.

“I took two or three real estate classes as an elective, and the instructor thought I did so well that I should pursue getting a license,” she said.

Burns worked under brokers with the now-defunct Rocky Mountain Realty before purchasing Brass Key Realty from Nick Charchalis along with Lewis Livingson, with whom she was business partners for about 20 years.

While Burns has seen numerous brokers came and go through the real estate field at a local level, she noted that success is based on a person’s commitment to the business and a willingness to learn.

“Real estate can be very lucrative if you’re smart enough to diversify your interests and your expertise,” she said.

With a long list of designations and certifications, Burns refers to it as “alphabet soup” behind her name. She also takes pride in being one of the most established brokers still in the game in Craig, with nearly all those who preceded her when she started either having retired, moved, or passed away.

She added that real estate is a field where it helps to be a people person, especially when the clients are often making big life decisions in purchasing or selling property.

“It’s gratifying to be able to help someone buying their first-time home,” she said. “It’s rewarding. It’s satisfying. At the end of the day, I wonder how some people sleep with some of the things going on in the world, but I sleep well every night because I know I helped people. My dad always said, ‘leave it better than you found it,’ so I try to do that.”

Burns’ office manager at Brass Key, Joyce Allen, has been working at the business for eight years and noted her boss’s attention to detail.

“Vicki’s been in the business for many years, and she’s very knowledgeable and good at what she does,” Allen said. “She’s been very easy to work for, always makes it clear what she wants done.”

The Brass Key website lists Burns’ credentials, including her tenure of leadership with multiple state and local realtor groups. Among those many details are also her involvement with First Congregational Church and the Moffat County Fuller Center for Housing.

The Fuller Center is a nonprofit started by the original founders of Habitat for Humanity with the goal of providing affordable housing for those in need within many communities.

Besides building new structures in Craig, the local chapter has been able to find other avenues to aid those in need of a home. Burns recounted a mobile home that had been donated to Moffat County by Wells Fargo after a foreclosure.

“We went in and rehabbed the property and fixed it up and sold it with a no-interest mortgage to a couple who otherwise wouldn’t have been able to buy anything of their own,” she said.

An extensive knowledge of the paperwork that can confound many also puts Burns in a unique position to be able to smooth out transfers of property. Likewise, summertime visits from the Fuller Center’s annual Bicycle Adventure put her to work finding people that could contribute to or benefit from local service projects.

A knack for seeking out the right people at the right time led to her father referring to her as “the Radar O’Reilly of Craig.”

“Because I’ve been here as long as I’ve been here and know a lot of people between school and church and different organizations, it pays off to have those contacts,” she said. “There’s more than one way to feel like you’re doing good in the community.”

Outside of work, Burns is an avid Dixieland jazz lover, largely in part due to her father’s collection of vinyl, which she inherited.

“I’ve got Louis Prima and Keely Smith, all the big sounds from that time,” she said of the wide assortment of records. “My dad played in a jazz band in college. I used to play piano, and my brother and sister played instruments you could have in the marching band and I could never be in the band, so I got mad and quit.”

This time of year is also Burns’ favorite stretch of the calendar.

“I’m a Christmas fanatic,” she laughed. “I watch the Hallmark Christmas movies as soon as they come out. My kids say it looks like Christmas exploded in my house with all the decorations. I collect Santa Claus statues and nutcracker soldiers. A lot of people probably don’t know that about me.”

The goodwill of the yuletide is one Burns said she feels all year long living in Craig.

“It’s nice to be in a small community where you don’t have to put on pretenses. Everybody knows and likes you for what you are,” she said.

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