Hello: As Told by Hailey Morton Levinson

PHOTO BY RYAN DORGAN

Jackson’s mayor, whose full-time job is innkeeper, shares how the latter prepared her for the former, and why she enjoys both.

In hospitality you learn how to let other people talk, and you listen to them. You’re often with people who have differing backgrounds and thoughts, and you want to make it so that you don’t have any fights over the breakfast table, especially since I’m one of the breakfast cooks! (Sara Trent and I come up with all the menus and make everything from breakfasts to baked goods.) As an innkeeper, I see myself bringing people together over common ground. Before being elected mayor last fall, I was on the Jackson town council for eight years, and I saw immediately how my hospitality background helped. The jobs—inn-keeping and local politics—are different enough to provide an interesting challenge, yet similar enough that each helps me be better at the other. 

The best thing about being an innkeeper here in Jackson is meeting new people and sharing this place with them. I love it. Every day I am reminded of what I love about Jackson and why we—I have a husband and two kids (ages three and five)—live here. To see people experience Jackson for the first time is wonderful. So is welcoming back guests who have stayed with us for twenty years.

While my family bought Inn on the Creek in 2011, my parents moved here when I was one, and they had already owned and run the Sundance Inn from 1987 to 2008. It was bittersweet when they sold it. We joke that my brother, sister, and I worked our way up from cleaning the inn’s parking lot to working at the front desk. My parents’ plan was to retire after selling the Sundance, but that only lasted three years, until they heard the Inn on the Creek was available. I didn’t officially start managing the Inn on the Creek until 2014, after I had gone to Washington D.C. for college (Georgetown) and stayed in that city for several years after graduation. 

I loved being in D.C., but eventually started missing the outdoors and the small town community. I moved back to Jackson in 2010 with my boyfriend, Nate, who is now my husband. When I moved back, I didn’t do it like someone who had grown up here. Nate and I did it like other college kids; we were ski bums. After one winter, I could see why so many people do that. It was cool.

It was after we decided we’d stay that I got into politics. While I was growing up, my parents were very involved in the community, and so was I. Politics and the town council weren’t specifically on my radar, but a family friend pointed out that there was not a young woman on the council. “You should run,” they said. I was twenty-six when I was sworn in, in 2012. I served eight years on the town council with three different mayors, who all had very different personalities. I feel like this helped prepare me to be mayor. As mayor, my vote carries the same weight as that of a councilor, but I feel like I have more opportunity to influence the items and priorities the council talks about. I’m very much a team builder, but I’m excited to lead in this sense. 

One of my favorite things to bake at the inn.”

Lemon Ricotta Cake with Huckleberries

INGREDIENTS:
8 Tbsp. butter, room temperature
1 cup granulated sugar
3 large eggs
1 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp. salt
1 cup fresh full-fat ricotta cheese
Zest of 1 lemon
1 tbsp. baking powder
1 apple, peeled and grated
1/2 cup huckleberries (blueberries will work just as well)
Powdered sugar 

  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees and grease a 10-inch springform pan. Line the bottom with parchment paper and spray the parchment. 
  2. With a hand- or stand-mixer, use the paddle attachment to cream together the butter and sugar.
  3. On medium speed, add eggs one at a time. Scrape down the sides of the bowl.
  4. Add the flour, salt, ricotta, lemon zest, baking powder, and grated apple. Mix on medium speed until well combined. 
  5. Lightly flour the berries and fold in to the batter.
  6. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake for 25–30 minutes, or until a knife inserted comes out clean. If the top begins to darken beyond golden brown, tent a piece of tin foil over the top.
  7. Cool the cake for about 10 minutes, then turn the cake out of the springform pan and let cool completely.
  8. Dust with powdered sugar.
My family and I love trivia as much as we love Jackson. Here are three of my favorite bits of Jackson trivia:

1. Jackson elected the country’s first all women town council in 1920, which is fondly known as the Petticoat Rules.

2. Ninety-seven percent of our valley is publicly owned land, and it is one of the most intact ecosystems in the lower forty-eight States.

3. The first person to ski the Grand Teton was local Bill Briggs, who, when I was five years old, taught me how to ski (although I don’t think I’ll attempt the Grand!). JH

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