I’ve had the privilege to work within the Boulder County community and Colorado for the last twenty-five years. The welcoming nature I had from my Boulder neighbors when I moved here 30-odd years ago created a standard of community for me. It is a special place that makes you feel at home, gives you the opportunity to pursue a rewarding career, and may even help you find yourself. And like many of you, I’ve felt compelled to contribute toward keeping this place special.
First, for those who don’t know me, I wanted to share a little bit about who I am and how I got here.
My mother likes to remind me that I was born with an innate desire for fairness. As I was learning my ABCs, I asked her to read the words on my Superman shirt. She replied, “Superman: Man of Steel”. I quickly flashed a crestfallen face and my mother asked me “What’s wrong?” In bewilderment, I said “But what did Superman steal?” My love of puns had not yet matured, but my mom cracked a smile and figured that my ethical toddler ways might do some good one day.
In the early 1990s we were living in Boston, but my dad’s sites were set on Boulder. He was working on a satellite being built at Ball and was ready to share the Rocky Mountain way of life with his family. We packed up the car and never looked back. Whether it was racing on the Mesa Trail with the Fairview High School Cross Country Team, or volunteering as a peer educator with the Safehouse Progressive Alliance, the Boulder community fit me better than a dog in a Subaru.
Before graduating high school, I was bit by the political bug. I worked on a nonprofit startup to create afterschool opportunities for teens in Boulder. Immersed in operating budgets, community stakeholder meetings, and City Council hearings, we were able to successfully lobby for the funds to run programs for several years. Watching my elected leaders, like Mayor Leslie Durgin, taught me the value of listening as a part of taking action. For the first time, I felt seen as a part of the Boulder community and I was inspired to make other folks feel that way, too.
I took that inspiration to Colorado State University where I volunteered on increasing access to affordable housing and helped students struggling with substance use stay in school and in recovery. I did try to leave Colorado ever so briefly to help preserve state funds to protect farmlands, wetlands, and beaches in North Carolina, but I couldn’t stay away for more than a summer and I couldn’t stay out of politics long. I ran for office in 2012 looking to find new ways to solve age-old problems.
As a Democrat, I was surprised how quickly I became friends with folks across the aisle. I found myself, a suburban nerd, working with immigration activists, ranchers, and restaurant owners to open more driver’s license offices for undocumented immigrants. I found common cause with Republican suburban nerds to create new tax credits for industrial recycling — a boon for Colorado business and the environment. And as someone who never smoked cannabis, I was lucky enough to be able to author a new cannabis tax that has now invested hundreds of millions of dollars into mental health, schools, and affordable housing.
It would be naïve to ignore the differences in our community. But it is my hope that we can start where we agree and see how far we get. The challenges of affordable housing, equitable broadband access and workforce mobility are too big for any one of us to handle. Let’s bring the innovation and optimism of our vibrant business community together with government and community members to make the Boulder region a beacon for a thriving economy and a just society.
I’m eager to begin this new position with the Boulder Chamber and I cannot wait to see all that we will accomplish together for this special place.
Boulder Daily Camera
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