Denver leaders reflect on contributions to community

KUSA - Bill Ritter has spent the last several decades serving Coloradoans, first as district attorney, then as governor.

"One of the most important lessons I learned is the nature of a community trustee, someone who has a stewardship responsibility. [This] is something we talked a lot about in Leadership Denver."

Leadership Denver offers experience and insight into becoming a steward of the community.

On June 6, Leadership Denver, the landmark program of the Denver Metro Chamber Leadership Foundation, will celebrate 40 years of equipping leaders with skills and tools to make meaningful contributions that transform the community.

"Thinking about my work from a trustee perspective helps make sense of our responsibility and our accountability and the privilege it is to serve," said Ritter, an alumnus of Leadership Denver and the director of the Center for the New Energy Economy at Colorado State University.

Another Leadership Denver alumnus, Colorado Court of Appeals Judge Richard Gabriel, calls public service "the greatest privilege of (his) life."

"To have the…responsibility I have—getting to decide cases that have a very significant impact on people from every walk of life—is an incredible honor," he said.

Prior to his appointment to the Court of Appeals, Gabriel did pro bono work for and served on the board of the Rocky Mountain Children's Law Center, which represents at-risk children in dependency and neglect cases free of charge.

Gabriel recalled a specific case where he represented two boys who were living in a crack house.

"Their lives were very literally at risk," he said. "After four years of working on that case, they were ultimately adopted by a family that loved them and wanted them."

About two years ago, Gabriel received a graduation announcement from the older boy.

"I still keep a picture of me and the two boys on their adoption day," he said. "Those are the days when you really see what it means to be a lawyer. We literally saved a life that day."

Many other Leadership Denver graduates have leveraged the lessons learned in the program to reach out to those in need.

"Hearing from then District Attorney Bill Ritter about criminal justice and touring the women's prison was highly informative as we discussed criminal justice and the importance of not leaving any group of people out of the economy," said Roxane White, chief of staff to Gov. John Hickenlooper.

White's experience in Leadership Denver fueled a passion for working with people "who are often forgotten" that led to her current position in the office of the governor.

"This opportunity (with the governor) has helped me advocate for people to have access to better lives," she said. "Whether the person is without housing, lacking employment, or disabled, we are a better community when all are engaged."

Leadership Denver was also instrumental in equipping Juana Bordas, author of The Power of Latino Leadership, to make meaningful contributions to the community.

"Leadership Denver was the first time I was able to see that I wasn't a leader just for the Hispanic community, but all of society," said Bordas, who is also a founder of Mi Casa Resource Center.

"It's now the largest freestanding women's center in the country," she said. "More than that, it's a testimony to the ability of Hispanic women to work together to do something that has never been done before …There was a need, and I helped create something that brought women to another level."

Participants in Leadership Denver take an in-depth look at the major issues facing the metro area, and hear from experts and thought leaders who are passionate about finding the best solutions for the community.

"I give Leadership Denver a lot of credit for helping me to love the community," said Deborah Brackney, alumna and vice president of Mountain States Employers Council. "Meaning that to love it, I have to work hard in it to help preserve it."

Submitted By: Danielle Mellema.

Denver Metro Chamber Leadership Foundation


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