DENVER—Denver City Council President Pro-tem Chris Herndon moved to the Denver area in 2006 after years of military service.
"Being in the military, I'd pick up and leave every few years," Herndon said. "When I got to Denver I wondered if I'd be ready to pick up and leave at the three or four year mark—if I'd start to get that itch to pick up and go somewhere new. And that mark was right when I bought my first house here."
"(That experience) showed me how much I love Denver," he said. "Whatever you're interested in, you can find here. My vision for (the metro area) is to continue that success."
A strong vision for the future is an essential component of community leadership. Leadership Denver, the flagship program of the Denver Metro Chamber Leadership Foundation, has been equipping leaders like Herndon to cultivate a vision that will promote growth and a thriving metro area for four decades.
An abundance of opportunities is one of the reasons that Denver has grown exponentially over the past several years, ranking sixth on Forbes' 2014 list of fastest growing cities. It has attracted people from a variety of backgrounds.
Denver is on a trajectory to become one of the most ethnically diverse cities in the nation. According to the Imagine 2020 project, Denver's Hispanic population has been growing at more than double the rate of the city as a whole.
"Our city will be a mosaic, and we have the opportunity as leaders to tap the assets of all the different types of people who make up this city," said Leadership Denver alumna Juana Bordas, founder of Mi Casa Resource Center and author of The Power of Latino Leadership.
"We want to be a model of a multicultural city where people can work across ethnicities."
Fellow alum Luis Benitez, Eagle town councilman and talent manager for Vail Resorts, agrees.
"We're a very diverse state," he said. "We're just beginning to realize the potential of that diversity."
Community leaders are placing an emphasis not only ethnic diversity, but also diversity of perspectives from across the metropolitan area.
"My vision and hope is that we'll see a very inclusive community where…everyone has equal opportunity to go wherever their abilities will take them," said alumnus and Colorado Court of appeals Judge Richard Gabriel. "I see a place where people are able to have civil discourse, regardless of how honestly they may disagree."
Denver City Council President and alumna Mary Beth Susman said that there is "enormous value" in surrounding yourself with people who disagree with you when solving difficult problems: "It's the only way you'll get it right."
Each Leadership Denver class represents a cross-section of the community, with participants from a variety of industries, sectors and ethnic backgrounds. As participants are immersed in different issues throughout their year in Leadership Denver, the diverse viewpoints of the participants creates a collaborative environment.
Herndon believes we should embrace regionalism, taking ideas from a variety of people and industries.
"One particular community doesn't have all the answers," he said. "It's about partnerships."
Written by Danielle Mellema, Denver Metro Chamber Leadership Foundation
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