KUSA - Since 1999, 9NEWS has recognized outstanding leaders in our community.  

We joined with the Denver Metro Chamber Leadership Foundation to continue to honor people for their leadership and commitment to our state.

This year, we decided to do things a little differently. Instead of selecting one winner from a pool of great nominations, we decided to select three finalists and engage Leadership Foundation program alumni in voting for the winner.

After much deliberation and review of an impressive group of nominees, the three finalists are: 

•    Heather Lafferty, executive director and CEO of Habitat for Humanity of Metro Denver
•    Michael Mitchel, executive director and commander of Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) Post 1 and managing partner of OC Consulting
•    Dr. Ryan Ross, dean of Student Development and Retention with the Community College of Denver

Heather Lafferty has been spreading hope and building homes as the executive director and CEO of Habitat for Humanity of Metro Denver. Often described as a visionary, Lafferty has led Habitat to expand programs and serve more than 600 local families. To learn more about Lafferty and her dedication to community development, visit: http://bit.ly/209D4L5.

Michael Mitchel is bridging the gap between the community and veterans as volunteer executive director of VFW Post 1. Mitchel saved the VFW Post 1 from bankruptcy by instituting a strong business model, and has built the VFW Post 1 to be the blueprint for veteran services nationwide. Creating a culture of inclusivity, Mitchel has grown membership to record heights and developed fundamental partnerships with local businesses and organizations. Learn more about Mitchel's leadership and accomplishments by visiting: http://bit.ly/209D4L5.

Dr. Ryan Ross is changing lives and inspiring the community by increasing access to higher education at the Community College of Denver. As dean of Student Development and Retention, Ross has aided over 1,000 traditional and non-traditional students in achieving their educational aspirations. Learn more about Ross' accomplishments, his dedication to mentorship and his visionary leadership style by visiting here: http://bit.ly/209D4L5.

Alumni of the Leadership Foundation's programs will select the winner of this year's 9NEWS Leader of the Year award through an online voting process. If you are an alumnus of one of the Leadership Foundation's many programs, please cast your vote today! Voting will be open until 5 p.m. on Friday, March 4. Alumni from Access Denver, Colorado Experience, Impact Denver, Leadership Denver and Leadership Exchange are all encouraged to cast their vote. 

This year's winner will be announced live at the Leadership Foundation's annual Celebrating Civic Leadership Luncheon on Tuesday, March 8. For more information about the event and this year's 9NEWS Leader of the Year Award here: http://bit.ly/1n1LLu2.