Colorado's 10 most influential women
Denver Post readers choose their favorites from a list of 75 Colorado leaders
A congresswoman. A former state treasurer. A chief of staff. A philanthropist. An Olympian. A business owner. Two journalists. The head of a chamber of commerce. A state senator.
The professional descriptions of the women readers selected as the 10 most influential women in Colorado hint at their prominence. Upon seeing their names, you will no doubt realize that their influence extends far beyond job titles.
Nearly 6,000 people voted to winnow the list of 75 finalists to the 10 winners.
We've heard from a number of you that too many women from the Front Range were on the finalists list. While that's largely due to our readership's concentration in the state's population center, it is a fair criticism that we will keep in mind in launching future contests.
Regardless, it is with great pride that we present you with snapshots — in their own words — of the 10 women you voted to the top of this year's list.
— Curtis Hubbard
No. 1: Diana DeGette
I am humbled to have been recognized out of this incredible list of prominent women from across Colorado. Looking at the depth of talent and accomplishment, across so many fields — politics, business, the arts, and sports — it's clear that all of these women belong on any list of Colorado's most influential people; not just because they are women, but because they are outstanding individuals.
Hometown: Denver (born in Tachikawa, Japan)
Organization and position: Democratic U.S. representative from Colorado
First job: Cleaning houses at 13 years old
Who inspires you? Dr. Martin Luther King, Eleanor Roosevelt, Pat Schroeder and Ralph Carr.
What was your proudest moment, either personally or professionally? Personally, I am most proud of watching my two daughters grow up into accomplished young women. Professionally, my two proudest moments have been: First, when the Supreme Court upheld my "Bubble Bill," that I passed when I was only in my first year in the Colorado state legislature; and second, standing next to the president as he signed his executive order based on my stem cell research bill and finally opened the doors to discovery.
Please provide a quote that sums up your professional outlook: I believe in upholding the highest standards of integrity, fighting for the principles I hold dear while reaching across the aisle when necessary to come to reasonable compromise for the good of our citizens, and always remembering that my work will serve as an example for young people across my district and the nation.
No. 2: Cary Kennedy
Organization and position: Denver's deputy mayor and chief financial officer
First job: Busing tables.
Who inspires you? My mother, Joycee Kennedy, is my greatest inspiration. She welcomed four children into our family from child placement programs, including the foster-care system. She offered all of us unconditional love and gave my siblings the support they needed to heal. As a social worker, she's helped hundreds of Denver's most disadvantaged children and families and inspired all of us to give back.
What was your proudest moment,either personally or professionally? Personally, I'm proudest of my husband Saurabh and our two children. I watch our daughter ski race and pick herself up after a big fall and just keep going and I watch our son work late at night on his homework not just to finish it, but to really understand the material — that makes me proud, proud of the strong people they are becoming.
Professionally, my proudest moment was one day while I was state treasurer standing on the steps of the elementary school in Hooper (a small town in the San Luis Valley), in front of a century-old dilapidated school house to announce that the state Treasury would finance the construction of a new modern school building for Hooper and for dozens of other poor rural school districts throughout Colorado. It seemed as if the entire town of Hooper showed up that day to celebrate the new opportunity their children would have to get a great education.
Please provide a quote that sums up your professional outlook: "Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, concerned citizens can change the world. Indeed it is the only thing that ever has." — Margaret Mead
No. 3: Roxane White
Hometown: Victor, Mont.
Organization and position: Chief of staff for Gov. John Hickenlooper
First job: Mowing lawns
Who inspires you? My daughter, Donalyn White
What was your proudest moment, either personally or professionally? Working with John Hickenlooper to assemble a Cabinet team to focus on creating effective, efficient government.
Please provide a quote that sums up your professional outlook: "Work is play with a purpose." — Jerre Stead, CEO of IHS, Inc. "It's kind of fun to do the impossible." — Walt Disney
No. 4: Pat Stryker
The list of finalists included many women whom I personally have long admired for their great humanity, compassion, intelligence and leadership. It was an honor for me to have my name cast alongside theirs. And although I am immensely grateful to your readers for voting me as one of the top 10 most influential women in Colorado, I encourage them to honor and celebrate each of the finalists for their individual contributions toward making our state and the world a better place.
Hometown: I grew up in Kalamazoo, Mich., but my adopted hometown is Fort Collins.
Organization and position: Founder, Bohemian Foundation, philanthropist and engaged citizen
First job: As my career has evolved, I have held a variety of jobs along the way. But I am most proud of my role as founder of Bohemian Foundation.
Who inspires you? I have been inspired by many wonderful individuals in my life: my parents, grandparents, children, friends and others I admire. But another source of pride and inspiration for me is the Give 10 community in Fort Collins, an extraordinary group of individuals from all backgrounds who are committed to creating a legacy of giving in our community. The goal of Give 10 is to inspire a tradition of philanthropy through one's time, talent and treasury and to challenge future generations to pay it forward.
Give 10 has grown from just 10 members a decade ago to nearly 350 today. Dozens of Larimer County nonprofits and social service agencies along with their clients have been the beneficiaries of Fort Collins' active and passionate Give 10 community.
What was your proudest moment (to date), either personally or professionally? Like any parent, I associate some of the proudest moments in my life with my children. But what has been most gratifying has been watching my children's own sense of philanthropy emerge. The first grant awarded by Bohemian Foundation in 2002 was for comfort bags filled with crafts, books, toiletries and other items donated to a safe house for children seeking refuge from abusive homes. The idea for the grant came from my daughter.
Please provide a quote that sums up your professional outlook. From the time I was very young, my mother would always say to me, "Leave places better than you found them." My mother believed that each of us has the ability and obligation to make a positive impact in the world, leaving it better than we found it. This precept is the bedrock of the work we do at Bohemian Foundation through our grant-making programs and special initiatives, and it is the guiding principle for how I conduct both my personal and professional life.
No. 5: Lynn Bartels
Hometown: I was raised in Vermillion, S.D., one of nine children to Fritz and Mary Bartels. Who knew that having a Republican father and a Democratic mother would unwittingly provide such great training for later on in life?
Organization and position: Denver Post political reporter
First job: My mother farmed us out to various folks for house cleaning at a very early age. I once heard a woman extolling my virtues to a friend. "She'll eat you out of house and home but she does woodwork and chandeliers. I've hired professional house cleaning teams that aren't this good." I think I was in third grade at the time.
Who inspires you? My brother Joe, who is the eldest. He's deaf and probably could be on the public dole his entire life if he wanted. But he's the shift foreman for a company that makes paper boxes. A few years back they needed to train workers on a new machine and selected his shift. The guy doing the training told them afterward, "Do you have any idea how valuable this employee is?" Joe has an incredible work ethic, a wonderful sense of humor, and he's passionate about dogs. What more can you ask for in a person?
What was your proudest moment, either personally or professionally? When covering the legislature for the Rocky Mountain News in 2005, I wrote the following story:
"It was a stunning, you-can-hear- a-pin-drop moment for a legislator who has never had such an experience in his career.
"Sen. Abel Tapia, D-Pueblo, stood before his colleagues Wednesday and talked publicly for the first time about the shock of learning that his son is gay and how hurt he was to hear a fellow lawmaker refer to homosexuality as an 'abomination.'
"Tapia's son was 20 when he came out to his father.
" 'I even asked him, "Do you really want to do this? Do you have a choice, because that's a terrible choice to make. People are going to shun you," Tapia recounted.
" 'But I've grown to love him even more because of what he has had to go through,' Tapia said, repeating words as he struggled to keep from crying. 'So don't be talking about abomination because I don't believe that's true.' "
His speech, which left some Democrats in tears, came in the midst of a fierce debate on a bill that would expand employment discrimination laws to include sexual orientation and gender variance.
Later I got an e-mail from Lawrence Pacheco, who worked for then-Congressman Mark Udall. Pacheco, who is gay, told me that he and has father weren't close and other than a brief phone call on Sept. 11, 2001, the two hadn't spoken in years. Lawrence said he mailed a copy of my article to his father. About a week later, his father called and the two have since developed a relationship. Lawrence reminded me about the "power of words."
Please provide a quote that sums up your professional outlook: "Despite everything, I believe that people are really good at heart." — Anne Frank
No. 6: Patricia Calhoun
Hometown: Glencoe, Ill., now living in Denver.
Organization and position: Publisher and editor of Westword
First job: Babysitting, what else? But my time behind the counter at Stoney's Clearwater Bar & Grill in Montana gave me a strong appreciation of how to grill.
Who inspires you? My parents. They are such good people, so smart, fun and busy ... and moving to Colorado this month! I'm going to need a lot of vitamins to keep up.
What was your proudestmoment, either personally or professionally? How about my most panicked moment: I was a last-second replacement (since I'd already been vetted) to interview president Bill Clinton — for two hours, despite his scheduler's attempt to cut us off — in a ballroom full of 500 people. I didn't have time to change out of my flip-flops.
Please provide a quote that sums up your professional outlook. "In the real world, nothing happens at the right place at the right time. It is the job of journalists and historians to correct that." — Mark Twain
No. 7: Lindsey Vonn
Hometown: Born in St. Paul, Minn., now living in Vail
Organization and position: U.S. Ski Team and Olympic alpine racer
First job: Ski racing
Who inspires you? People and their stories inspire me.
What was your proudest moment, either personally or professionally? Winning the Vancouver Olympic Downhill gold medal. It was an incredible feeling and one I'll never forget.
Please provide a quote that sums up your professional outlook: Carpe diem. Seize the moment.
No. 8: Joyce Meskis
Hometown: Lansing, Ill. (far south side of Chicago), now living in Denver
Organization and position: Owner, Tattered Cover bookstores
First job: At the age of about 9, my friend and I made potholders and sold them door-to-door.
First job with a paycheck: Temp summer job doing data entry at a department store in downtown Chicago, followed by a job at a bookstore near my university.
Who inspires you? My mother
What was your proudest moment, either personally or professionally? Personally, my daughters every minute of every day. Professionally, I can't speak to proud moments — rather one very intense moment comes to mind of profound relief and gratitude when the Colorado Supreme Court ruled on our First Amendment case in 2002.
Please provide a quote that sums up your professional outlook: Stay steady to principles and professional mission and never stop trying to do your very best in every way.
No. 9: Kelly Brough
Hometown: Denver, but raised in Havre, Mont.
Organization and position: President and CEO, Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce
First job: Dairy Queen
Who inspires you? Underdogs
What was your proudest moment, either personally or professionally? Anything to do with my girls.
Please provide a quote that sums up your professional outlook. "You miss 100 percent of the shots you don't take." — Wayne Gretzky
No. 10: Morgan Carroll
Hometown: Born in Denver, grew up in Westminster and Boulder, and now living in Aurora
Organization and position: Democratic state senator, Majority Senate Caucus chair, attorney, author ("Take Back Your Government: A Citizen's Guide to Grassroots Change").
First job: Clerical in parents' law office; at age 16, worked at an Amoco gas station and Wendy's.
Who inspires you? Aung San Suu Kyi, courageous democracy leader for Burma; Raoul Wallenberg, who helped rescue thousands of Jews in the Holocaust; Pablo Neruda, sensational poet; Maya Angelou, literary genius; Martin Luther King Jr., for his gift to all of us in the civil rights movement; Mahatma Gandhi, for liberating an occupied nation peacefully; my mom, who became an attorney in 1966, is a social justice activist and worked to liberate Jewish refuseniks in the former Soviet Union; my dad, who was an idealist, an advocate for the little guy, spoke 13 languages, and took on impossible under-dog fights as a lawyer and legislator — and won.
What was your proudest moment, either personally or professionally?
Constituent services: Helping a woman whose daughter was kidnapped internationally by an abusive husband and taken to reunite with her daughter (who had been told her mother died).
Legislatively: Passing a rate review for health insurance companies to force actuarial rate justification prior to rate increases, which triggered over $150 million in returned premiums to families and businesses. Passing lobbyist disclosure reforms and campaign finance reforms to help the public follow the influence of money on the legislative process and on campaigns.
Legally: Helping hundreds of severely disabled people get Social Security disability benefits to avoid or reverse homelessness. This year, helping a young teen with severe schizophrenia get mental health treatment.
As an author: Running into a person at a book signing for "Take Back Your Government" who said he and his wife had given up on government, said they thought all government was corrupt. The following week, he showed up at the state Capitol to testify and helped defeat legislation that he opposed.
Personally: Quitting smoking, and being the birth coach for the birth of my nephew, Jason, and niece, Sarah.
Please provide a quote that sums up your professional outlook: "One person can make a difference, and everyone should try." — John F. Kennedy
"The most common way people give up their power is by thinking they don't have any." — Alice Walker
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