Denver Business Journal – 2019 Colorado Governors Fellows

These Colorado Governors Fellows could be the future of state government

Thirty-two executives and community leaders from across the state were named Colorado Governors Fellows in June, and tonight the class will be officially inducted. They could someday be the state’s next political leaders, if all goes according to plan.

The program, modeled after the White House Fellows program started in 1964 by President Lyndon Johnson, aims to educate business and community leaders about state government, expose them to the inner workings of bureaucracy, then encourage them to someday lead at the state level themselves.

“At a very basic level, we have a group who comes in with various understanding of how government truly works,” said Eric Hopfenbeck, program director at Quarterly Forum, which runs the program. “We have folks who haven’t learned about government since civics class in high school.”

That doesn’t mean the fellows don’t know a thing or two. The new class includes a slew of folks with titles like partner, CEO, founder, vice president and executive director from organizations as diverse as Big Brothers Big Sisters of Colorado, Slipstream Sports and Deloitte Consulting. The graduating class, also honored tonight, boasts names like DaVita Vice President Scott Doniger and SkillStore founder Srikant Vasan.

And there are success stories: Mike Hartman was a senior vice president at Mutual of Omaha Bank in 2016 when he entered the program. Today he runs the Colorado Department of Revenue, having been appointed by Governor John Hickenlooper in 2017. Kristin Todd, a senior vice president at the Daniels Fund, now serves on the Colorado Workforce Development Council in a volunteer position.

Not bad for a program that’s basically three years old. Though the idea has been around in some form since 1999 when 30 to 40 of the top business leaders in the state would meet for quarterly breakfast meetings, it really took off when Hickenlooper asked for a booklet containing the names of private citizens qualified for positions in his cabinet. According to Hopfenbeck, there was no such booklet.

“The premise behind it is: When Hickenlooper was in office he wanted a cabinet of the most elite in Denver’s business and community,” Hopfenbeck said. “He was looking for ‘the best of the best,’ and started this fellowship program of people who wanted to serve in office, who were really good in business and inclined to serve Colorado.”

Quarterly Forum, a private Colorado-based leadership organization, took over the program in 2015.

Today the fellows participate in monthly educational programs, participating in “shadow sessions” with senior government officials, in effect gaining the experience of governing. They also perform studies and analysis based on actual current events and potential game-changers. Like the hot-to-the-touch subject, Amazon HQ2.

“We do have a few case studies throughout the year to essentially help with the learning objectives,” Hopfenbeck said. “What should the state be thinking about? What are positive and negative outcomes if Amazon were to relocate here? We had them present their findings and panels to judges in the [Colorado] Office of Economic Development.”

In addition, there’s a capstone project, which Hopfenbeck calls “essentially a combination between a hack-a-thon and “Shark Tank.” The fellows have a short amount of time to work on a real challenge facing the state, like transportation or growth. They then present that to a panel of judges who are actual policy experts and department heads — people who think about this kind of stuff for a living.

The end result is hopefully more leaders like Hartman and Todd.

“We’re really trying to elevate these rising leaders across the state to make the state a better place,” Hopfenbeck said.

Here is the 2018-2019 class that will be inducted tonight:

  • Maggie Anderson – Senior Vice President, DaVita Inc., Denver

  • Frankki Bevins – Partner, McKinsey & Company, Denver

  • Dennis Bianucci – Retired Principal, Deloitte Consulting, Arvada

  • Brian Boonstra – Partner, Davis Graham & Stubbs LLP, Denver

  • Melissa Brownstein – Partner, EKS&H, Morrison

  • Matthew Burkett – CEO, The Flyfisher Group,

  • Denver Jorge Castañeda – Partner, Casteñeda Law, Denver

  • Kyle Chism – Business Development, Turner Construction Company, Denver

  • Nick Christensen – Co-founder & Investor, Chrisland Companies, Fort Collins

  • Fred Colen – Portfolio Manager / Investment Analyst, ArrowMark Partners, Evergreen

  • Patrick Cowan – Senior Vice President / Commercial Banking, US Bank, Denver

  • Kelly Galloway – Director of Patient Care Services, Children’s Hospital Colorado, Denver

  • Gino Greco – Chief Executive Officer, American Red Cross of Colorado & Wyoming, Denver

  • Josef Hoelscher – Director of Corporate Development, Liberty Media, Denver

  • Zaneta Kelsey – Director of STech Marketing, Arrow Electronics, Centennial

  • Taylor Kirkpatrick – President & Chief Executive Officer, Babson Farms, Denver

  • Patricia Landaveri – Senior Colorado Community Affairs Advisor, Noble Energy, Denver

  • Peter Maiurro – Senior Vice President, El Pomar Foundation, Colorado Springs

  • Stephanie Matlock – Professor, Colorado Mesa University, Grand Junction

  • Katie McNerney – Founder and Partner, LeaderFit, Denver

  • Christian Reece – Executive Director, CLUB 20, Grand Junction

  • David Ryan – CEO, Big Brothers Big Sisters of Colorado, Denver

  • Tim Seibert – Vice President, Nor’wood Development Group, Colorado Springs

  • Andy Seth – Chairman of the Board, Minds Matter, Denver

  • Sarah Shrader – Owner and Co-Founder, Bonsai Design, Grand Junction

  • Edie Sonn – Vice President, Communications and Public Affairs, Pinnacol Assurance, Denver

  • Sumer Sorensen-Bain – Chief of Programs and Operations, Manufacturer’s Edge, Denver

  • Jocelyn Stephens – Executive Director of Education, Public Education & Business Coalition, Denver

  • Sean VanBerschot – Vice President and Partner, Prosono, Denver J

  • onathan Vaughters – CEO, Slipstream Sports LLC, Boulder

  • Chad Vorthmann – Executive Vice President, Colorado Farm Bureau, Centennial

  • Alana Watkins – Owner and President, VOCA Public Relations, Denver

Eric Hopfenbeck