Gov. Polis Announces 2020 Colorado Governor’s Citizenship Medals
DENVER — Governor Jared Polis today announced the recipients of the 2020 Colorado Governor’s Citizenship Medals, an annual award stewarded by CiviCO on behalf of the sitting Governor of Colorado to recognize top community leaders from around the state. The 2020 recipients will be honored during a private ceremony in November with the Governor to comply with current Covid-19 guidelines regarding large gatherings.
Created by Executive Order in 2015 and supported by all living Colorado Governors, the Colorado Governor’s Citizenship Medal is one of the highest honors bestowed upon citizens and organizations of Colorado for their significant contributions to communities across the state. A special virtual program paying tribute to this year’s recipients will be streamed online Thursday, November 12, 2020.
“Colorado has a unique opportunity to set the bar for leadership in this country. These eight remarkable leaders have paved the way for community advancement and put Colorado on the map for how individuals and organizations serve their communities and make statewide impact," said Governor Polis. “The Governor’s Citizenship Medal is the highest honor of the state and I am honored to select and recognize these outstanding leaders.”
Along with the traditional five medal categories, Governor Polis announced the recipients of the COVID-19 Hero Medals that will be given to two individuals and one organization who have displayed tremendous acts of resourcefulness and courageous efforts during the Coronavirus pandemic.
The 2020 Medal categories and recipients are:
1. Vanguard Legacy: Polly Baca, President & CEO, Baca Barragan Consultants – This award is given to a business leader who has made transformational contributions to the community throughout his or her career.
Polly Baca was born in Weld County, Colorado and has long been a pioneer for women and the Latino community. Polly served in both the Colorado House of Representatives (1975-1978) and the Colorado State Senate (1979-1986). She was the first woman to hold the office of Chair of the Democratic Caucus of the Colorado House of Representatives and the first woman of color elected to the Colorado State Senate.
Polly led an esteemed career in both state and national politics with 12 years of service in the Colorado State Legislature. Polly was the first Latina to co-chair two National Democratic Conventions. Polly served as Vice Chair of the National Democratic Party for eight years, from 1981 to 1989. She was also Special Assistant to President Bill Clinton for Consumer Affairs and Director of the United States Office of Consumer Affairs.
Polly Baca has spent decades advocating for the people of Colorado through her service in the legislature, her work in national politics, and her roles in nonprofits, both as Executive Director of the Colorado Hispanic Institute and President and CEO of the Latin American Research and Service Agency (LARASA).
Currently, she is the president and CEO of Baca Barragan Consultants, a consulting firm specializing in political campaigns, multicultural leadership development, diversity training, motivational presentations, policy analysis and development, and government relations.
Polly Baca has been included in the Colorado Women’s Hall of Fame (2000) and the Colorado Latino Hall of Fame (2018) and was named one of the original 14 members to be inducted into the National Hispanic Hall of Fame (1988).
2. Emerging Community Leader: Ananda Birungi, Northglenn, Thornton High School, Entering First Year – Harvard University – This award recognizes a young community leader who has demonstrated excellence and made a positive impact on his or her school and community.
Ananda Birungi is a recent graduate of Thornton High School and is a Freshman at Harvard University in Cambridge, MA. Ananda served as Student Body Vice President, French Club President and Vice President of the “Women of Color” project to support other young women of color.
In 10th grade, Ananda was selected to participate in Access Opportunity, a 6-year college and career access program for high-achieving, low-income students in the Denver metro area. Since being accepted for the program, Ananda has taken advantage of every opportunity presented to her and has proven herself to be an incredible leader in the AO community and beyond.
Ananda also served on the Colorado Youth Advisory Council for District 24, participated in an internship at City Year Denver and started a “Girl Up” Club Chapter at Thornton High School which is a nationally recognized organization that partners with the United Nations to empower young girls. A Ugandan immigrant, Ananda is a shining young leader who has initiated projects with significant impact in her under-resourced school and broader Colorado community. Most recently, she helped organize the first annual College Bootcamp at Thornton High School to help rising seniors successfully navigate the college application process. She is an advocate for empowering women through education.
3. Growth & Innovation: Kent Thiry, Senior Advisor, KKR & Former CEO & Executive Chair, Davita - This award is given to an entrepreneur or business leader who has led with exceptional ingenuity and growth while inspiring and creating new possibilities for others.
Kent Thiry (KT) was CEO of DaVita from 1999 to 2019, a Fortune 400 Company with 65,000 teammates across 12 countries. KT stepped down as Executive Chairman in June, 2020. During this time DaVita:
Grew revenues from approximately $1 billion to the current $11 billion
Emerged as the leading clinical innovator in the kidney care community, and a leader in clinical outcomes generally
Became known for a distinctively engaged culture with physicians and teammates
Became known for developing well-rounded general managers and leaders, leading to many becoming CEOs at other companies
Grew equity market value from approximately $150 million to approximately $9.3 billion, and a stock price of about $.70 to about $80 at the time he departed
Grew its international business from a standing start in 2012 to approximately $600 million in annual revenue currently, and has achieved leading clinical outcomes in virtually every country
DaVita is known for a distinctively engaged culture and for developing well-rounded general managers/ leaders. DaVita has been the subject of leadership and culture case studies written by both Harvard and Stanford. Kent is regularly invited to speak on these subjects at top business schools, companies and not-for-profit leadership groups. KT made a public pledge in 2015 that DaVita would be one of the first Fortune 500 companies to have a Majority Diverse board, and fulfilled that pledge in 2016.
In 2016, he led Let Colorado Vote, a group that passed two statewide ballot initiatives, one that re-established the presidential primary and a second that opens Colorado’s primaries to unaffiliated voters. In 2018, Kent co-chaired the campaigns of two more successful statewide initiatives (Fair Maps Colorado), in this case reforming the congressional and state redistricting process, eliminating gerrymandering.
Kent serves on the global board of The Nature Conservancy. He also founded and chairs Colorado Thrives, a group consisting primarily of large Colorado Company CEOs, which is focused on advancing economic mobility and the general well-being of Colorado and all its citizens. Kent is also the founder and chairman of AdvanceEDU, an innovative hybrid college and is chair of the Colorado Gap Fund, a $25 million fund focused on small businesses with historically poor access to capital, in particular those owned by women, minorities, veterans…or those in rural areas.
KT co-founded The Aspen Group with Senators Bill Frist and Tom Daschle, a group dedicated to non-partisan healthcare reform. He is also a founding board member of Colorado Endeavor, a chapter of Endeavor Global, an international venture capital network.
Earlier in his career Kent served as chairman and CEO of Vivra, a NYSE health care service company; and partner at Bain & Company. Prior board seats include the Harvard Business School Advisory Board, Oxford Health Plan and Varian. Kent is currently an advisor to KKR.
Kent earned his B.A. in political science from Stanford University in 1978, with distinction and Phi Beta Kappa. He earned his M.B.A., with honors, from Harvard Business School in 1983.
Kent received the Woodrow Wilson Award for Denver Corporate Citizenship in 2013. In 2016 he received the International Bridge Builders Award from the University of Denver.
KT is married to Denise O’Leary, has two children and is an enthusiastic mountain biker and backpacker.
4. Public & Community Service: Rosemary Rodriguez, Executive Director, Together We Count - This award is given to a government or community leader who serves the public with innovation, operational excellence and progressive vision.
Rosemary Rodriguez is a Colorado native, a proud mother and a long-time civil servant. Rosemary attended Metropolitan State College (now Metropolitan State University), where she studied Political Science. From 1997 to 2002, Rosemary served as Denver’s clerk and recorder. During her time in this position, Rosemary fought to create a more transparent, accessible and equitable process for all of Denver’s voters regardless of race, gender or socio-economic status. Her passion for improving Denver through democracy led to many positive changes and to the implementation of new procedures that protected every voter’s right to cast a ballot. In 2001, Rosemary chaired the 2001 Colorado Reapportionment Commission, a constitutional body that was responsible for redrawing legislative districts after the 2000 Census. Rosemary served on Denver’s city council from 2003-2007, including serving as city council president from 2005-2006.
Rosemary Rodriguez has spent her lifetime serving the citizens of Colorado in a number of critical roles. Her goal has always been fair representation and government responsiveness to citizens. Prior to founding Together We Count, a nonprofit organization meant to promote fair participation in the 2020 census, Rosemary was the State Director for Senator Michael Bennet of Colorado. She also served as a commissioner on the U.S. Election Assistance Commission and chaired the commission in 2008.
5. Corporate Citizenship: VF Corporation, Denver - This award recognizes a Colorado based company that has made a significant positive impact in the community.
Founded in 1899, VF Corporation is one of the world’s largest apparel, footwear and accessories companies connecting people to the lifestyles, activities and experiences they cherish most through a family of iconic outdoor, active and workwear brands including Vans®, The North Face®, Timberland®, Smartwool®, JanSport® and Dickies®. Headquartered in Denver, Colorado, VF is a purpose-led company committed to powering movements of sustainable and active lifestyles for the betterment of people and the planet. Through the company’s independent grantmaking arm, the VF Foundation has contributed more than $20 million globally over the past three years to non-profit organizations that protect outdoor spaces, promote the value of trade work, and contribute to a world that prioritizes equity and belonging for all people. Barron’s magazine recently recognized VF as the top company in its list of Most Socially Conscious Companies, and VF continues to have a positive impact on Colorado communities since moving to Denver last year.
COVID-19 Hero Medals: At the discretion of the sitting Governor, the COVID-19 Hero medal is awarded to individuals and organizations who provided extraordinary effort and impact in response to the COVID-19 global pandemic.
6. COVID-19 Hero (Individual): Dr. Rachel Herlihy, Colorado State Epidemiologist & Principal, Population Health Solutions, LLC
Dr. Rachel Herlihy is a preventive medicine physician and the State Epidemiologist for the Colorado Department of Public Health & Environment. She has been with the Department since 2011. Her position resides in the Department’s Division of Disease Control and Public Health Response where she oversees the Division’s Communicable Disease Branch and serves as the Principal Investigator on CDC funded Emerging Infections Program and Epidemiology and Laboratory Capacity grants. Dr. Herlihy is currently leading COVID-19 surveillance, case investigation, and outbreak response activities for Colorado.
Dr. Herlihy earned her MD and BS in Bacteriology and Medical Microbiology and Immunology at the University of Wisconsin. She completed an internal medicine internship at the University of Virginia and a preventive medicine residency at Johns Hopkins University. Previously, Rachel was the Deputy State Epidemiologist for Utah, and the Deputy Director for the Department of Defense’s Infectious Diseases Clinical Research Program.
7. COVID-19 Hero (Individual): Pat Meyers, COVID Innovation Response Team, Constrained Medical Supply Team Leader
Patrick Meyers is owner and CEO of PEM Enterprises, is the former Chief of Staff to Governor John Hickenlooper of Colorado, the Chief Operating Officer for the Hickenlooper 2020 presidential campaign, the Chairman of the Hickenlooper 2020 Senate campaign, and is now with the State of Colorado on the COVID Innovation Response Team. Patrick is a graduate of the University of Colorado (Denver) and the University of California (Hastings) School of Law and clerked for the Hon. William Erickson of the Colorado Supreme Court. Pat served as a clerk and intern for U.S. Attorney’s Office (Civil and Criminal Division) and Department of Justice Antitrust Division, San Francisco. He served in the U.S. Navy Submarine Service.
Pat has led the Innovation Response Team as the Constrained Medical Supply Team Leader and has been instrumental in sourcing PPE and other supplies to the state.
8. COVID-19 Hero (Organization): Colorado Health Foundation, Denver
The Colorado Health Foundation is a long-time statewide philanthropic organization focused on bringing health in reach for all Coloradans by engaging closely with communities across the state through investing, grantmaking, policy advocacy and regularly convening Coloradans to discuss and explore tough and complex matters and solutions related to inequity. For more than two decades, The Foundation has focused on improving the health of Coloradans, with a specific emphasis in recent years on achieving health and racial equity.
Led by President and CEO Karen McNeil-Miller, The Foundation believes that keeping equity at the heart of our work will lead us to better health because every person is different than the next, and there are countless drivers of health, many stemming from oppression and exclusion, including poverty and racism. Because of this, it is essential that every step we take creates fair opportunities for those whose health is furthest from reach. The Foundation’s work is centered in three cornerstones that ensure all the organization does is in service of equity, community-informed and serving Coloradans who are living on low income or have historically been without power and/or privilege. With approximately 65 staff headquartered in Denver, regularly working and engaging with Coloradans on the ground is a critical aspect of how staff cultivate relationships with and learn from communities in every corner of the state. For more information, please visit www.coloradohealth.org.
“The 2020 Medal recipients embody what it means to not only be a successful leader but more importantly, a significant leader for our state,” said Jennifer Landers, Executive Director of CiviCO. “CiviCO is dedicated to shaping the best community leaders in Colorado and we are honored to partner with the State, Governor Polis, and former Governors to honor these esteemed medal recipients. We strive to bring a sense of hope through their stories as we continue this valued tradition even through these trying times.”
The eight medal recipients will also be represented in the “What's Your Story?” exhibit at the History Colorado Center. This interactive and immersive exhibit honors the legacy of Colorado leaders and engages visitors by allowing them to learn about their leadership traits, as well as share in the passion and impact from so many of Colorado’s great influencers.
“CiviCO is honored to continue the legacy of this unique exhibit by honoring the great citizens of our state who created opportunity for all of us to flourish in Colorado. These stories and their values need to be told to new generations of leaders who can become better versions of themselves for a better Colorado,” said Ryan Heckman, Co-Chairman of CiviCO and the primary benefactor of the exhibit.
The Colorado Governor’s Citizenship Medals and all associated events are generously sponsored and presented in partnership with the Office of the Governor, J.P. Morgan Chase, The Boettcher Foundation, Endeavor Colorado, University of Colorado School of Public Affairs, Mile High United Way and the History Colorado Center.
What began as a breakfast with Mike Fries, Scott Reiman, and then entrepreneur John Hickenlooper, has emerged as the state’s premier community leadership development organization. CiviCO (formerly Quarterly Forum) was built with a spirit of collaboration and a commitment to civic responsibility. As the strength, vitality and potential of our state continues to grow, our mission continues to expand. We educate, inspire and connect the next generation of community leaders through our elite cross sector leadership program, enriching experiences, executive coaching and mentorship. CiviCO provides leaders with pathways to a life of significance and community impact - for the future of Colorado. Learn more at www.livecivico.org.