Gov. Polis announces 2019 Colorado Governor’s Citizenship Medals

Friday, September 13, 2019

DENVER — Governor Jared Polis today announced the recipients of the 2019 Colorado Governor’s Citizenship Medals (the Medal). The 2019 recipients will be inducted during a special evening with Governor Polis, former Governors, John Hickenlooper and Bill Owens, and CiviCO (formerly Quarterly Forum).

Created by Executive Order in 2015 and supported by all living Colorado Governors, the Medal is one of the highest honors bestowed upon citizens and organizations of Colorado for their significant contributions to communities across the state. The Medals will be presented at the The Event: Colorado Governor’s Leadership Celebration on Saturday, October 12, 2019 at the History Colorado Center.

“The Governor’s Citizenship Medal was created to recognize Colorado’s remarkable leaders for their impact on their communities,” said Governor Jared Polis. “Our state has some amazing and courageous leaders and it’s important for us to celebrate their efforts and inspire new generations to do the same.”

The 2019 Medal categories and recipients are:

1. Vanguard Legacy: Tim Gill, Founder, Gill Foundation – This award is given to a business leader who has made transformational contributions to the community throughout his or her career.

American software entrepreneur and philanthropist Tim Gill founded the Gill Foundation in 1994. Today, the foundation is one of the nation’s leading funders of efforts to secure full equality for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people. Since its inception, the Gill Foundation has invested more than $357 million in programs and nonprofit organizations around the nation, substantially contributing to many of the country’s watershed victories for LGBT equality. Gill currently serves as the co-chair of the foundation’s board of directors.

2. Emerging Community Leader: Kylee Cisneros-Gomez, Antonito – This award recognizes a young community leader who has strong excellence and positive impact on his or her school and community and serves as an example for future generations.

Kylee Gomez was born and raised in Antonito, CO. She is currently a senior attending Antonito High School. Within her school, she has served as the student council body president, aided in the foundation of an Allies for Diversity group, participated in many sports, and worked as an editor for both the school’s annual and newsletter. Through both in-school and extra-curricular activities, Kylee has sought new avenues towards ending drug addiction within her small town. By sharing stories, creating documentaries, and working with community groups - she uses every opportunity to advocate for positive change. Upon graduation, Kylee plans to attend college at the University of Colorado in Colorado Springs and pursue a degree in nursing with a minor in psychology. Through this degree, she hopes to return to her community and continue to make an impact.  

3. Growth & Innovation: David Brown & David Cohen, Founders & Co-CEOs, Techstars - 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.

David Brown is a founder and co-CEO of Techstars. David is a serial entrepreneur who has founded three startups and been involved with two others. He is one of the original founders of Pinpoint Technologies, Inc. which is now part of ZOLL Medical Corporation and provides solutions to the emergency medical services market. He was President of the company from founding through over $50M per year in revenue and over 250 people.

David co-founded Techstars along with David Cohen, Brad Feld, and Jared Polis. He has been an investor and advisor to Techstars since inception. In 2013, he joined Techstars in a more active role, overseeing global operations. 

David Cohen is the Founder and co-CEO of Techstars. David has been an entrepreneur and investor for his entire life. He has founded several companies and has invested in hundreds of startups such as Uber, Twilio, SendGrid, FullContact, and Sphero. In total, these investments have gone on to create more than $80B in value. Prior to Techstars, David was a co-founder of Pinpoint Technologies which was acquired by ZOLL Medical Corporation (NASDAQ: ZOLL) in 1999. Later, David was the founder and CEO of earFeeder, a music service that was sold to SonicSwap.

David is the co-author (with Brad Feld) of Do More Faster; Techstars Lessons to Accelerate Your Startup.

4. Public & Community Service: Barbara O’ Brien, Elected Member and Vice-Chair, Denver Public Schools - This award is given to a government or community leader who serves the public with innovation, operational excellence and progressive vision. 

Barbara spent her whole career advocating for children, in one way or another. In the 1990s/2000s, she built up the Colorado Childrens' Campaign into a (or the) major advocacy force in the state, for positive education action and reform.  CCC brought early childhood education into the forefront of discussions. Governor Bill Ritter asked her to run as his Lieutenant Governor - she sometimes calls herself the "accidental LG" - because she was not really seeking to run for elected office.  She used the role of LG to play a major role in advocating for kids, but more importantly, in running education reform for Governor Ritter, which included Race to the Top, the P-20 Commission and many successful reform efforts. After leaving office, she became President of Get Smart (later named Catapult) Schools, which identified and trained new school leaders, to create great new schools. Then, she ran for DPS school board. Data show that DPS' reforms, partly under Barbara's leadership, have improved student performance substantially, and more than almost any other Colorado or American school district.

Barbara has demonstrated considerable innovation and progressive vision in education policy and advocacy.  She is passionate to eliminate achievement gaps, but she realizes this goal requires change, including new school models and new policies She has utilized her emotional intelligence, determination, resilience, and empathy to find politically meaningful ways to improve Colorado for all kids, but especially kids from low income backgrounds.

5. Corporate Citizenship: Aspen Skiing Company, Aspen - This award recognizes a Colorado based company that has made a significant positive impact in the community.

Aspen Skiing Company is located in Aspen, Colorado. They are a values-driven company, owned and operated by people who share a common appreciation and respect for the pristine environment in which they live and fully embrace the Aspen Idea centered around the renewal of Mind, Body, and Spirit.

They have a collective responsibility to ensure that the company is a rewarding place to work and the community a desirable place to live. They respect and nurture the delicate balance between “resort” and “community” that makes them unique. The combination of a values-based company with unparalleled mountain sports, community, history, culture and environment gives them a unique market niche. They are successful because they live the values and principles expressed here.

Mike Kaplan will be accepting this year’s medal on behalf of Aspen Skiing Company. Mike is President and CEO of Aspen Skiing Company, which includes oversight of the four mountains of Snowmass, Aspen Mountain, Aspen Highlands and Buttermilk, as well as the Little Nell Hotel Group. Mike started with the company in 1993 after earning an MBA at the University of Denver. Mike is very active in the community as Treasurer of Aspen Community Foundation and is a member of the United States Ski & Snowboard Association (USSA) Foundation Board of Trustees.

6. Colorado Mountain Leader: Pat Bowlen, Owner, The Denver Broncos Football Organization – At the discretion of the sitting Governor, the Colorado Mountain Leader is awarded in memoriam to a community leader or enduring organization that has provided an innovative impact on the state of Colorado while providing a role model for the nation.

Pat Bowlen, a 2019 Pro Football Hall of Fame selection who owned the Denver Broncos from 1984 until his death on June 13, 2019, guided the Broncos during his 35-year ownership with a simple phrase: “I want to be No. 1 in everything.” He was introduced as majority owner of the Broncos on March 23, 1984, and made it clear throughout his ownership that he wanted the organization to be focused on winning and making a difference in the community. No NFL owner during the last 35 seasons had more winning seasons (21) and playoff berths (18) than Mr. Bowlen, who presided over seven Super Bowl appearances and three World Championships (1997, 1998, 2015). With his immeasurable impact on the Broncos, the NFL and the community, Mr. Bowlen firmly established himself as one of the greatest contributors in professional football history.

“The 2019 Medal recipients are shining examples of the best of citizenship for all of us in Colorado,” said Erik Mitisek, Co-Chairman of CiviCO and Colorado’s former Chief Innovation Officer. “CiviCO is dedicated to shaping the best community leaders in Colorado and honored to partner with the State, Governor Polis, and former Governors to honor these shining leaders and continue the Governor’s Leadership Celebration tradition.”

In addition to this momentous evening, a new one-of-a-kind exhibit will be unveiled at History Colorado Center in the newly established Owens Hickenlooper Leadership Gallery as a place to honor Colorado’s unique values and those leaders – both past and present – who have shaped our amazing state.

The new exhibit, What's Your Story?, asks visitors to consider their own superpowers and how they can apply them to the public good and future of our state.  Through interactive media opportunities and immersive experiences, visitors will recognize leadership traits in themselves and others. Is it curiosity—like the eleven-year-old who invented a way to test water for lead? Is it determination—like the first woman to work in the Eisenhower Tunnel? Through multimedia experiences, guests can tell the world what’s important to them. Whatever their cause, they’ll meet 101 Coloradans who share their passion and have made an impact – just as the exhibit’s visitors can and will.

“CiviCO is honored to be unveiling this new exhibit in honor of Governors Owens and Hickenlooper and 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 Event: Colorado Governor’s Leadership Celebration is generously sponsored by J.P. Morgan Chase, with a special pre and post VIP reception courtesy of JetLinx and Husch Blackwell. With special thanks also to Wine Dispensary, Tito’s Vodka, and Distillery 291.

About CiviCO

Yesterday’s Quarterly Forum is today’s CiviCO. 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 was built with a spirit of collaboration and a commitment to a 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.