"The daughter of a small-town Iowa mayor, she rose to some prominence in Denver as a new breed of public-private leader." – The Denver Post, December 26, 2018
People are the biggest part of her story. Community is core to who she is and how she works. At 42, Jamie has carved out a career that helps to empower people and neighborhoods to forge partnerships with each other and local government to address complicated urban issues affecting the character and stability of their communities. Part community organizer, part strategic planner, part people champion, her work has been focused on using policy and planning to help ease the impacts of growth that have come with the return of people to cities – here in Denver, across the country and around the world.
A small town start.
Jamie was raised on a family farm in Leland, Iowa (population 250 people), the 6th generation of her family to be born in the small, rural town. Her childhood on the farm yielded incredible life experiences and a spirit of hard work, but her family’s commitment to people and community provided perhaps the biggest learning experiences. Jamie’s dad – James – served as mayor of Leland for 13 years, and both he and her mother Melanie served on Leland City Council. Her mom worked as a social worker for the State of Iowa for 35 years, working with families, single mothers, and individuals in need of a support, demonstrating the value of compassion for those with less and instilling the importance of always lending a helping hand. Jamie’s brother, Christopher, joined ROTC in high school and went on to serve as a distinguished United States Air Force pilot, earning multiple honors. Civic life is in her blood.
Jamie graduated with a Bachelor’s in Journalism and Communications from the University of Iowa (Go Hawkeyes!) and landed a job as a producer and reporter for a CBS affiliate in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, getting a chance to cover the 2000 presidential race from a front row seat in Iowa, as well as many civic and municipal stories about the changing nature of cities. Her desire to be part of the change rather than telling the story led her to jump into working with local government, eventually being hired at 26 years old to oversee the revitalization of Downtown Cedar Rapids, Iowa. Through vision, collaboration with the community and stakeholders and pushing on the City to make policy shifts and strategic investments, she led Downtown Cedar Rapids through a renaissance, and in the doing also became part of an effort to reimagine city government. Her efforts working with other community leaders led to a vote of the people to end a commission form of government no longer serving the people adequately, and to the installation of a city council, weak mayor, city manager government with all new leadership. Jamie’s involvement in that entire process motivated her to obtain her Master in Public Administration from the University of Colorado Denver with aspirations to be a city manager.
Taking on cities.
In 2006 Jamie moved to Denver, taking a job with a small consulting firm working on urban revitalization issues around the country. Her consulting work would expose her to a variety of complex issues related to urban infill and growth and allow her the opportunity to work in cities as diverse as Seattle, San Diego, Philadelphia and many cities of varying sizes in between. As she watched the revitalization of cities unfold – including in Denver, where she worked on the 20-year vision for Downtown Denver as well as in many neighborhoods – she had concerns about how the top-down cities were managing the growth. In late 2009, she launched her own consulting business, Centro Inc., with a commitment to explore thoughtful revitalization efforts that focused on not just downtowns, but the unique urban neighborhoods and business districts that make up our cities. Her aim was to provide guidance in establishing nuanced policy, planning and thoughtful engagement with community and municipalities to address challenges and concerns.
While she continued to do work locally in Denver, across Colorado and around the country, she pursued international opportunities to both learn from and export best practices. In 2010, she landed in Singapore to work with the Singaporean government to introduce new approaches and tools to do urban revitalization work through thoughtful public-private partnerships, focused on the city-state’s historic cultural areas. She helped to draft the country’s Business Improvement District legislation which is now being implemented throughout Singapore.
Simultaneously, she took on consulting work in the UK and was appointed in 2013 to a Labour Party committee to by MP Chuka Umunna to create new policies to address the struggling high streets across the country. Her work led to an opportunity to testify to a parliamentary committee and the implementation of some of the key recommendations.
Helping Denver’s neighborhoods.
While working abroad, Jamie also continued work at home in Denver and Colorado. Upon passage of the State of Colorado’s Creative District legislation under Hickenlooper in 2011, she was hired by Colorado Creative Industries (under the state Office of Economic Development and International Trade) to design and implement the state-wide Creative Districts program. In Denver, she oversaw efforts for Arts & Venues to increase their support to Denver’s cultural districts, doing work in the RiNo Art District, the Art District on Santa Fe, and the Golden Triangle among others to establish arts-led leadership organizations to oversee the evolution of those areas. Beginning in 2014 Jamie focused her work mostly on emerging issues in Denver, working in areas as diverse as Athmar Park, Five Points, Globeville, Elyria-Swansea, East Colfax, South Broadway, Old South Pearl Street, Platt Park and the Highlands. In each case, her work was to help communities to navigate issues challenging them and to identify a pathway to partner with the City of Denver to uniquely address those issues.
Until launching her mayoral campaign in November 2018, Jamie also served as the president of the RiNo Art District (including the RiNo Business Improvement District and RiNo General Improvement District), where she led the district and its various communities—ranging from business owners, artists, developers, and residents—through the special district process and on to pursue a unique and united vision for the area. As president, Jamie oversaw district vision, advocacy policy, programs, and projects. In particular, she led on projects to advance affordability and mobility, green infrastructure, support for the homeless community, support for the creative community and much more.
Jamie’s passion for community, for thoughtful urban policy and planning, for creative problem solving, and for inviting everyone to the table has been transformative in the places she’s been honored to work in. Her experiences have set the stage for an opportunity to lead our modern, urban Denver through transition and transformation in a thoughtful way that makes Denver a visionary, bold city that values its people first.
Jamie lives in the Platt Park neighborhood with her husband Chris (a Denver native), her 8-year old stepson Jackson (a DPS student at Slavens) and her dog Bru.