The first time Reeves Brown attended a function of Club 20, a governmental, business and civic advocacy group that represents 22 Western Slope counties, he felt overwhelmed.
“It was a Denver legislative function in 2001 and I remember just sitting there observing. I wasn’t even on staff yet,” said Brown, who was hired to be the executive director for the organization at the time but hadn’t begun work yet.
“I remember sitting observing the meetings they had that day and thinking how amazed and overwhelmed I was at the breadth of the organization and number of issues they dealt with and the knowledge base of the membership on so many levels and thinking, ‘I am so far in over my head on this job.’”
Ten years after that first important meeting, Brown is preparing to leave Club 20. He is slated to become the next executive director of the state’s Department of Local Affairs on Feb. 1.
Brown was one of 16 statewide co-chairs for governor-elect John Hickenlooper’s transition effort and also was a co-chairman on the natural resources committee.
“Reeves Brown cares passionately about good government and he cares passionately about the state of Colorado,” Hickenlooper said in a news release. “His naturally collaborative approach will help set the tenure of our administration.”
Brown will oversee the five divisions within DOLA: the board of assessment appeals, emergency management, housing, local government and property taxation.
The department offers financial and technical assistance, emergency management services, property tax administration, and programs addressing affordable housing and homelessness, and works in partnership with both local communities and the state.
“I’m excited to work with DOLA, which is, in many communities, really the face of state government and provides vital service in terms of supporting the infrastructure within local communities, everything from funding assistance for infrastructure projects like water and sewer to guidance on housing issues and emergency management,” Brown said. “They interface with local governments in so many different ways and I’m excited to be in the center of that and providing that assistance.”
Brown called Club 20 members “the smartest people in the state” on topics like health care and transportation, and also praised the group for its civilized approach.
“I’ve never seen an organization like Club 20,” Brown said. “I don’t think one exists like Club 20 anywhere that represents such a broad and diverse geographical region. It’s just exciting to me to be part of the Club 20 story. It’s been an honor to work with so many people across the Western Slope.”
Brown believes part of the reason he was chosen for the job was his affiliation with the organization.
“I think it was probably reassuring to the governor that, by my association with Club 20, that I embraced that approach of bringing different groups together and working on shared goals,” Brown said. “I think that applies very well to his agenda and his effort to work as one state-wide community.”
Brown said he is excited to work with Hickenlooper because of the governor-elect’s history of reaching out beyond Denver and Front Range communities.
“He was the first mayor of Denver, to my knowledge, to hire and create a position for regional outreach for the sole purpose of connecting the Denver community with the rest of the state and having a state-wide discussion so that Denver isn’t an island unto itself,” Brown said.
“I think he’s going to be very collaborative. He hasn’t even taken the reins as governor and we’re already seeing that difference become very apparent,” he said, citing the recent appointments of Hayden’s Al White and Steamboat Springs’ Sue Birch to Hickenlooper’s administration.
Birch will be the executive director of the state’s Department of Healthcare Policy and White will be the director of the Colorado Tourism Office.
“It’s just unusual, and I would say perhaps even unprecedented, for a governor elect to come into office with such a commitment to building an administration that is statewide in its scope and non-partisan in its mission,” Brown said.
Brown said the most difficult part will be using his budget to its best, but he plans on protecting severance tax revenue that is generated by energy development, specifically those that go back to the areas in which the development occurs.
“I’m going to be a strong advocate for continuing to protect those direct distribution funds, which as the name implies, they directly benefit those source energy communities like Meeker and Craig and Glenwood Springs and Rifle and all those communities that deal with the impact of energy development,” he said.
Jeff Comstock, Club 20 board chairman, said he was proud of Brown but also was excited to see the possibilities of new leadership within the organization.
“Reeves undoubtedly has an unparalleled knowledge of the Western Slope counties,” Comstock said. “Being a DOLA director, he’s the primary interface between the state and the Western Slope. What he’s got to bring is an intimate knowledge of Western Slope issues.”
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