At long last, 2014 has arrived, which brings a fresh outlook if only because it's an even-numbered year, and there's something psychologically upbeat about that.
Why? Perhaps it's knowing we'll have the Olympics, this time the Winter Games. For some, it's all about national elections, even the midterm kind. In the financial world, even years mean that bonds outperform stocks. And some wine connoisseurs insist that historically, the best years for most of California's wineries have been even-numbered.
But every January, even or odd, brings a ritual to this space — recognizing "people to watch" for our region, whether in politics, business, the arts or nonprofits. We had 11 in '11, 12 in '12 and 13 in '13, but it seems appropriate not to continue growing the list. So let's focus on 10 People to Watch in 2014, in alphabetical order:
Lance Bolton, president, Pikes Peak Community College: Bolton is determined to heighten PPCC's presence downtown (where it's already serving 5,000 students) by expanding its campus west of Penrose Library. He's adding a theater and more classrooms, with a five-story building to come later on an adjacent site already acquired.
Eileen Lynch Gonzalez, Colorado Springs City Council administrator: With so much uncertainty and angst surrounding Council as it battles Mayor Steve Bach on issues such as budget, division of powers and stormwater, Gonzalez can steer the process toward positive results. With her background in government and emergency management, she has earned Council's respect and could help the group through the treacherous times ahead.
Nechie Hall, interim CEO, Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center: After the exit of CEO Sam Gappmayer, the FAC faced a tough decision on setting its future course. Hall has stepped in, bringing instant credibility from years as a civic leader. Don't be surprised to see her taking more than a caretaker approach as she sets up the FAC for its next permanent leader.
Sarah Harris, development manager, Downtown Partnership: New person in a new position, but Harris brings expertise in commercial real estate and urban renewal. That positions her for an active role as City for Champions organizers put together funding, sites and timelines.
Jeff Hays, chairman, El Paso County Republican Party: The local GOP should have a major influence on trying to change the balance of power in state government in '14. Hays, an associate at Booz Allen Hamilton Inc. (defense contractor) but also a former Air Force cadet-athlete and coach, will try to keep the local party more unified than in recent elections.
Pam McManus, CEO, Peak Vista Community Health Centers: McManus will use federal grant money to eliminate Peak Vista's waiting list of 7,000 needing health services — thus bringing the total served to more than 70,000 low-income area residents. She also will oversee a new Peak Vista program employing eight physicians in residency the first year and adding eight more in each of the three years thereafter.
Tom Neppl, board chairman, Colorado Springs Regional Business Alliance: As president and CEO of Springs Fabrication, Neppl has shown that manufacturing still can thrive in this market. Now perhaps he can help the Business Alliance nurture that sector much more in the year ahead.
Lonnie Parsons, regional president, ANB Bank: While the City for Champions projects take shape, ANB Bank already has broken ground on a new local headquarters in southwest downtown, and Parsons (a prominent civic leader in Pueblo before moving here last year) makes it clear that he intends for the bank and himself to have a higher profile.
Andy Vick, executive director, Cultural Office of the Pikes Peak Region: Vick has a tough act to follow, after native Christina McGrath raised COPPeR's public profile the past three years. But amid an improving economy, Vick's fresh ideas could have a bigger impact than anyone realizes.
Jason Wood, CEO, Pikes Peak United Way: Now that Wood has had six months on the job, he faces leading his first full fundraising campaign while overseeing the biennial fund-allocation process that determines how money is distributed to member agencies providing "safety-net" community services. That outcome was controversial in 2012, negatively impacting some long-established nonprofits, so many will watch to see what happens this time.
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