Governors and other top elected officials face a unique challenge when they take office: Quickly filling dozens of top-level jobs in their administration. And it has to be done promptly: They simply don’t have the luxury of time, since their administration needs to hit the ground running and the clock on their term in office starts ticking immediately.
Adding to the challenge is that there isn’t necessarily a bursting pipeline of highly qualified people who have the skills and interest to fill top leadership positions in government administration, even on a temporary basis.
The Colorado Governors Fellowship Program aims to address that challenge head-on. Created by the Quarterly Forum and The Leaders Initiative, along with partners the School of Public Affairs, Colorado Business Roundtable and The Commons on Champa, the program’s goal is to create a permanent pool of business people who are ready and willing to take on the responsibilities of top-level executive positions in government. The School of Public Affairs is the official academic partner for the program.
“I think this Fellowship Program long-term is one of those things that’s going to guarantee we have the same success we have today, but even more amplified,” Gov. Hickenlooper stated at the program’s launch in June.
SPA Master of Public Administration alums Kristin Todd and Erik Estrada were selected to be part of the inaugural cohort of 22 Governor’s Fellows. Todd is Senior Vice President of the Grants Program at Daniels Fund, and Estrada is Senior Corporate Counsel at Level 3 Communications, Inc. Fellows are mid-career executives who are chosen based on their professional renown, engagement in the community through volunteerism and board membership, and peer commendations and endorsements.
“I’m so honored to be part of the Colorado Governors Fellowship Program’s inaugural class,” says Todd. “I’ve spent my career in the nonprofit and philanthropic sector with the aim of addressing some of our community’s greatest challenges. Yet complex societal challenges — like poverty and economic self-sufficiency — cannot be solved by one sector alone. It will take the collaborative work of government, the nonprofit sector, and business to truly tackle these multi-dimensional issues.”
Both Todd and Estrada understand the challenges for people entering government service today.
“As we learned in the first session, the three key obstacles are cost, confidence, and confidentiality (the 3 Cs),” says Estrada. “However, as I learned during my studies at the School of Public Affairs, public service is a calling, which I consider the fourth “C.” Arguably, this fourth C — that public service is a calling — trumps the other obstacles of cost, confidence, and confidentiality. As I learned at a young age, one must identify his or her passion, but then, more importantly, live a life that shows it.”
Over the course of the eight-month program, Fellows will have quarterly lunches with Gov. Hickenlooper; shadow sessions with senior administration officials; have conversations with Cabinet members, elected officials, CEOs and others; examine applied case studies; and, participate in monthly educational sessions led by School of Public Affairs faculty and visiting academics.
At the first session, Dean Paul Teske taught a segment on Colorado state government and led a discussion of a case study on former Gov. Lamm’s “human settlement policy” in the 1980s. At the second session on Oct. 13, Dean Teske led the Fellows in a discussion of how public management is similar and different from private sector management, and what factors they need to understand to manage and lead in government.
Visit the Colorado Governor’s Fellowship Program website for more information.