By Eric Heinz
Denver City Council recently approved giving both community members on the National Western Center Authority Board voting power, adding more local voices to the decision-making process.
The 13-member board governs the nonprofit authority entity of the National Western Center to make sure it completes the major projects ongoing at the campus, and it is responsible for developing a community investment fund to benefit the Globeville, Elyria and Swansea neighborhoods.
“Over the past year, the National Western Center (NWC) has done extensive community outreach and engagement in GES,” said Jenna Garcia, director of marketing and communications for the NWC. “There was a desire from the community as well as the NWC to make both community board seats voting positions.”
The Authority Board now has an even number of voting board members, as another non-voting member acts as the chief financial officer to the board, so in the case of a tie vote the mayor and City Council will be in charge of appointing a tie-breaker for the vote.
Voting board members are seven mayoral appointees, two of whom will be Globeville, Elyria or Swansea residents; two Colorado State University appointees; and two National Western Stock Show appointees.
“We’re excited about this … change as it reflects the collective work that’s being done at the National Western Center to make meaningful and lasting changes for our neighbors,” Garcia said.
The current GES non-voting member is Sandra Ruiz-Parilla, and the voting member spot is currently vacant. Garcia said the authority is working with its Citizens Advisory Committee to find a replacement. Board member terms are five years.
“When I started on the board a year ago in December 2021, one of the first things that we suggested was we needed two voting community members to have a stronger voice,” Ruiz-Parilla said. “As a community member it was ridiculous to me that we only had one voting member.” Ruiz-Parilla said she’s lived in the community for seven years, and during that time she’s been knocking on doors and getting to know the people of the neighborhoods.
“I’m very outspoken, and if I see something that is not right I am going to speak up,” she said. “We need to do this differently, and there’s not really a connection to the GES community with the board, and they’re doing everything to create that relationship. For me it’s great, just to have that (additional vote).”