Top 25 Most Powerful Women: Featuring Five of Denver’s Strongest Women Leaders (Part IV)

The holidays are in full-swing, which means one thing: The Top 25 Most Powerful Women Gala is right around the corner! The Gala will mark the 5th anniversary of the event, and will recognize the achievements of not only 2017’s Top 25, but that of the past four years as well. These 125 women represent the highest level of business performance and community leadership in Denver. We will be highlighting five honorees each week as we count down to the event. We hope you enjoy getting to know these wonderful women as much as we have. Their accomplishments are certainly worth celebrating, and we are honored to do so.

Tickets are still available, so reserve your spot now!

This week we are featuring Heather Lurie, Jenifer Brandeberry, Cristina Aguilar, Meshach rhoades, Tamra Ryan, Joelle Martinez, Sarah Rockwell, and Holli Riebel. Congratulations on your many achievements, ladies!

Heather Lurie

Heather is a Lawyer and Consultant advising nonprofits and political organizations with strategic planning, board development, fundraising and organizational alignment. She is the Director of the Electing Women Political Action Committee.

Heather currently Chairs the board of a family foundation. She was one of the founding board members of the Girls Athletic Leadership Schools. She served as the Vice President of Public Policy for the Board of the Junior League of Denver and the Chair of the board of NARAL, the Advisory Board for the Center for Women’s Health Research and the Board of Directors of Progress Now Colorado.

Jenifer Brandeberry

Jenifer’s involvement public affairs began at an early age.  Her parents were active members of the Russell, Kansas community where she grew up and Jenifer participated in numerous civics programs throughout her school years.  Jenifer graduated from the only public high school in America to graduate two U.S. senators (Bob Dole & Arlen Specter).

Ms. Brandeberry began her official public affairs career in Washington DC as an assistant to Senator Dole, who at that time was Majority Leader of United States Senate.  Following that, Ms. Brandeberry applied and was selected for a position in the Reagan White House in the office of Cabinet Affairs.

Ms. Brandeberry returned to Kansas pursue a Masters in Public Administration degree from the University of Kansas.  While in graduate school she began her state lobbying career specializing in education, local government and transportation issues at the state house in Topeka.  Ms. Brandeberry was involved in a number of highly contested issues of the time including ensuring equal access to the judicial system and women’s reproductive rights.

In 1997 Ms. Brandeberry moved to Denver to lobby before the Colorado General Assembly.  She continues to specialize in legislative advocacy for transportation, business and local government issues.  In 1999 she served as campaign manager for the Referendum 4-A transit funding campaign, which, in tandem with Governor Owen’s Referendum 4-B highway campaign, resulted in historic victories for transit and transportation funding for the Denver metro region.  Other legislative accomplishments include passage of The Colorado Clean Indoor Air Act of 2006, helping to pass the first bill in the country to establish a regulatory framework for Transportation Network Companies, and playing an instrumental role in the passage of SB09-108 (FASTER) that generated approximately $252 million for transportation improvements in the State.

Ms. Brandeberry was featured in Colorado’s 5280 magazine’s, “22 to watch in 2002” and was awarded the Consumer Protection Award in 2007 by the Colorado Trial Lawyers Association. In 2011, Ms. Brandeberry participated in a Panel as part of a Women in Civic Leadership Lecture Series at Stephen’s College. As an alumni of Stephen’s College. Ms. Brandeberry has served as a member of the Vestry for St. Thomas Episcopal Church in Denver. Ms. Brandeberry is an avid sports fan and especially enjoys cheering for her son Bailey’s teams whether football, basketball and lacrosse at Kent Denver, a starting member of the Brown Lacrosse team or now as member of the MLL professional team the Denver Outlaws.

Cristina Aguilar

Cristina Aguilar is the Executive Director for the Colorado Organization for Latina Opportunity and Reproductive Rights where she leads COLOR in their efforts to develop young leaders, empower the Colorado Latinx community to shape policies that impact their lives and urge lawmakers to stand with Latinas and our families.

From her work directing a national, early childhood education program with Head Start to serving as a member of the political action committee for One Colorado and co-founding the People of Color Caucus, Aguilar is dedicated to building bridges across movements and issues in order to create true and lasting change.

Cristina co-authored the book Nonprofit’s Guide to the Power of Appreciative Inquiry and is a writer and contributor with numerous publications.  She has also presented nationally and internationally on reproductive justice issues.

Aguilar has been honored for her achievements and her leadership many times including recently being named one of Top 25 Most Powerful Women of Colorado 2017 by the Women’s Foundation of Colorado and being selected as a Livingston Fellow and a German Marshall Fund Marshall Memorial Fellow.

Aguilar has a bachelor’s degree in journalism and a master’s degree in communication.

Meshach Rhoades

Meshach Rhoades is a partner at Armstrong Teasdale in the firm’s Litigation practice group. She plays a key role in the firm’s Agriculture, Food & Health subgroup, assisting businesses with compliance for the Food and Drug Administration, the Federal Trade Commission and the Agriculture Department.

Meshach has extensive experience with federal and state dairy, energy drink and juice regulation.  She is lead counsel for The Coca-Cola Co. and Minute Maid on dairy regulation compliance.

She was recently recognized in Best Lawyers in America© for Food and Beverage Law (2017).

Tamra Ryan

Tamra Ryan is the CEO of Women’s Bean Project, a nationally-recognized social enterprise based in Denver, CO that provides transitional employment, while operating several manufacturing businesses, to women attempting to break the cycle of chronic unemployment and poverty. She is a former board member of Social Venture Partners-Denver, currently chairs the Board of Directors for the Social Enterprise Alliance and is a Fellow in the Royal Society for the encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce. Ms. Ryan was a speaker at TEDxMilehigh and is the author of The Third Law, a book which highlights the societal obstacles and internal demons that must be overcome for marginalized women to change their lives. The Third Law has won multiple awards for women/minorities in business and social activism.

Joelle Martinez

Joelle Martinez is a nationally respected, nonprofit executive, political strategist, and public affairs specialist. Joelle is currently the executive director of the Latino Leadership Institute at the University of Denver, which prepares professional and executive Latinos for higher roles of power and influence in Colorado.

Joelle has managed and consulted on political campaigns at the local and national level, working with the Colorado Democratic Party, Labor Council for Latin American Advancement and Voto Latino.

Joelle co-founded the Colorado Latino Forum and serves as a trustee for the Mile High United Way.

Sarah Rockwell

Sarah Rockwell is a partner in the law firm of Kaplan Kirsch & Rockwell.  Her practice emphasizes land use, real estate and public sector negotiations. Ms. Rockwell has represented both public and private sector clients in land use, real estate and municipal law issues associated with complex, small and large-scale development projects, including transit oriented development projects, airports and residential, industrial and commercial development projects.  She has prepared, negotiated and implemented agreements related to a variety of public/private sector development projects, has advised airports on land use compatibility issues and has counseled clients on endangered species issues.

Ms. Rockwell currently serves as President of the Board of the Winter Park Recreational Association and as Vice Chair of Denver Civic Ventures.  She also serves on the Downtown Denver Partnership Management Committee and has been involved with numerous Downtown Denver Partnership committees. She served on the Board of Directors of the Lowry Redevelopment Authority from 1998 to 2013 and was president of that board from 2012 to 2013.

A Denver native, Ms. Rockwell graduated from East High School.  She received her undergraduate degree from Stanford University and her law degree from Boston University.  She also holds a Master’s Degree in City Planning from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Holli Riebel

Holli Riebel is the chief operating officer for the Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce. A member of the Chamber team from 2003 to 2010, Riebel returned to the Chamber after serving as president and CEO of the Colorado BioScience Association (CBSA). As chief operating officer, Riebel directs the day-to-day business operations of the Chamber and its four affiliates and oversees the $13 million annual budget for the organization. In 2013 and 2014, Riebel led the extensive remodel of the Chamber building at 1445 Market Street. Riebel also helped launch the Denver Opportunity Youth Investment Initiative, collaborating with dozens of community partners to create connections among Colorado’s employers and youth in 2015.

Previously, Riebel worked as an economic developer for over 22 years, including seven years as the vice president of the Metro Denver Economic Development Corporation. During this time, she managed the coordination of over 60 metro Denver communities in their economic development efforts. In her position, she oversaw the U.S. Department of Labor’s Workforce Innovation and Regional Economic Development (WIRED) grant, a three-year, $15 million program that funded 26 organizations in creating public-private partnerships in the development of training programs for aerospace, bioscience, energy and IT industry sectors.

Before working at the Metro Denver EDC, Riebel was the vice president of the Jefferson Economic Council and worked in several other economic development capacities, including roles in the Colorado Office of Economic Development under Gov. Roy Romer’s administration, the South Metro Denver Chamber of Commerce’s Economic Development Group and the Columbia River Economic Development Corp in Vancouver, Washington.

Riebel received her Bachelor of Science degree in business from the University of Colorado. She currently serves on the Advisory Board for the University of Colorado Denver.

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