Friday, May 3, 2013

Remembering Paul Ryan at the Denver Zoo

Location: 2900 East 23rd Avenue, Denver, CO 80205, USA
The Denver Zoo Toyota Elephant Passage exhibit
From left: Nederland Mayor Joe Gierlach,
Denver Zoo 
VP for Marketing & PR Ana Bowie,
Denver Director of Regional Affairs, Paul Ryan,
Environmental Mycologist Wendy Monroe

photo by Catherine Marinelli
Citizens in the Nederland region have always valued our individuality. Not only are we geographically separated by a 3,000 foot elevation gain, but also in public perception and culture. Past mayor's and administrations have taken the approach of rejecting to participate in regional efforts in an attempt to maintain our particular lifestyle. 

It's a catch 22, because in order to maintain local control, I have to participate in regional efforts – or perhaps more accurately, navigating the fine line of when we need to act as a region, and when to accentuate our unique characteristics as a municipality.

So as a mayor representing our community, I decided that I would attend everything that mayor's get invited to, even if it doesn't effect our town directly. As it turned out, everywhere I went, I ran into Paul Ryan. This is because Denver Mayor Hancock gave Paul the same mission as Denver's Director of Regional Affairs. Mayor Hancock selected the perfect guy for the job, whereas I'm pretty much stuck with myself.

I expected these regional meetings to include savvy politicians with their own agendas. Paul was one of the first people to welcome me years ago. I saw he was a person of deep character and integrity. I never felt like Denver was dominating, or exerting its self-evident influence. He recognized that the unique nature of Nederland enhanced the richness of the region as a whole.

One of the more interesting events was a presentation by the Scientific and Cultural Facilities District (SCFD) at the Denver Zoo and a tour of the new Toyota Elephant Passage exhibit. To quote the Zoo, "One of the most exciting components of Toyota Elephant Passage is the use of a biomass gasification system, which can turn human trash and animal waste into energy to power the exhibit. The gasification system converts more than 90 percent of the zoo’s waste into usable energy. Biomass gasification is a clean, environmentally-friendly technology that has been in use for decades, but has never been used for such a diverse waste stream ranging from human trash to animal waste."

As a general rule, I don't normally go to zoos, but the gasification technology was fascinating, and I had a great conversation with Paul that day. Another catch-22, putting animals in cages, in order to educate the public, in order to realize the need to save wildlife. In Nederland we have, wildlife all around us. The Nedheads Facebook Page is graced with our residents' photos tracking elk, moose, bears, the elusive black fox, and most recently a mountain lion and her cubs. Who need's a zoo?

Paul suddenly died last week, and it has taken a while for it to sink in for me. His birthday would have been yesterday, and he is my age. The Denver Post covered the story: Paul Ryan, Denver's Director of Regional Affairs, dead at 49.

At the zoo, we joked about Paul Ryan, the vice presidential candidate, as opposed to the 'good' Paul Ryan from Denver. As I describe in the Chapter 28 Conundrum, it is so hard to find good people willing to participate in government, and Denver had one of the best. Here is a write-up by Sam Mamet, CML Executive Director: Municipalities Matter: One of the Good Guys.

One of the many comments by my colleagues reflects my attitude, "We will all miss his smile, his warm greeting, his cheerful nature, and calm problem-solving." My sympathies and thoughts are with his family.

[Here is a Video Valediction] For Paul and the elephants, here is Nederland local band, Elephant Revival performing Remembering a Beginning[What is a Video Valediction?]

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