Institute for Excellence in Governance


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The Experts Behind the Institute

Debbie Brinkman, Director, IEG

Debbie Brinkman has over a decade of experience as a local elected official. She is serving her third term on the Littleton City Council and her second term as Mayor. She has twice been elected by her peers to serve as Mayor Pro Tem. Among her municipal work she has served on many municipal boards and committees including as an elected member for the board of directors for the Colorado Municipal League. Brinkman has twice received an invitation from Governor Hickenlooper to serve on state boards; Urban Drainage and Flood Control and Emergency Preparedness/Homeland Security.

Brinkman has a professional background in marketing and advertising and most recently running her own business focusing on organizational skills; including time management, system creation, process improvements and functionality enhancements. Her clients include school districts, corporations, and small businesses.

Brinkman has been recognized throughout her career as a visionary and a leader. She has highly honed skills in diplomacy as a result of leading various public meetings and initiatives involving citizens, business owners, city staff, and other stakeholders. As mayor she led numerous charrettes, planning initiatives, economic development symposiums, and worked collaboratively to create priorities and goals for city leadership. She has successfully worked regionally on initiatives to improve open space, transportation and economic development.

As a three time elected policy maker Brinkman understands the challenges and opportunities that come with the position. Bringing this experience and insight to IEG provides a rare opportunity for electeds to teach and share their boots on the ground experience with newly electeds.

Mike Dunafon, Mayor of Glendale

Mike Dunafon is the ninth Mayor of Glendale in its 60-year history. Prior to his election, Mayor Dunafon served as mayor pro tem for eight years and has been a member of the Glendale Planning Commission since 1999 and chairman since 2004.

A Colorado native, Mayor Dunafon has been a major player in initiating and shepherding the extraordinary 14-year transformation of the small City of Glendale into an entertainment capitol and internationally-known city. This transformation began when Dunafon first chaired the Strategic Planning Initiative in 1998. The Glendale citizens clearly sent a strong message: they wanted a new identity -- a more vibrant Glendale.

Co-founding the first Glendale Chamber of Commerce, Mayor Dunafon launched a full-time effort to collaboratively unite the residences and businesses of the city into a single vision.

Mayor Dunafon was instrumental in establishing a community-wide newspaper, “The Glendale News,” which subsequently became “The Glendale / Cherry Creek Chronicle,” currently mailed to 85,000 homes and businesses in the area.

With the mayor’s guidance, Glendale became the first city in the United States to adopt rugby as the sole and official sport of the city, and today Glendale is known as “Rugbytown USA.”

Dunafon has a B.A. from the University of Northern Colorado, where he lettered for four years and was part of the All-Conference team. He signed contracts to play with the Denver Broncos in 1976 and 1977. His rugby career began in 1978 with the British Virgin Islands RFC and continued until 1992. He has a USA Rugby Level 3 coaching certification.

Tim Gagen, past Town Manager, Breckenridge

Tim Gagen most recently served as Town Manager of Breckenridge and held that position for 16+ years. Tim was born on Long Island, New York. Beginning with high school, he started his gradual trek west attending high school in South Bend, Indiana and college at Wabash College in Crawfordsville, Indiana where he received his BA. It was in Crawfordsville after college that he began his 40+ year career in local government working as a manager or administrator of local governments in Indiana, Chicago suburbs and Colorado including Crawfordsville, IN, Lowell, IN, Hazel Crest, IL , Darien, IL and Commerce City, CO. During his Midwest days he obtained an MPA at Indiana University.

Tim has served as President of the Colorado Metro Managers Association, the Indiana Managers Association and the Colorado City and County Managers Association. He has also served on the Board of Directors of the Colorado Association of Ski towns (CAST), which addresses the unique issues facing Colorado mountain resorts including affordable housing, affordable childcare and seasonality of the resort business to name a few. Tim was also chair of a CAST subcommittee that addressed the VRBO problems in Colorado Mountain Resorts and the practices of the online travel company in resort rentals. Upon his retirement he was awarded the Life Time Achievement Award by the Colorado City and County Managers Association (CCCMA) and presently serves as a Senior Advisor for CCCMA and a part time consultant.

Keith Gardner, Past Council Member City of Centennial, Mayor Pro Tem, current Board President Littleton Fire Protection District

Keith was first elected to the City of Centennial’s City Council in 2008 and served two terms, ending in 2016. During his time on Council he was known for his energetic and passion for building (and re-building) relationships with special districts and other government agencies, as well as his love for ride-a-longs with City staff. Over his time on Council, he has worked with City service providers to fill pot holes, repair sidewalks, observe all aspects of the municipal court, seeing plowing operations first hand in City snowplows, observing Code Enforcement and Animal Services visits in the community and he has done numerious ride-a-longs with law enforcement and fire services.

Keith served as the City of Centennial’s liaison to Littleton Public Schools, South Metro Fire and Rescue, Littleton Fire Protection District, Cunningham Fire Protection District, the Aurora Defense Council, the Land Use Committee, Right of Way Committee and the Centennial Airport Community Noise Roundtable (Co-Chair and Outreach Chair), to name a few. He also has served as a board member for Meals on Wheels, Willows Water District, ACWWA (Arapahoe County Waste Water Authority), South Metro Safety Foundation and the Centennial Liquor Licensing Authority.

He also has served as a board member for Meals on Wheels, Willows Water District, ACWWA (Arapahoe County Waste Water Authority), South Metro Safety Foundation and the Centennial Liquor Licensing Authority.

When Keith is not out in the community, he is a Senior Software Quality Assurance Analyst.

Michelle Halstead, Director of External Affairs, Commerce City

Serves as member of the city's executive leadership team, with full management responsibility for assigned functions, services and activities, including the city clerk’s office and communications division. Provides planning, strategic direction and contract administration for city's voter-approved $144 million capital program management and projects. Leads city’s five-year capital planning and program development. Develops and implements the city's intergovernmental affairs, state and federal advocacy programs.

Communication and Government Affairs Director – Commerce City
Local Government Liaison – Colorado Department of Transportation 2007 - 2011
Masters in Public Administration from the University of Colorado
B.A. in Public Communication and Political Science from American University

Sam Light, General Counsel for the Colorado Intergovernmental Risk Sharing Agency

Sam Light is General Counsel for the Colorado Intergovernmental Risk Sharing Agency (CIRSA), a position to which he was appointed in August 2018. Mr. Light will be joining CIRSA in-house at the end of September and has been in private practice with the Denver law firm of Light Kelly, P.C. where he practiced for over twenty years in the areas of municipal and public entity law, and government liability and insurance issues. Sam has served as general and special counsel to a number of municipalities and other public entities throughout Colorado, and frequently provides training for municipal elected and appointed officials and staff. He is a graduate of the University of Colorado and Lewis and Clark Law School.

Skip Noe, former Aurora City Manager

George K. “Skip” Noe has been engaged in public service for over 40 years holding local government management positions in Texas and Colorado. After completing his Bachelor of Arts degree from St. Mary’s University in San Antonio, Texas and a brief stint as a high school social studies teacher, Noe began his public service career as an Administrative Assistant in the City Council Office in San Antonio. Over the course of the next 32 years, Noe would hold management positions with the cities of San Antonio, Texas; Kingsville, Texas; Fort Collins, Colorado, College Station, Texas and Corpus Christi, Texas including the City Manager’s position in Kingsville, College Station and Corpus Christi. Noe was selected to lead the City of Aurora after a nation-wide search. He was sworn in on December 20, 2010. As City Manager, Noe was responsible for overseeing the city’s $703 million budget and 2,979 full-time employees and managing the City’s day-to-day operations under Council direction. Currently Noe is Vice President of Administration/CFO at Aurora Community College where he is responsible for college facilities, information technology, security, and budget.

During his career, Noe has been involved in a number of significant programs including budget management, economic development, performance measurement, application of information technology, development and implementation of significant capital improvements and public-private joint ventures. He has been recognized at the state and national levels for the creative use of technology to improve services, the implementation of performance management systems and application of organizational values as the basis for cultural transformation.

Noe was named City Manager of the Year by the Colorado organization in 2013. He was the Aurora Chamber of Commerce 2014 Man of the Year. He has also been active with the Public Technology Institute.

He is married to the former Laura Spear Smith and has three grown children.

Cathy Noon, past Mayor, Centennial

Regional Service:

  • Chairwoman of the Metro Mayors Caucus
  • Arapahoe County Representative to DRCOG Advisory Committee on Aging
  • Arapahoe County Council on Aging
  • C-470 Coalition; I-25 & Arapahoe Road Coalition
  • Denver South Transportation Management Association - Board of Directors
  • Denver South Economic Development Partnership - Board of Directors
  • South Metro Denver Chamber of Commerce
  • Aurora Chamber of Commerce

City of Centennial Committees:

  • Centennial Next Advisory Committee
  • Budget, Audit, Investment Committees
  • Centennial Senior Citizen Commission
  • KPM Review Committee
  • Home Rule Charter Commission, Chair
  • Comprehensive Plan Task Force
  • Land Development Code Rewrite Advisory Team
  • Community Identity and Wayfinding Task Force
  • Streets at SouthGlenn Citizen Committee
  • Southeast Metro Coyote Management Task Force

The Noons have owned and operated Centennial Container, a corrugated box and packaging company, for 32 years. Cathy is also a Senior Manager for Community Resource Services, a special district and HOA management firm.

Jim Sanderson, past City Manager, Greenwood Village

Jim Sanderson is recently retired city manager for Greenwood Village, serving from 2005 through 2017 with an annual budget of $50 and 262 employees.

Ron’s current service to the community includes serving as chair, since September 2004, of the Arapahoe County Justice Coordinating Committee, which includes the District Attorney, Sheriff and Chief Judge of the 18th Judicial District, and the Board of County Commissioners. Ron also serves as the Village’s representative on the Board of the Denver Regional Council of Governments (DRCOG). Additionally, he represents Greenwood Village at the Metro Mayors Caucus.

Ron and his wife Margaret moved to Greenwood Village in 1988 as a result of his reassignment to the Air Reserve Personnel Center as its Staff Judge Advocate. He came from the Pentagon where he served as Associate Director of Civil Law of the Air Force Judge Advocate General’s Department.

Sanderson has a unique perspective based on his varying experience, which includes 35 years in local government management in law enforcement, public works and city management. He was director of public works in Greenwood Village for five years and police chief for five years.

Specifically, Sanderson was instrumental in creating a combined project between the Federal Transit Administration and the Federal Highway Administration to extend light rail to the southeast corridor and add highway lanes to Interstate 25. When building the Village Center world class office park and the Landmark distinctive residential and retail community, Sanderson led his team and worked with developers to ensure that materials and architecture met the highest quality of standards.

Bruce Stahlman, Past Council Member, Mayor Pro Tem and Current Planning Commission Chair Pro Tem, Littleton

Bruce was elected to Littleton City Council as an At Large representative in 2009 and 2013. He served as Mayor Pro Tem 2011-2013. Bruce’s principal focus on council was budget and financial issues such as: Refinancing the funding mechanism that paid for the construction of three buildings, saving the city close to $1 million; economic development including a marketing audit which led to council support for a new city web site; the Denver Water contract renegotiation; financial and technical issues surrounding the Littleton/Englewood Wastewater Treatment Plant; negotiations concerning the Littleton Fire and Rescue intergovernmental agreement; serving on the Audit Committee; and economic analyses of sustainability initiatives. After leaving City Council at the end of his term in 2015, Bruce was appointed to the Planning Commission where he presently serves as Chair Pro Tem.

Bruce Stahlman has served since 2006 as Chief Financial Officer of Arc Thrift Stores, a Colorado not-for-profit corporation with 1,650 employees, 27 stores, 1.2 million sq. ft. of lease space and more than $87 million of annual revenue. He has more than 35 years’ experience in domestic and international corporate finance in the energy and telecommunications industries. Stahlman earned a master’s degree in finance from Indiana University and a bachelor's degree in economics and management from Albion College. He is a registered Certified Public Accountant. Stahlman and his wife Kelly have one child Jay, a finance professional who lives with his wife Tsvety and their son Theo in Michigan.

Jon Stavney, Executive Director, Northwest Colorado Council of Governments

Jon is the Executive Director of Northwest Colorado Council of Governments, a regional organization with a variety of programs and services that represents nearly 30 municipalities and counties across the mountain resort region. His service as Town Manager in Eagle, as well as two terms as an Eagle County Commissioner and prior to those roles a decade on the Eagle town board when his day job was as a project manager building custom homes, each have been roles that inform his current position at NWCCOG. Jon has a son at Colorado State University and a daughter at Eagle Valley High School. His wife, Mary Ann has worked for Eagle County Schools since 1996. Jon is a champion for public service and good governance who is proud of many accomplishments that have benefitted from his leadership and strategic vision over the years. He is excited to be able to share that enthusiasm with others who have chosen public roles.

Heidi Williams, Mayor, Thornton

Heidi Williams is a Colorado Native and grew up in Brighton, Colorado. Heidi and her husband Toby married in 2001 and have three children (Michael, Chloe and Noah).

Mayor Williams owned a retail business in Thornton from 2004-2012. In addition to working in and owning a small business, she has served on many boards. She has since served as a Director on the Adams 12 Board of Education, Chair of the Thornton Revitalization Advisory Board, Brighton High School DECA Advisory Committee, Thornton High School DECA Advisory Board, ThornCreek Church and also served as Vice President of the Uniform Retailers Association Board. In addition to serving Thornton as the Mayor, Heidi currently sits on the following Boards:

  • Urban Flood and Drainage-Chair
  • Urban Flood and Drainage-Executive Committee
  • Metro Mayor's Caucus-Recent Past Chair
  • Metro Mayor's Caucus-Executive Committee
    - Homelessness and Hunger Committee
    - Water & Climate Committee
    - Transportation
    - Other committees as needed for regional issues
  • DRCOG (Denver Regional Council of Governments
    - Performance and Evaluation committee
    - Regional Transportation Comittee (Elected by Board)
  • CE-470-Vice Chair
    - Information Technology committee
    - Marketing and Communication Chair
    - Roadway and Operations Committee
  • Smart Commute North-Treasurer; North Area TMO (Transportation Management Organization)
  • NATA (North Area Transit Alliance)-Alternate

Mayor Williams recently graduated in May 2017 with a BS in Politcal Science and is continuing to work toward a Master's degree in Public Administration.

Marc Williams, Mayor, Arvada

Marc Williams was first elected as a Councilmember At-Large in November of 1999 and was re-elected twice to that seat. He was first elected Mayor in November of 2011, and re-elected in November of 2015.

Today Mr. Williams is a partner of the firm now called Helm, Less & Williams.

He was elected to the Executive Board of the Colorado Municipal League in 2006, 2008 and 2010, and served as President of the Colorado Municipal League in 2013-2014. He also served on the National League of Cities Policy Committee for Transportation and Infrastructure along with the First Tier Suburbs Committee. Marc was voted 2011 Elected Official of the Year by the Jefferson County Economic Development Corporation. In 2014, he received the Chairman’s Award from the Arvada Chamber of Commerce.

Mr. Williams is married to Luanne Williams, the Executive Director of the Rocky Mountain Children’s Health Foundation and the Mother’s Milk Bank, which is located here in Arvada. The Williams have four children and four grandchildren who share their passion for hiking, reading, cooking and burning marshmallows over campfires. The Williams also enjoy their “down” time with many miles on their tandem bike, golf, hiking and travel.