What inspires a person to lead – to stand up and act?
While the journeys of the 2020 9NEWS Leader of the Year finalists are different, what Luis Benitez, Jerome Davis and Tasha Jones have in common is a desire and a drive to make the community stronger.
Voting is now open to select the 9NEWS Leader of the Year. As leaders in the community, Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce members, as well as Denver Metro Chamber Leadership Foundation alumni and B:CIVIC members, have the task of deciding who will be the next 9NEWS Leader of the Year.
Get to know each of our finalists:
Tasha Jones is driven to help people get closer to their dreams. And she does that by leveraging her network to create more connections for good across the community. The senior director of marketing and community relations for Brookfield Properties has spent much of her time in the community empowering girls and women through organizations like Big Brothers Big Sisters of Colorado, The Challenge Foundation and Colorado “I Have a Dream” Foundation, among others.
“My heart beats for people,” Jones said. “I just have this fundamental belief that I’m here to be of service to others.”
Jones credits listening as the key to helping others – and it’s in understanding someone’s story, their hopes and their drives that allow her to create meaningful connections. From offering connections to a waitress who she learned had been laid off from a research job to a years-long mentorship of a young woman, she is always looking for ways to get to know others, and how she can help.
Jerome Davis leads from behind the scenes, creating a big impact. The regional vice president of Xcel Energy – Colorado is the visionary behind Xcel’s Day of Service, which has contributed more than 71,000 volunteer hours from 24,000 people across Colorado over the last nine years.
He’s passionate about promoting our state as a destination for events like the World Cup, and he gives his time to countless organizations, including the Colorado Health Foundation, the Metro Denver Economic Development Corporation and VISIT DENVER.
“It’s all about serving others,” Davis said. “When you think about civic leadership, it’s not about the individual, it’s about the community. It’s about we.”
Growing up in Park Hill, his parents instilled a strong sense of engaging in the community, from his father’s military service to his mother’s volunteerism at their church.
“When you go out and put a hand out there – and it’s not a hand out, it is a hand up – it’s unbelievable the impact you can have on people’s lives,” Davis said.
Luis Benitez works to connect people to the outdoors – no surprise given that he comes from family of mountaineers and outdoor retailers.
But it was while on a mountaineering trip to Tibet that he saw Chinese soldiers attack Tibetan refugees. Sharing what he witnessed effectively ended his mountaineering career, but it opened a new door to advocacy that he has brought to the public and private sectors as Colorado’s first director of Colorado’s Outdoor Recreation Industry Office and today as vice president of government affairs and global impact for VF Corporation.
“Learning you could really focus on a life of service as well as being passionate about the things that keep you outside and allow you to be outside … For me the focus was coming together to serve the common good through engagement with the outdoors,” Benitez said.
He engages in the community through Adventures Academy, Soldiers to Summits and Trekking for Kids.
Want to see the 9NEWS Leader of the Year named live? Join us for the Leading Colorado luncheon on March 12 at the Colorado Convention Center. Not only will you get to hear from these incredible leaders, but proceeds from the event support the Leading Colorado Scholarship Fund, which ensures people of all sectors can participate in the Leadership Foundation’s programs and enhance their impact in the community.
Sara Crocker is the communications manager for the Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce.