April 8, 2016

Sandi Elder, Greeley City Council

2016 Women of Distinction - Government, Energy and Utilities

One description of Sandi Elder’s character keeps coming up: She knows how to listen. 

As a Greeley City Council member for a population that’s flirting with 100,000, listening is a big part of the job — so the skill gets put to the test often.

Elder described her role with the city of Greeley as one that calls for a lot of multi-tasking. “You’d like to say that a successful day is measured by completion of tasks,” she said, “but really, if I can finish the day and have listened and understood someone’s plight or concern or what’s important to them, that’s really what it is.”

Being able to listen and keep the conversation moving forward sometimes can be a challenge, but Elder is known for keeping the two actions in balance.

“One of Sandi’s greatest skills is her ability to work through issues and differences that cause organization to come to a standstill,” said Greeley Chamber of Commerce president Sarah MacQuiddy, who refers to Elder as a builder who listens. “The relationships with area governmental agencies has improved due much to Sandi’s ability to work through issues.”

Two years ago, the city took a delegation to Kalamazoo, Mich., with the goal of idea generation around developing a community excellence program. Takeaways included a decision that a hotel in downtown Greeley would, among other things, spur economic development, according to MacQuiddy.

“Sandi embraced that and wanted to take it further,” she said, adding that Elder never backs away from something once she’s sunk her teeth into it.

“When leaders state why they’re doing what they’re doing, you listen, even if it’s controversial,” MacQuiddy said. “Sandi will reach out to any group or individual to get the information that’s needed rather than making a decision hers alone.”

On April 5, the decision to build the hotel passed city council, and ground officially was to be broken this month.

MacQuiddy said another of Elder’s strong points is that “she is accessible to the citizens of Greeley — an important trait that sometimes can be forgotten.”

Elder sees the trait as mandatory in her role. “One of the biggest issues on the table right now is around oil and gas,” she said. “I work as a liaison for residents who are concerned about rigs going up as well as to help people understand the issues.”

What helps her is to remember the importance of not having a personal agenda so she can hear all sides.

Greeley City Manager Roy Otto recalled his first observation of Elder when she was a member of the Human Relations Commission and giving a presentation during a city council work session. He described the scene as covering “a particularly testy issue” and Elder as the recipient of harsh reactions.

“She responded with such grace,” he said, “that I found myself praying, ‘I sure hope she becomes a councilwoman someday.’”

Jerry Garner, Greeley’s chief of police, described Elder’s devotion to her duties with the city council as “unsurpassed by anyone I have witnessed in my nearly 47 years in public service.

“I have noted that her peers often defer to her well-reasoned and thoughtful positions,” he said. “ I believe that this support is strengthened by her demonstrated courtesy and openness to the opinions and feelings of others.”

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