Oct 2, 2018
DENVER - The Denver Office of Economic Development (OED) has hired Colorado State Senator Irene Aguilar, M.D., as the director of Denver’s Neighborhood Equity and Stabilization Team (NEST). Announced by Denver Mayor Michael B. Hancock in his 2018 State of the City address, NEST is an impact team designed to better support residents and businesses facing significant changes to their neighborhoods. The team will deploy resources specifically tailored to neighborhoods at risk of displacement as new public and private investment comes in, as well as work to ensure that residents benefit from Denver’s prosperity and success.
“We’re taking an even stronger role in connecting people to opportunity, and we know how an equity-focused approach can change the game to blunt any threatened loss of culture, character and community,” Mayor Hancock said. “Senator Aguilar is a true community champion and an excellent pick to spearhead the important work of NEST and our commitment to working alongside longtime residents and businesses. She has an incredible record of shaping positive change for Denver residents, and we look forward to her being a driving force behind NEST.”
Aguilar will lead a citywide multi-disciplinary team, along with outside community partners, to shepherd public and private resources to targeted specific neighborhoods, with a focus on preserving character and culture throughout Denver’s communities.
“Senator Aguilar has the skills and commitment to build on the many efforts already underway by OED and other city agencies in assisting Denver families and businesses affected by the level of change and investment in our neighborhoods,” said Eric Hiraga, OED Executive Director. “We are all impressed with her focus on bringing many voices and ideas into the discussion, with an emphasis on action and support now.”
City departments participating in NEST include OED, Denver Human Services, Human Rights and Community Partnerships (HRCP), Department of Finance, Community Planning and Development, Department of Public Health & Environment and the Office of Children’s Affairs.
“I’m honored to serve as the city’s leader in collaborating with many organizations to ensure that equity and choice remain throughout all of Denver’s neighborhoods,” said Aguilar. “Throughout my career I have strived to meet people where they are, to listen, and to be a trusted advocate. NEST is a tremendously exciting and important initiative, and I look forward to serving the residents, businesses and neighborhoods of Denver.”
In support of NEST, the OED recently issued an RFP to select a contractor to develop an investment modeling tool to help better understand the impacts of public and private investments at the neighborhood level. To be completed in early 2019, the model’s real-time impacts assessment will help prepare the city and partners to identify displacement issues and proactively implement actions and programs to mitigate impacts.
Under NEST, the city plans to expand the number of financial empowerment and neighborhood resource centers to help connect residents in need with city services and support. Earlier this year Denver, through the lead of HRCP, launched the North Denver Resource Center in the Elyria-Swansea neighborhood, providing residents access to financial coaches, social services, housing resources, resources for citizenship, and small business assistance. Mayor Hancock’s proposed 2019 budget includes funds to replicate this resource center model at two additional locations in the Globeville and Montbello neighborhoods.
A Chicago native, Aguilar moved to Denver in 1985 for her residency training in Internal Medicine. She worked for 23 years as a Primary Care Physician for Denver Health and Hospitals and now serves on their board of directors. A State Senator for District 32 in southwest Denver since 2010, Aguilar has championed health care access, and has stood as a longtime advocate for people with disabilities and the immigrant community. She served on the Senate Committee on Health and Human Services, Judiciary and State Affairs Committees and the Health Benefit Exchange Review Committee. Aguilar is not seeking reelection due to term limits.
Senator Aguilar has been recognized by the Colorado Cross Disability Coalition, the National Association of Social Workers, the Colorado Non-Profit Association, the Colorado Medical Society, the Colorado Trial Lawyers, Easter Seals, and the Colorado Consumer Health Initiative. In 2015 she was awarded the American Medical Association’s Nathan Davis Award for Government Services. She was named one of the 25 most powerful women in Colorado by the Colorado Women’s Chamber of Commerce in January 2016.
Aguilar attended Washington University in St. Louis on scholarship and received her medical degree from the University of Chicago-Pritzker School of Medicine.