New Club 20 director assumes leadership role of Western Slope group

Bonnie Petersen
Bonnie Petersen oversees Club 20 as the new executive director of the Western Colorado advocacy group. (Business Times photo by Phil Castle)

Even before Bonnie Petersen officially began her duties as the new executive director of Club 20, she was busy learning more about the issues with which the Western Colorado organization is likely to become involved.

Petersen attended no less than 10 committee meetings over a span of two weeks to sit in on discussions about everything from national parks to health care exchanges to wilderness designations. She called it a “fire hose indoctrination.”

Petersen considers it part of her new job to facilitate such discussions. “My role is to listen to what’s going on and try to bring as many persons, as many views on the issue, to the table as possible.”

And while she’s new to that role, she draws on the experiences of a varied career and leadership positions with other groups to offer what she believes will be a good fit between responsibilities and abilities. “There are so many opportunities for Club 20 to make a difference in Colorado, and I’m just thrilled to be a part of that,” she said.

Club 20 is a unique coalition of businesses, individuals and government entities that advocates for the interests of the region on state and national levels.

The Club 20 executive committee announced that Petersen had been selected as executive director to succeed Reeves Brown. Brown joined the new administration of Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper as executive director of the Colorado Department of Local Affairs.

“We welcome Bonnie to Club 20. Her enthusiasm and passion for Club 20’s mission combined with her skill set will serve Club 20 well,” said Jeff Comstock, chairman of the Club 20 board of directors.

Petersen brings to the position experience as a public policy director for Qwest Communications, a role in which she worked with West Slope communities to access high-speed telecommunications. She’s also worked as a financial advisor, the owner and general contractor of a home construction firm and a certified energy rater.

In addition, Petersen has served chairwoman of the Grand Junction Area Chamber of Commerce and Grand Junction Economic Partnership boards as well as treasurer of the Home and Building Association of Northwestern Colorado. She’s been a member of Club 20 since 1988 and served for six years on its board of directors.

A native of Western Colorado, Petersen holds a bachelor’s degree in business administration from Mesa State College in Grand Junction.

Petersen said she’s looking forward to continuing what’s been a long history for Club 20 of bringing together diverse interests to work on common goals in Western Colorado. “We can do so many more things when we all work together.”

Club 20 was founded in 1953 to lobby for road improvements in the region. The organization subsequently has influenced policy on everything from water diversions to grazing fees.

Through regular trips to capitols in Denver and Washington, D.C., the group has developed influence that belies the comparatively few votes from a mostly rural region, Petersen said.

Even when Club 20 isn’t successful in changing policy, the group participates in the debate, she added. “Club 20 has done a very good job at saying, ‘This is an issue and we need a seat at the table.’”

Club 20 also plays a role in selecting elected officials on state and national levels, hosting debates that have become must-attend events for political candidates.

Petersen said many of the issues that prompted the creation of Club 20 remain just as important today, among them transportation funding and water management, but also economic development, energy, education and health care.

Access to public lands remains a key issue as well, she said, because so much of Western Colorado is comprised of public lands administered by the state and federal governments. Moreover, public lands are used for such diverse activities as recreation, energy production and livestock grazing — all important economic drivers in the region.

In fact, most of the issues Club 20 debates affect West Slope businesses, Petersen said, and the group works with chambers of commerce in the region on common goals.

Petersen said a number of issues were raised during the recent Club 20 committee meetings, including a proposal to turn the Colorado National Monument near Grand Junction into a national park, an order making millions of undeveloped acres of public lands eligible for federal wilderness protections, plans to redirect severance tax revenues to fill state budget caps and the creation of a health care exchange in Colorado.