Retiring chamber exec hailed for advocacy, followup

Phil Castle, The Business Times

Jeff Hurd
Jamie Hamilton

One of Jeff Hurd’s favorite memories of Diane Schwenke involves her enthusiasm for the annual Grand Junction Area Chamber of Commerce banquets and the themes of those events — to the extent the usually staid chamber executive once dressed as Wonder Woman for a banquet with a superhero theme.

The costume was something of a metaphor, says Hurd, a lawyer who worked for Schwenke as a government affairs manager and later worked with her as chairman of the chamber board of directors. “Diane has been fearless for business.”

Jamie Hamilton, chairman and chief executive officer of Home Loan Insurance, has long worked with Schwenke in her roles with the chamber as well as the committee that runs the Junior College Baseball World series in Grand Junction.

Hamilton calls Schwenke aggressive — but in a good way. Moreover, she’s the kind of conscientious professional who follows her words with actions. “I’m very proud of what she’s done for the community.”

Hurd says Schwenke hired him in 2002 for his first job after graduating from the University of Notre Dame in running the government affairs program for the Grand Junction Area Chamber of Commerce.

Hurd subsequently earned a law degree from the University of Denver and master of laws degree from Columbia University in New York City. 

He returned to the Grand Valley in 2014 and now leads the Grand Junction office of the Ireland, Stapleton, Pryor & Pascoe law firm. He served as chairman of the chamber board of directors in 2017.

Hurd says Schwenke was both a great mentor and colleague.

She expects results, he says, and is impatient in a good way to achieve them as quickly as possible. Moreover, she’s not afraid to “mix it up” at the intersection of business and politics.

He says her legacy includes the passage of local ballot measures that earmarked funding for construction of the Riverside Parkway and increased the Grand Junction lodging tax to provide additional funding to promote commercial air travel, sports events and tourism.

Hamilton says he’s worked with Schwenke since she came to Grand Junction in her roles with the chamber as well as the Junior College Baseball World Series.

Hamilton says he admires Schwenke for her long tenure, ability to adapt and consistent followup.

Moreover, she has the ability to make people feel comfortable, he says. That includes the junior college coaches who come to Grand Junction for the World Series and JUCO Baseball Hall of Fame inductions. “That says a lot about her character.”