Leslie Robinson, director of United Way, not afraid to be an outspoken advocate
Leslie Robinson may call herself a work in progress. But then, isn’t everyone? She may say she’s hopped around from job to job in her varied career. So who hasn’t.But Robinson, who is currently the director of United Way of Garfield County, has a richly deserved reputation for wearing a couple of well-known hats. She has been first and foremost an outspoken politico, a staunch member of the county Democratic Party. She’s sold advertising for almost every newspaper in the valley, some long gone from the scene.No matter the hat, Robinson, above all, is known for her outspoken ways.Robinson got her start in LaGrange Park, a suburb of Chicago. When it came time to pick a college her father urged her to choose one “where I can come visit you and ski.”So it was Colorado State University in Fort Collins. She graduated in 1974 with a degree in English, and minors in political science, journalism, skiing, guys and partying.While at school, she met Adrian Rippy, who lived in Glenwood Springs, and whose brother, Gregg, went on the become a well known local Republican and member of the state legislature.”Gregg still blames her for bringing me here and causing the Republicans problems,” she laughed.In 1974, fresh out of college, Robinson moved to Glenwood Springs and landed a job at the Red Garter Room in the Hotel Colorado.”I was part of the a big wave of Midwesterners who moved to the area at that time who were attracted to the small town atmosphere and lots of skiing, partying and men.”
In 1975, she took a job with the Free Weekly newspaper, an irreverent rag that folded in the early 1990s.Five years later, she went on to the Rifle Tribune, which faced off against the well-established Rifle Telegram. Two years later, the energy boom that had businesses in the county riding high for a few years went bust, and the Tribune folded.Robinson rode out the bust in a variety of jobs that took her through the 1990s, including stints in radio and television.In 1998, she was back in the newspaper business with the Glenwood Independent for a couple years until that paper bought out and merged with the Glenwood Post in 2000.Along the way, Robinson married Jim Bradford, the clerk of the combined courts for the Ninth Judicial District in Glenwood Springs.The couple, who have been married for 20 years, met in a bar. “I was dressed as Cleopatra,” she said. “He’s the aircraft carrier. No matter what storms come along he’s steady. I’m like a divebomber.”Robinson’s other hat, the one with the big donkey on the front for the Democratic Party, has also been conspicuous all these years.”I think it’s in my blood,” she said.Her grandfather was on the local city council and her father was involved in community organizations. Politics often dominated conversation at the dinner table.In the ’80s, Robinson worked on Kathleen Sullivan’s campaign. Sullivan, from Meeker, was defeated by former Glenwood Springs cop Scott McInnis in 1984.
Party politics became second nature.”I started out a precinct captain (in the county party) and worked my way up to second vice president (in the state party),” she said.She’s worked tirelessly campaigning for local and state candidates.Robinson also sees a bright future for Democrats in what has long been a conservative Republican county, especially during this time of economic growth driven chiefly by natural gas development.”We want to change things but we’re not here to stop energy development,” she said. “We want to make sure it’s done socially and environmentally correctly. We’re business friendly, but we want to make sure the little guy has a voice too.”Democrats are changing with the times, she said. “I don’t think you can pigeonhole us as tree huggers anymore. We’ve got a good cross section of folks involved (in the party).”Her democratic sensibilities also led her to her work in United Way.”So many people don’t have a voice, the poor, the disadvantaged,” she said. “I’m disappointed government has gotten away from helping those who can’t help themselves.”
Robinson’s latest crusade is guiding United Way in the county. After being at the helm for three years, she has found ways to reach out to non-profits.”I think I’ve helped to make it more purposeful,” she said.Through her fund-raising efforts she’s managed to raise about $100,00 a year, half of which goes to local charities and other nonprofits. She’d like to triple that amount.Over the last couple years she’s brought public attention to the need for heightened social services in the wake of the burgeoning oil and gas industry in the county which has brought new people into the county.Thanks in part to her efforts, the county commissioners have contracted for a socioeconomic impact study that will look at a number of industries and how they affect both the economy and the folks who live here.Robinson, the outspoken advocate, also appreciates the reception she’s received in the valley.”I feel fortunate to be in a small town … where people listen,” she said.Contact Donna Gray: 945-8515, ext. email@example.com
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