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Denver Water’s retiring chief lawyer honored for impact

Gov. Hickenlooper: “On behalf of the entire state, thank you Patti (Wells).”


Patti Wells’ retirement from Denver Water after 27 years as its general counsel is being noted far beyond the organization.

Gov. John Hickenlooper declared July 25 “Patti Wells Day” in honor of her impact statewide, signing a proclamation in her honor.

The proclamation and a flag flown over the state Capitol was presented to Wells on Wednesday at a meeting of the Denver Board of Water Commissioners.

Patti Wells accepts a proclamation from Paula Herzmark, president of the Denver Board of Water Commissioners, that was signed by Gov. John Hickenlooper, declaring July 25, 2018, Patti Wells Day in honor of her contributions statewide.

“You are a brilliant lawyer, dogged and persistent. But you’ve been more than a lawyer, you’ve been a partner to Denver Water’s leaders. It’s been a pleasure and an honor to watch you and all the difference that you’ve made to this organization,” said Paula Herzmark, president of the Denver Board of Water Commissioners.

The board meeting also saw the first airing of a video tribute (above) to Wells’ career at Denver Water, highlighting her work on the Colorado River Cooperative Agreement and Colorado’s Water Plan.

In the video, Hickenlooper said people throughout Colorado appreciate the work Wells has done.

Wells’ last day at Denver Water is Aug. 31, following a transition period during which she’ll serve in an advisory role. Jessica Brody will start as Denver Water’s new general counsel on Aug. 7.

The proclamation highlighted Wells’ efforts in:

  • Providing “faithful and wise counsel” to Denver Water since 1991 and before that to the city of Denver as its city attorney and deputy city attorney.
  • Furthering statewide cooperation over Colorado’s scarce water resources via the development of Colorado’s Water Plan while she served on the Colorado Water Conservation Board.
  • Leading negotiations that resulted in the groundbreaking Colorado River Cooperative Agreement “that brought together both sides of the Continental Divide and resolved longstanding challenges.”
  • Transforming Denver Water “into a progressive organization with her deep understanding of the history and the law.”

“It’s hard to put into words what Patti has meant to Denver Water — her influence, her work ethic, her passion for the work we do and the people we work with both internally and externally. We wish you all the best,” said Denver Water CEO Jim Lochhead at the board meeting.

Patti Wells, who is retiring from her post as Denver Water’s general counsel, and Jim Lochhead, CEO of Denver Water.

Wells served as general counsel for Denver Water since 1991, the first woman to hold that title. Prior to that, Wells served Mayor Federico Peña as Denver’s first female city attorney. Wells currently serves as a governor-appointed member on the Colorado Water Conservation Board (since 2013), and also served from 1995 to 2001.

“Being able to make a difference means a lot to me and you can do that here. It’s been great and — to everyone — thank you,” Wells said at the meeting.

“She is really the heart and soul of this organization,” Lochhead said in the video, crediting Wells and former Manager Chips Barry for guiding a transformation of the organization’s approach to working with partners across Colorado.

“The new way of doing things is to be a collaborator, a partner, to protect the interests of Denver Water — and particularly our customers and our ability to serve our customers — but do it in a way that recognizes outside interests. To recognize that we’re dealing with people,” Lochhead said.

Hickenlooper, in the video, credits Wells for her ability to bring people together.

“When people got frustrated or irritable, she was the person who could smooth over the ruffled feathers and get people back to looking at their shared values,” he said.

Read the full proclamation here.