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Note: This is an interview I conducted with Colorado Springs Police Chief Pete Carey, who is an alumnus of Leadership Pikes Peak’s Signature Program. Since 1979, the Signature Program has taken experienced professionals from the public, private, and nonprofit sectors and helped prepare them for community leadership. Throughout the ten-month program, participants learn about the most important issues facing the Pikes Peak region, and meet and learn from the community’s most dynamic leaders.
Q: Which program with Leadership Pikes Peak did you attend, and what year was it?
A: It was the class of 2001, and it was the Signature Program. It was kind of cool; it was the very best class they ever had. [Laughs]. It was the number one class out of all the classes they’ve done. It was about one day per month for the better part of the year.
Q: How did you first hear about Leadership Pikes Peak?
A: The Colorado Springs Police Department had invested in the Signature Program with a lot of our staff officers before that, and a number of those came forward and let me know the benefits of it and what they got out of it as far as their careers and being someone that lived in the community.
Q: What was it about the program that made you decide to get involved?
A: The testimonials I received from other staff officers in the police department had some common threads. One of those common threads that impressed me most was: it gave people such a “global” picture of the city and its history that they didn’t have before. Even though they’d lived and worked here for years and years. I was interested in getting a global view of city government and a historical perspective [about] what happened in this city in the last 100-150 years.
Q: Did the program give you what you were looking for? What was your biggest takeaway from the program?
A: Absolutely. 12 or 13 years later, I still have well-established relationships with classmates of mine from back in ’01 that went on to become leaders in both for-profit and not-for-profit organizations. I still call those people and get calls from them. I was actually at a town hall meeting for the mayor a month or two ago, and a lady came up and said “Hi, do you remember me from Leadership Pikes Peak?” so I still value those relationships.
The best thing I learned from Leadership Pikes Peak is [the meaning of] the word stewardship. It was learning about people many years ago—and not so long ago—that have given amazing things to make the city better [after] they were long gone. They didn’t necessarily want credit for it, but they saw a need, and they were stewards of both [the] public trust and city dollars to make this a better place. That stuck with me, and to this day, when I prepare people in the police department for staff positions or higher responsibilities, I ask them if they’re familiar with and know the concept of stewardship. It’s a big deal to me, and I still look at some of the city’s founding fathers and what they did, not so much for the limelight, or for the profit, but for making this a better place. Twelve years later, that still resonates with me very strongly. I love that concept.
Q: Did you have a class project? Do you remember what it was?
A: We did, and I can’t recall what it was.. I know we had done some things at the Red Cross Shelter, but I don’t recall exactly what we did or how I was involved with it.
Q: After you completed the Signature Program, did you get involved in the community in a way you hadn’t before?
A: As a result of being involved with Leadership Pikes Peak, I volunteered for several community boards. Probably the most significant one is something called the “VALE Board” (Victims Assistance & Law Enforcement). [How it works is:] when someone, for example, gets a traffic ticket at county court or gets convicted of something [and pays a fine, the] money goes into a fund that helps directly with victim services.
It took me a couple of years to get on that board, but I like the idea of using that money to help our victims in our community. So I got involved with that victim’s board, and then, later on, I started a victim advocacy unit [in our police department] because I saw a lot of needs in the community that weren’t being met. There’s a lot of great victims programs out there, but through the police department, I realized that we can be doing better for our victims. I think that’s a direct result of seeing some things in Leadership Pikes Peak.
Q: Did you have any classmates that also took significant leadership positions in the community after the program?
A: Kurt Schroeder is a guy that I formed a pretty good friendship and lasting working relationship with. He’s the Operations Manager at Colorado Springs Parks, Recreation, and Cultural Services, and I enjoyed being with him during the program, and we still keep in contact and [we had] a common bond.
Until then, I’d never looked at the importance of having a relationship [between] the Police Department and the Department of Parks & Rec; through him, I learned about the front-end investment in some of our kids and youth in the community… [if we can] give them some place to go and some activities to do and a place to do it, maybe we won’t be seeing these kids in the court system and the police department later. I attribute that to Kurt Schroeder and Parks & Rec.
Q: As your role of Chief of Police, how would you explain to your police officers why they should go through the program?
A: I would tell them there’s so much you can learn about the history of this city that will make you a better police officer and a better person. You just have to broaden your horizons a little bit and take a global look at this community in order to be a good steward of this city. You need to invest in yourself and find out what was going on here before and learn about it.
Q: Do you have any final thoughts about why people should look into Leadership Pikes Peak’s Signature Program?
A: It’s a very worthwhile program, I would say that as a staff person in the police department, my time is really really precious, and I’m still struggling to get in 15-16 hours of quality time per day, and I would absolutely say that Leadership Pikes Peak was one of the best investments in myself and in the community I could have made in the past 15 years, and being someone that’s mindful of how precious time is, it’s well worth his time.
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This interview was originally shared in promotional materials, marketing campaigns, and donor reports at www.leadershippikespeak.org.