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20 Under 40: Alexis Kimbrough values listening with communication

Working as Grand County’s communications coordinator, as well as chairing the county’s 2020 Census Count, Alexis Kimbrough didn’t expect to have to navigate the COVID-19 pandemic on top of her daily duties. However, she was quick to jump into the fray by becoming the co-spokesperson for the county’s COVID-19 response team.

Her nomination notes that she’s dedicated not just to her job, but to her community.

“She has become an essential part of our community and her compassion for Grand County shows in everything she does,” Kimbrough’s nomination said.

In her first year on the job, Kimbrough redesigned the county’s website, logo, internal newsletters and began the process of building and implementing a new visual identity. She also continues to helm the county’s census efforts.

What made you choose to live and work in Grand County?

My mom and my stepfather moved here when I was in college, so when I graduated, it was like I could stay in Oklahoma or I could move to this beautiful area. It was kind of a no-brainer for me. I moved to be closer to them, because … it’s really important to me to be near my mom.

Where do you see yourself in 10 years?

I would love to see where government positions take me. I really enjoy being on the (COVID-19) incident management team because it’s helping people. But I guess I don’t have an end point because I’m more the person who rides the wave and takes opportunities when they come.

How has COVID-19 changed the way your industry does business?

I work more than I previously did. I’m constantly sifting through orders and laws and helping to simplify and explain them. The most challenging thing is that people interpret things differently and every person receives information differently, so utilizing as many methods and interpreting it in as many ways as possible is either the ultimate challenge or the dream.

Who is your hero and why?

Definitely, my mom. She didn’t have the best childhood, divorced my dad when I was very young, didn’t go to college, yet raised my brother and I, all while working. She worked her way up to the vice president of a bank, all without a degree, just really hard work, while being a single mom. When my mom got sick, it never affected who she was as a person or her character. That’s the one thing my mom instilled in me, it will never matter who you are or what you look like if you don’t have the character to back it up. My stepdad would probably be a close second, because at times, he would work three jobs to make ends meet.

What advice or encouragement would you offer a young professional trying to make it in the county?

To listen. Communication is not all about telling. If I was not to listen, I could communicate the entirely wrong thing. That’s definitely the No. 1 thing.

20 Under 40: Brett Gingery brings generosity, entrepreneurship to Grand

With a presence in several industries in Grand County, Brett Gingery is known for his entrepreneurial skills and efforts to enhance the community.

He has several local businesses, including United Country Gingery and Associates Real Estate and Tabernash Honey Co., with his nomination noting “Brett can pretty much do it all.”

Beyond his businesses, Gingery also works to build his community by lending a hand to whoever asks. “Just as importantly, even with all of his ventures and a very busy schedule, Brett volunteers for the Shining Stars Foundation and always finds time to help a neighbor in need,” his nomination said.

What made you choose to live and work in Grand County?

I’m going on fourth generation in the county. I’m originally from Heeney, but when it’s nice in Grand County, there’s nowhere nicer. The community has offered so many opportunities for me to further myself. It’s just such a tight knit group of people. People recognize who you are, what you’re doing and when you do good work, it gets recognized. If you don’t, there are people who will help you do better.

What kind of future do you see for your industry in the high country?

Real estate in Grand County is only going to become more desirable, being the last mountain valley with close proximity to Denver. Beekeeping, I don’t see that going out the window because people love and need honey. I just see our county becoming more desirable.

If there were one thing you could change, what would it be and why?

I would like to see more opportunities for women. I feel like without any industries or manufacturing, it’s hard for women to make a living in Grand County. I see the wages compared to men who are in construction or plowing or running heavy equipment, I feel like for women it’s harder in our county.

What do you like to do in your spare time?

I volunteer for Shining Stars a lot. The geology of Grand County is just fascinating. We have everything from precambrian granite to the Morrison Formation, so the rock hunting is just unbelievable. Same thing with archeology. There are so many neat Native American sites. Not to mention just the natural beauty of the county when hiking.

20 Under 40: Donnie Ransom’s service raises the bar

Serving in several positions for the Fraser Winter Park Police Department in his eight years there, Cmmr. Donnie Ransom is well-known by his community, often on a first-name basis, thanks to his dedication and positive attitude.

Ransom worked his way up from detention deputy for the Grand County Sheriff’s Office to Commander and Assistant Chief of Police at the FWPPD.

“One of Donnie’s greatest attributes is the fact that he is the epitome of a servant leader,” his nomination said. “He always puts the needs of others in front of his own, often sacrificing his own personal time and comfort to ensure that the needs of others are taken care of. Further, Donnie’s positive attitude and desire to serve inspires those around him to be better, thereby raising the bar for everyone he knows.”

On top of his work with the police department, Ransom also serves as a logistics officer for the county’s COVID-19 response team and tactical commander for Grand County’s multi-jurisdictional Emergency Response Team.

What made you choose to live and work in Grand County?

I’ve lived in Grand County pretty much my whole entire life. Most of the time I spent in the military, I was stationed on the east coast in North Carolina, so when I graduated I missed the mountains and the community. I moved back here in 2009 after completing active duty.

Where do you see yourself in 10 years?

I hope I’m still here in Grand County, working as a leader in law enforcement.

Who is your hero and why?

The way I would word it is mentors that I look up to, so obviously my mom and dad. They’ve always been supportive. Also, some of the biggest mentors that I’ve had since I started working law enforcement are Chief Trainor and Chief Kraker in Granby because they’ve really done a lot to help me out and give me good advice and guidance. At the sheriff’s office, Sheriff Schroetlin, the undersheriff and Lt. Rau, who worked with us and was my partner for a long time, he’s just a wealth of knowledge.

What advice or encouragement would you offer a young professional trying to make it in the county?

One of the most frustrating things for me when I was trying to get this job is I put in for a bunch of places and it just seemed like it took forever to get a call back or to get hired. After working the recruiting, it just is not a fast process, so I would encourage them to just not give up on it. Be prepared to wait and be persistent.

20 Under 40: Alex Taft is Grand County’s development guy

Alex Taft has become the man to go to when someone has questions about subdividing land or planning a housing development in Grand County.

Robert Davis, director of Community Development for the county, said that Taft has become the office expert on Colorado laws and regulations regarding subdivision, zoning and water.

“He presents information well, and I see him as being a leader in Grand County,” Davis said in Taft’s nomination.

Citizens often seek Taft’s expertise on these complicated topics in a growing community, and he always gives clients his full attention as he helps them through the process.

What made you choose to live and work in Grand County?

It happened sort of by accident, really. My wife went to high school here, and she wanted to move back up to the mountains. I was looking for jobs and came across the opportunity in Grand County.

Where do you see yourself in 10 years?

In ten years, I think I still see myself in the planning field, either as a senior planner or director of some department. At this point, I’m not sure if that will be in Grand County or even Colorado, just wherever it happens to take me.

What kind of future do you see for your industry in the high country?

I think there are always problems with land use and development, especially in these rural counties as we see growth in Colorado. They’re going to go through significant change. I think it’s import to be able to navigate that and maintain character.

How has COVID-19 changed the way your industry does business?

I would say that the pace of things has changed a little bit, but we’re still doing the same work.

If there were one thing you could change, what would it be and why?

One significant thing that would make a difference in Grand County would be having more affordable housing or rental housing choices. That way we can have the additional staff I think everybody struggles with.

What do you like to do in your spare time?

I spend a lot of my spare time working on our house and in our yard attempting to grow somewhat of a garden — which is difficult in the High Country. Time away from home is spent hiking, mountain biking or skiing.

What advice or encouragement would you offer a young professional trying to make it in the county?

I would say that perseverance is key in making it in Grand County. I think if you figure out what you want to do, put your head down and get into it, then that will help you thrive.

20 Under 40: Emily Hagen helps business community weather COVID-19

Emily Hagen is making a tremendous difference as the executive director of the Grand Lake Chamber of Commerce, and she’s doing it at a time when the coronavirus has shaken the business community.

Hagen stepped in as interim director in February 2019 before taking the job as executive director. She just celebrated her 34th birthday on Memorial Day, a day on which she climbed a ladder to live stream the town’s remembrance ceremony. Since Hagen joined the chamber, it also has hosted live Facebook forums for candidates in the town’s municipal elections. Even more importantly, Hagen was nominated for her “tireless work” to help the devastated business community find solutions during the COVID-19 closures.

What made you choose to live and work in Grand County?

I came up with my family about five years ago as a temporary resident. When it came time to move on, we just couldn’t bring ourselves to leave. I always tell people that we came on accident, we stayed on purpose and it’s the best choice we’ve ever made.

How has COVID-19 changed the way you have to do business?

If anything the COVID-19 pandemic has shown me how resilient and giving our community is. It’s changed the way I’ve done business, where a lot of our summer plans have been altered, and I’ve taken a much more heavy hand in helping businesses through this time with creative avenues and support systems.

But really, I’ve taken some time to reflect on this and I’ve seen a lot of growth in my personal and business relationships because we’re helping each other through the hardships. I don’t think that relationship growth would happen without going through this together.

It’s going to continue to change. We need to stay relevant and we need to evolve because I don’t think anyone knows exactly how this going to play out. I think our community is flexible, and we’re going to come out of this stronger.

Who is your hero and why?

My brothers, Thomas and Alexej, they were just wildly fun to grow up with. They were my biggest encouragers and a huge support system growing up. They continue to serve their country, and they do it with so much love for the people that they care about. I will always be thankful for siblings that make me feel like I can do anything.

What advice or encouragement would you offer a young professional trying to make it in the county?

I would tell them to lean into the community, volunteer with the elementary school, show up on town cleanup day and this summer ask a business if they need help. We lived here for four years before I got involved with the community, and I just look back and I think, ‘Wow, our lives have been so enriched just getting involved.’ I suggest that anyone who wants to put down roots, that’s where you start.

20 Under 40: Love propels Andrew Lussie’s glass blowing career

Andrew Lussie is driven by his love of art, of skiing and of life. Opening a glass blowing studio and gallery had been a longtime dream of Lussie’s. In December, Lussie and his business partner opened 39 Degrees North Gallery.

“Andrew’s passion for glass as a medium of artistic expression is inspirational and will continue to connect people from all walks (of life),” his nomination said.

While the COVID-19 pandemic has meant operations have had to be altered for the young business, Lussie continues to pursue his passions with a contagious enthusiasm.

What made you choose to live and work in Grand County?

We moved to Grand County a little more than 10 years ago on a whim. We had a few friends here and we decided to try it out. When we got here, we decided we’d never leave.

Where do you see yourself in 10 years?

If I can just keep blowing glass and spreading art, that’s all I need to make me happy. I love making new artwork and new glass. That’s the world to me. If I can just keep doing what I’m doing now, I’d love that in 10 years.

What kind of future do you see for your industry in the high country?

I see a bright future for our industry. Something that’s happening in some other mountain towns that are a little bit bigger or more established than us, they’re bringing more art to their community. That’s something we could use a little bit more of here.

With our business being so new, I’ve seen such a great reaction from locals and tourists. I’ve seen a lot of excitement for more arts. More arts people are coming out and showing what they have to offer. I didn’t realize how many awesome artists were in the area until we opened our business. Every community needs an art outlet in their community. It’s nice to see that’s happening here.

How has COVID-19 changed the way your industry does business?

Since we’re such a new shop, it was definitely kind of tough to open the doors in December and a few short months later have to shut down and close up everything. We’re adapting really well. Something that’s really great about the internet is that it brings the whole word to your small little town. We’re finding ways to be creative and still do business. We’re developing some virtual shows to have artists be able to show their work and have collectors and art appreciators be able to see the work.

You have to be willing to adapt to reach the people who want to see these things. If you play the right moves, you can still reach the right people.

Who is your hero and why?

I have so many heroes; it’s hard to choose. My wife, my mom, I have artists that are my heroes. It’s just such a tough one to really nail down. My heroes are the people who are passionate for what they do every day, and they’re supportive too. To me, that’s a huge inspiration.

Every single person, we’re humans and we’re not perfect. We all go through our tough times and to have those people who support you, that’s just amazing. When I see other people supporting others, supporting someone’s artwork or craft, to have someone supporting you — that’s a hero. They give you that spark of fire. It makes you want to go harder.

My heroes are everyone out there that really support others, who are passionate about what they do, and are just all around positive people. There’s so many unsung heroes.

What do you like to do in your spare time?

I like to ski. I’m a backcountry skier. Being on the skin tack is like my church. It can quiet my mind. I love the uphill too. To me it’s all about skiing. I have two malamutes so I love taking my dogs skiing with me. Skiing is my number one fun thing to do.

What advice or encouragement would you offer a young professional trying to make it in the county?

Embrace your mistakes. Too many people tend to really get too hard on themselves about their mistakes, thinking about the negatives but never the positives. Making mistakes is learning and knowledge is power. Embrace your mistakes and push yourself. If I hadn’t pushed myself beyond the brink of no return, I wouldn’t be here where I am today.

Get those dreams locked in and don’t take no for an answer. Don’t let those little things in the middle of the road get in your way. Those things are temporary. They’re there to teach you something. Without making mistakes, you won’t grow.

20 Under 40: Working alongside his family, Ryan Mowrey keeps Grand County geared up

Ryan Mowrey is a local product, having grown up in Fraser and graduated from Middle Park High School before starting a life for him and his young family in Grand County. Even better, the community has benefited greatly from all his dedication, volunteerism and hard work.

Mowrey works with his wife and his mom full time at Epic Mountain Sports, a locally owned, family run business in Winter Park that keeps customers geared up for the slopes and in the seat. He’s also a volunteer with East Grand Fire and deputy liaison officer with Grand County’s COVID-19 response team. While Mowrey said he wants to do more traveling, Grand County will always be his home base and he doesn’t see him or his family going anywhere anytime soon.

What made you choose to live and work in Grand County?

I am one of the lucky ones who grew up here. My dad is from Jersey. My mom’s from Texas. They were living in Texas in the early ’80s, had gone skiing and it was way too far to drive, so they moved to Colorado. We lived in Evergreen in 1990. In 1999, it still wasn’t close enough and they made the bump over the hill.

Where do you see yourself in 10 years?

Still in Grand County. Growing up here, going to school here, it was an amazing place to grow up. There are so many different activities. I like knowing everyone, so in 10 years I hope to be here raising my son here.

If there were one thing you could change, what would it be and why?

It would be awesome to add just a little more to our summers up here. Little bit more biking, little bit more camping. We’d have to give up a little of our early and late ski season, which isn’t all that great anyway. I still love winter, but I could use a little more summer.

Who is your hero and why?

It would be both my parents. They were just amazing parents. They raised me and gave me such great opportunities and support.

What advice or encouragement would you offer a young professional trying to make it in the county?

Work a lot of different jobs and be an employee that someone would want to hire. After that, networking is really important. Find something that you’re passion about, that you love, and make connections in that circle. If you love what you’re doing and you’re surrounded by other people that are like-minded and driven, you won’t have to work a day in your life.

20 Under 40: Bailey Ludwig makes nutrition education palatable

Bailey Ludwig’s position as a nutrition program specialist at Mountain Family Center has been ideal for the young professional.

Her innovation, creativity and flexibility in her job have not gone unnoticed by the nonprofit family resource center.

“Bailey is a pioneer in bringing nutritional education to the youth of Grand County,” her nomination said. “Her compassion, insight and knowledge of child development and nutrition pair perfectly to bring her success in making nutrition information palatable for a very young audience.”

What made you choose to live and work in Grand County?

I’ve been coming to Grand County for a while. My parents had a place in Granby when I was growing up. Right after I graduated from college, I got an email from the registered dietitian for Mountain Family Center. I like working with kids and doing nutrition so it seemed like the right opportunity for me.

What kind of future do you see for your industry in the high country?

What I really enjoy about working with Mountain Family Center, since they’re a food bank and family resource center, is helping people and educating people. Getting kids nutrition information really early is important. Learning how to cook is a big one. I would say having programs up here to help people, increasing those programs and their reach.

How has COVID-19 changed the way your industry does business?

Mountain Family Center as a whole is still open. We have been serving the community through our food bank and through our programs with rent and utility assistance. I personally used to go into schools and teach cooking programs. Obviously I’m not doing that any more. I’m not interacting with families or children as often. I’m still helping the community and just working to get people food and resources when everything is unpredictable. Everything’s the same, but also very different. It’s been upped a bit and we have to adapt to different ways of doing everything.

Who is your hero and why?

I would have to say my parents. They’re my heroes just because they’ve raised me. They taught me how to be kind and successful, work hard and things like that. They would be the people I’d look to first.

What advice or encouragement would you offer a young professional trying to make it in the county?

I would say just connect with the community and really getting to know people. Be immersed in your community and understand Grand County.

20 Under 40: Ray Thurston’s father taught him well

Ray Thurston is a master electrician and co-owner of R&R Ink, a local electrical services company that’s been a family run business for 34 years and counting.

Thurston grew up in Grand County, learning his trade at 7 years old while working alongside his dad. According to his nomination, not only are Thurston’s work ethic and 24 years of experience invaluable assets, he’s also volunteered with the Grand Fire District for 19 years.

Additionally, he has retired from being an active member of the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association after competing as a bull rider, and he is the father of two young girls.

Where do you see yourself in 10 years?

I see myself here in Grand County, raising my family and getting my kids through school while keeping our business running at full steam.

What kind of future do you see for your industry in the high country?

For the industry, it’s growing 100%. I’m always looking for licensed employees to come and help me out. The demand for electricians is rising in this county because most people, let’s be honest, want to move away from heavily populated areas. It’s only going to populate this county more so demand is going to grow.

How has COVID-19 changed the way your industry does business?

The work is the same. We still have to go to the job. We still have to pull the wire. We still have to do the work the same way. There’s no computer or robot that can do our work right now so that part hasn’t changed.

Now, working with clients, of course that’s totally different. You got your social distancing. There’s no more handshakes. I grew up shaking people’s hands — that’s part of agreeing to a contract half the time. Shaking the hand is probably the biggest thing for me.

If there were one thing you could change, what would it be and why?

I would like to see more affordable housing. That is part of our problem getting employees here.

Who is your hero and why?

My father, 100%, Ron Thurston. He taught me a trade. I’m able to raise my family off this trade. His work ethic inspired me and just the way he’s always treated other people; I’ve always looked up to my father that way.

20 Under 40: Beau Janes builds up his community at Alpine Lumber

As a manager at Alpine Lumber, Beau Janes has worked hard to both serve his community and support the construction industry in Grand County. Through it all, his character is unshakable.

“He is respectful, fair, hardworking and dedicated to serving others,” his nomination said. “He is a servant leader, which is rare these days. Nothing is below or beneath for Beau to do. He is willing to help, come alongside or empower others in various endeavors.”

What made you choose to live and work in Grand County?

With Alpine Lumber, I’ve lived in a few different mountain towns including Steamboat and Eagle because of a management program with them. So, I moved up for the job.

What kind of future do you see for your industry in the high country?

At least in Grand County, I think we’ll continue to see a lot of growth. For us specifically, with a labor shortage, the more finished products we can provide to our customers, the more successful we’re going to be. That’s been a big change in the industry. Customers, instead of buying lumber, they’re buying things a bit further along. There’s going to be lot of growth and innovation. The construction industry hasn’t changed much in the past 50 years, but with the new technology and innovation I think we’re going to see a lot of changes over the next ten years.

How has COVID-19 changed the way your industry does business?

For us, it’s gone to a lot more deliveries. We’ve gone solely to will call. People can’t come in our yard or store; we have to go to them. It’s been a challenge to work around that because our industry is so relational. It’s also provided some efficiency with a level of inventory control and a new level of customer service since we’re bringing it out to them.

If there were one thing you could change, what would it be and why?

I think I would want people to know that growth isn’t a bad thing. The more growth we have, the more services there will be and the more dollars in the economy. Grand County does a good job of maintaining open lands and public space, and you’ll still have them even if there is an influx of tourists and second homeowners. I think there is a pride in Grand County, but sometimes it feels like we don’t want to share that. Growth is not a bad thing, especially for our industry.

What do you like to do in your spare time?

Hanging out with my family. I have a wife and a 10-month-old. We explore Grand County, fish, hike. I like to visit Denver and take advantage of what there is to offer there.

What advice or encouragement would you offer a young professional trying to make it in the county?

Diversify your experience and focus your skills. Focus on what you’re good at, but try to diversify your experience in whatever you’re good at.