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JENNIFER'S
STORY

American Flags

Since my first job shelving books at the local library, I have always worked to serve my community and my country.  From the library to the Air Force, to NATO and ultimately as a voting rights advocate and community organizer, I have never known a life that wasn't dedicated to the public good.   

Growing up I always had an adventurous streak.  I used to wander the hills behind my home alone even as a very young child.  I had dreams of exploring the world--and beyond--and wanted to be an astronaut more than anything.  As I got older, I stayed busy--always moving, always learning.  I played multiple sports and was an all-district athlete, I sang in the church and county children's chorus, I was a volunteer coach, a leader in my church youth group, I played in the school band and had a part-time job all while staying in the top of my class at school.   

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But when it came time for college, I knew opportunities were going to be limited.  As a typical middle-class family, we just didn't have the money for college for even one kid, much less four.

I was so fortunate to receive an appointment to the US Air Force Academy--an opportunity afforded to me by the generosity of a country that understood the best investment it can make is in the education of its people.  And while some childhood illnesses left me unable to enter pilot training (and similarly astronaut training), I didn't let that stop me from serving my country to the best of my ability.  ​Ultimately, I served the nation and its allies for over 20 years, retiring at the rank of Lieutenant Colonel.

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Throughout my military career, I was afforded some incredible opportunities to grow both personally and professionally.  As an engineer, I managed multimillion-dollar programs that provided secure communications and safe navigation routes for our warfighters.  It was work that taught me how to oversee government contracts, balance budgets and lead diverse teams.  

Among the most rewarding assignments I had was training the next generation of Air Force officers as an ROTC instructor at the University of Massachusetts.  Working with those amazing young people who were also called to serve gave me an appreciation for how fulfilling and exhausting the work of teaching is--and what a vital role they play in our society.  I'm grateful to have been recognized as the top ROTC instructor in the country, which was a testament to our team and paved the way for me to train as an international affairs specialist and see and experience the world in the way I'd dreamed about since I was that little kid getting lost in the hills behind our home.  

 

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As an Air Force international affairs specialist, I worked with our foreign partners and allies and my counterparts in the State Department to make the world a safer place.  It's work that looks at security holistically--well beyond traditional military tools--and introduced me to the importance of humanitarian assistance, climate change, pandemic response and economic security in a way that makes you appreciate the amount of deliberate discussion, negotiation and compromise that goes into any major policy decision. 

From there, I was appointed to the US Embassy in Paris to manage the cooperative air, space and special operations programs between the United States and France.  Again, such an amazing opportunity to dive deeply into the culture, business and political workings of one of our closest Allies. 

 

After retirement, I was hired to the International Staff of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization to continue my work with our allies on long-term, strategic planning and cooperation opportunities.  Ultimately, however, 9 moves, 13 assignments and 24 years later, I answered the call to return home to Colorado in 2019.

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Since returning to Colorado, I have dedicated my time to protecting our democracy and restoring the balance of power back to the people through Colorado Common Cause and other non-profit organizations.  I worked to ensure all Coloradans had easy access to register to vote and participate in the 2020 Census.  I fought for local and state government to remain transparent and accountable to the public during the lockdowns.  I taught ordinary citizens about why redistricting was important and how to advocate to the commissions.  And I led a non-partisan, statewide effort to protect the 2020 elections--in other words, I never forgot my oath and kept fighting for a free, fair and open democracy.  

That's what I mean by principled and pragmatic politics for our region.  For me, this election isn't about money, partisanship, special interests or power.  It's about protecting the planet, my community and our democracy for my children and my children's children.  It's about leaving the world just a little better than I found it. 

Thanks for reading...

                               Jennifer

Jennifer Parenti