By Karla Brown
At its beginning, the Colorado Foundation for Water Education needed a steady hand. Putting together a statewide nonprofit offering unbiased water-related information was dismissed by many as futile, or worse—foolish. Diane Hoppe came on as the organization’s founding board president in the fall of 2002, following one of the state’s most severe droughts on record. Her even-handed guidance during those critical formative years shaped the organization into the professional, effective nonprofit it is today.
As the Foundation’s first executive director, Diane and I worked closely together during those years. And soon, she became the most influential female mentor of my professional career. To this day, I still seek to emulate her leadership. Diane dealt with hardened characters in the water business and legislature with grace and a sharp wit. I never heard her attack an individual personally; she disagreed, listened, but did not let herself be steamrolled. I enjoyed watching her address a large crowd of water professionals at any given event, speaking eloquently for half an hour, without notes.
A good leader cares for people as well as policies. Diane was vibrant, with a sparkle in her eye. Work was done and problems resolved, but time with Diane was always good fun. I loved her stories of the days in Sterling on the campaign trail, especially one about two different colored shoes.
She was inclusive, empowering, supportive and generous. She was also the first to make me understand the real importance of supporting and collaborating with other women in whatever profession you choose. And having a good laugh while doing it. That too.
Diane leaves behind an impressive resume of service in the Colorado House of Representatives from 1997 through 2006, where she chaired the House Agriculture, Livestock and Natural Resources Committee, the Water Interim Committee, and the Water Resources Review Committee, and served as Minority Whip. Governor John Hickenlooper appointed Diane to the Colorado Water Conservation Board as the South Platte Basin representative in 2012, and she was elected chair of the Board in 2015.
I will miss her leadership, her insight, and her kindness. But the next time I face some unusually tough negotiation or intractable curmudgeon, I will once again seek her guidance, as I often have.
Karla is an experienced entrepreneur, helping to establish the Colorado Foundation for Water Education, as well as her own marketing company, The PR Company, and real estate development firm, New West RE. She specializes in making complex subjects comprehensible for a wide variety of audiences, including the general public, elected officials and special interests. Previously, Karla was also a consultant for clients in the mining and petroleum industries. She is a graduate of Cornell University with a Masters of Science from Colorado State University. Karla is a licensed Realtor in the State of Colorado. In her spare time, Karla enjoys road biking the hills north of Boulder, skiing, spending time with her daughter, and giving back to the community.