From addressing housing inequities to helping amplify the voices of residents, those who have worked with Longmont Community Services Director Karen Roney say she has changed the city for the better.
Roney served the city for nearly 32 years, overseeing eight city divisions: recreation and golf; the museum; the library; Elder Services; Children, young people and families; Community and neighborhood resources; Housing and Community Investment; and for the past two years, oversight of the Longmont Housing Authority.
After retiring earlier this month, Roney reflected on her time with the city and the marks she hopes to have made along the way.
Working hard is a trait Roney said he learned from an early age. Roney grew up on his parents’ farm outside of Monmouth, Illinois. From the age of 10 until she graduated from high school, Roney showed cattle at the Warren County Fair, saving the money earned from the shows to devote to the university.
Roney then attended the University of Northern Colorado, where she studied rehabilitation counseling as an undergraduate. After graduating, she returned to the Midwest to earn a master’s degree in human services from the University of Iowa, while working full-time at a community mental health center.
It only took her time in college as an undergrad to spark the desire to return to Colorado.
When she saw a job posting in the Denver Post for what Longmont then called its director of human and cultural services, she decided to give it a shot. The rest, she says, is history.
Longmont Town Manager Harold Dominguez and Mayor Joan Peck said one of Roney’s main accomplishments during his time in town was his work on social service issues, including the homeless. shelterism and housing inequalities.
Dominguez, who worked with Roney for 10 years, said Roney’s work “paved the way” when it came to building collaborations not only with other city departments, but also with other cities, counties and government run organizations.
“She has worked with many community organizations like Homeless Solutions for Boulder County, Human Services Agency Joint Funding Project, Multicultural Action Committee and many other groups in which she has played a formative role. and/or vital,” Dominguez wrote in an email. “And in any group, she always makes sure everyone is working to hear as many voices as possible before making a decision.”
Mayor Joan Peck began working with Roney seven years ago, when Peck began serving on city council. Helping homeless people is an issue of great interest to city leaders. She said Roney had worked to remedy this situation by engaging with coordinated entry service providers.
“I appreciate all of the work she has done and her commitment to working with homeless people in our community,” Peck said. “I hope the work continues, and I know it will.”
Roney has been involved in all aspects of the city, Peck said, from parks and recreation to the library and worked with other department heads, including Dale Rademacher, the former deputy city manager who has retired last month.
“I really appreciated the humor they brought to difficult situations,” Peck said, “and how both of their teams are committed to finding solutions that have truly benefited our city and will continue to benefit in the future.”
Roney was on the Housing Exit Committee, which was made up of representatives from the county, Boulder and Longmont. The committee’s objective was to establish 200 new permanent housing units with support services for people emerging from homelessness. This work began around 2018, she said.
In a year and a half, the committee has exceeded its objective, instead reaching the 250 mark for the number of accommodations put online.
“I think it’s a reflection on the power of all of these entities working together to leverage the resources that we can all contribute and figure out how to achieve this really important goal that we had,” Roney said. “It was really amazing. I think we felt really satisfied that we were able to do that.
Roney said the units are “scattered throughout Boulder County and consist of a combination of designated units in new developments, acquisition of existing units, reserved housing choice vouchers and rental assistance. financed locally to access existing units”.
During her tenure at Longmont, there are many projects that Roney is proud to be a part of. For her, one that stands out is her work on the Focus on Longmont strategic plan in 2004.
Working alongside Rademacher, Roney said the plan aims to prepare the city for a sustainable future.
Along with examining city priorities such as environmental preservation, economic development and education as core values, Roney said new techniques for involving residents in strategic planning have been created. . Some of these methods were principles such as “appreciative inquiry,” in which participants share what works and how to build on it, rather than the negative; and “deliberative dialogue,” a method of in-depth discussion that also involves understanding the trade-offs associated with policy options.
“We really used different methodologies that we felt would bring us together and strengthen the community and help us find our common vision and values that would help us come together rather than apart, if you will,” Roney said. .
These strategies, such as appreciative inquiry and deliberative dialogue, are still used today in community engagement.
Regarding Roney’s role, Dominguez said a few city employees are in acting positions as they figure out “the best way to structure” the departments Roney helped oversee.
Roney said she would use her new free time to enjoy Boulder County and travel with her husband.
“I’m proud to have served the government of Longmont and the community of Longmont for 32 years,” Rony said, “very proud of that.”