Honorable Rosemary Rodriguez, Trailblazer 2013


First Latina Clerk and Recorder, Denver County
First Latina State Director for a US Senator

Rosemary Rodriguez is a home-grown political activist. Born and raised in Denver, Colorado, and influenced by her mother, Martha Sanchez, who volunteered as a precinct worker, Ms. Rodriguez and her five brothers and sisters played “voting” instead of dress up. From these roots, Ms. Rodriguez has emerged as a dedicated community leader who has been instrumental in implementing election reform on a local and national level.

While working as a legal assistant at two of Denver’s most prestigious law firms, Ms. Rodriguez saw events occurring in the Colorado political climate which spurred her to form the Hispanic League, a nonpartisan group that advocates for public policy reforms on behalf of Latino/as. In 1992, Ms. Rodriguez joined then-Mayor Wellington Webb’s administration where she distinguished herself as a dedicated public servant and a quick study under the tutelage of her mentor, Mayor Webb. During her eleven-year tenure, she served in a number of positions including scheduler, Deputy Director of the Mayor’s Office of Arts, Culture & Film, Denver County Clerk and Recorder and Director of Boards and Commissions. Her appointment made Ms. Rodriguez the first Latina Clerk and Recorder for the City and County of Denver. She was also appointed a member of the then-three person Election Commission, which organized and conducted elections in Denver.

With this vast experience as a foundation, Ms. Rodriguez went be elected to Denver’s City Council and was elected president of the Council by her peers. There she continued her commitment to election reform. After the controversial 2006 Denver election cycle, Ms. Rodriguez proposed a ballot initiative, which passed, eliminating the Election Commission and making the Clerk and Recorder an elected position. She continued to be instrumental in reforming Colorado’s election process.

Ken Salazar took note of her work locally and recommended Ms. Rodriguez for a national role as one of four commissioners appointed by the President to the U.S. Election Assistance Commission (“EAC”). The Commission was created under the Help America Vote Act of 2002 to reestablish the integrity of the national elections. In this position, she spent time in Europe speaking to American Armed Forces voters about their right and ability to vote, as well as focusing her efforts on voter turnout at home. She was in this position two years when Michael Bennet was appointed to the U.S. Senate and asked her to join his staff. Ms. Rodriguez joined Senator Bennet’s staff and became the first Latina State Director for a U.S. Senator. Later she took some time off from Senator Bennet’s staff to be the Colorado political director for the Obama for America campaign.

Ms. Rodriguez credits her mentors with giving her opportunities and she is paying it back. She mentors Latinas formally, through Circle of Latina Leadership, and informally, through her Friday “Cafecito” coffee group, where Latinas gather for networking and support. Ms. Rodriguez has championed many of today’s Latina leaders and is building the next generation of leaders. In addition she was a single mother to her son Trinidad and now is enjoying seeing her granddaughter grow up to be one of our next leaders. She believes every person has something to offer, even if sometimes it needs to be coaxed out. Her willingness to share her opportunities and experiences with women who need a little coaxing makes her a phenomenal Latina trailblazer.