Jared Polis appoints Eagle County Commissioner Jill Ryan to Cabinet
EAGLE — Eagle County Commissioner Jill Ryan has been tapped by newly-elected Gov. Jared Polis to serve as executive director for the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment.
Ryan is a two-term Eagle County commissioner and a public health professional with more than two decades of experience in the field.
“I am so energized by the health and environmental priorities that Jared set out in his campaign,” Ryan said following the announcement on Wednesday. “Public health was my professional career before I ran for office so I bring a lot of expertise in the public health arena.”
Ryan was first elected Eagle County commissioner in 2012 and re-elected in 2016. Ryan is the former director of both health planning and the Office of Health Disparities at the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment. She managed Eagle County’s Public Health Agency from 2004-09, before starting her own consulting firm.
Ryan is currently the vice-chair of the state’s Intermountain Transportation Planning Region and vice-chair of the Interstate 70 Coalition Board. She is also a governor’s appointee to the Colorado Board of Health and is the board’s vice president.
She is the current president of Colorado Communities for Climate Action.
Even before her appointment, Ryan was working with Polis on health care issues. She co-chaired the governor-elect’s transition team’s Health and Human Services Committee.
In his inaugural speech Tuesday, Polis declared that affordable health care is one of his top priorities.
“We get to work building a health care system that ensures families don’t have to choose between losing their homes and losing their health care,” Polis said.
Ryan said that her tenure as an Eagle County commissioner has given her an intimate understanding of the health care challenges in rural parts of the state.
“In so my aspects, it’s really valuable to have a sense of the public health issue of a rural community. We don’t have access to all the services they have in large communities. We don’t have the breadth of providers,” Ryan said. “As a commissioner, I also worked with the issue of the high cost of health care.”
Ryan isn’t the only high country elected official who will join Polis’ team. Summit County Commissioner and former state representative Dan Gibbs has been named Executive Director of the Department of Natural Resources.
Gibbs has been a Summit County commissioner since 2010. Prior to his tenure as a commissioner, Gibbs represented Summit County in the Colorado House of Representatives and in the state Senate.
“Jared really wanted to have a Western Slope voice and perspective,” Ryan said. “Jared is all about inclusiveness and having diverse people in positions.”
Ryan has been an Eagle County resident since 1994 and she is a Colorado native who grew up on the Front Range. She graduated from the University of Colorado, where she earned a master’s degree in public health. She and her husband Taylor “Ty” Ryan are the parents of a young son and they reside in Edwards.
And even after she starts her new job in Denver, Ryan plans to remain an Eagle County resident.
“I will continue to live here and work on the Front Range. I think there are so many advantages to that,” Ryan said. “I love that the governor is appointing people from the Western Slope. We just have a different perspective on the issues.”
Ryan doesn’t know her exact start date as executive director of the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, but she knows it will happen by month’s end. Because of that timetable, she has reached out to Eagle County Democrats Chair Joy Harrison to discuss her official resignation date. Determining that date sets a state-mandated process into action.
“This is a great pick by Gov. Polis,” said Eagle County Commissioner Kathy Chandler-Henry. “Jill has such a great grasp of the health care challenges we have on the Western Slope. It will be an ideal position for her in the Polis administration.”
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