Leadville Silversmith: Metals to Medals
Colin McFee Featured in PBS Special
Regaling the things missed during these COVID-19 times in Leadville Today, many would add the sweet, soulful sound of the bagpipe to the list. Whether it’s keeping tempo for an Irish jig during one of the TWO St. Patrick’s Day parades or honoring veterans at the annual Memorial Day Services, this woodwind instrument’s bellowing notes add something special to any Cloud City event. And the local musician usually behind those horns is resident bagpiper Colin McFee. Those reeds have been missed!
Fortunately for another group of Coloradoans, one of McFee’s other creative talents has not been stifled during the pandemic. In fact, his intricate silversmith work will be featured in an upcoming PBS special set to air at 7 p.m. this Thursday, Jan. 14. Back in September 2020, the annual Governor’s CiviCO honors were awarded in a virtual ceremony, part of which will be highlighted in this week’s TV presentation. In addition, as the creator of the medals given to the recipients, McFee will have an extended feature in the show.
“It’s a really cool event, and I get to meet all of these really great people,” McFee said in an interview with Leadville Today regarding the annual gala. Unfortunately, due to COVID19 gathering restrictions, this year’s event was virtual. But the upside to that was PBS’s decision to make a special out of the event and feature medal-creator McFee in his television debut!
McFee has been involved in making the CiviCO medals since the program’s first year in 2015 when he got a call from then-Governor John Hickenlooper’s office stating that they needed a silversmith. However, his craftsmanship with metal began in the early 1980s. After apprenticing as a blacksmith during high school, McFee went on to earn a BFA in Metals from Colorado State University and a Masters in Fine Arts from the Vermont College of Arts.
“I’m not quite sure how I got the gig,” he explained, guessing it was one of those moments when someone suggested let’s get a silversmith from an Old West town to do the medals, then someone said “Leadville,” and “well, I’m the only silversmith in town,” he joked. Regardless it’s a win-win all around and a little bit of Leadville is hung around each recipient’s neck when they receive the honor.
While the silver for the medals comes from Albuquerque, N.M., McFee’s designs are inspired by the natural environments that surround his home in Leadville. One look at the CiviCO medal and it is easy to see where McFee got the inspiration for his design. Colorado’s highest peak – Mt. Elbert – which is highlighted in the CiviCO medal looms large outside the McFee Silversmiths shop located at 333 Elm Street in Leadville.
“I’m a teacher first,” McFee says proudly and with the passion every student can only hope for when it comes to learning. And while his woodworking and metal workshop classes at Lake County High School have seen their own share of challenges during times of distance learning, McFee remains as committed as ever and ready to get back into the shop full time when it’s time.
“He is really passionate about being able to honor the best of what Colorado has to offer through the medals,” stated Kathryn Goggin with Barefoot PR who tipped off Leadville Today to the news that McFee will be featured in the PBS special on Thursday. So tune in, and turn it up for this Renaissance Man living in Leadville Today as his custom made medals are bestowed on some of Colorado’s best and brightest at the Governor’s 2020 CiviCO Awards.
Here’s to hoping those bagpipes will return to Leadville Today once again! Bring on the Mt. Massive Youth Pipe Band! Until then here’s a Colin McFee solo special from St. Patrick’s Day 2013 in Leadville’s historic Silver Dollar Saloon. Slainte!
VIDEO: Leadville Bagpiper Colin McFee © 2013
Leaders Honored with Governor’s Citizenship Medals
Each year, in partnership with Governor Jared Polis and all living Colorado Governors, CiviCO helps to honor Colorado leaders who inspire excellence and community service with the Colorado Governor’s Citizenship Medals. The eight recipients for 2020, announced by Governor Jared Polis in September 2020, will be honored at a virtual event in January as part of Colorado Leadership Month, an opportunity to shine a spotlight on the essential and integral contributions of Colorado leaders both past and present. The medal recipients will also be highlighted during a Rocky Mountain PBS special on January 14 at 7 p.m.
The medals, established in 2015, represent one of the highest honors bestowed upon citizens and organizations of Colorado for their significant contributions to communities across the state. Each of the 2020 medal recipients represent Colorado values that are grounded in service, integrity, teamwork, respect and innovation. The 2020 medal recipients have also led in unprecedented ways during an unprecedented year. They rose together to tackle some of our states greatest challenges during the COVID-19 pandemic and beyond.
Remarking on the medals earlier this year, Gov. Polis said, “Colorado has a unique opportunity to set the bar for leadership in this country. These eight remarkable leaders have paved the way for community advancement and put Colorado on the map for how individuals and organizations serve their communities and make statewide impact. The Governor’s Citizenship Medal is the highest honor of the state and I am honored to select and recognize these outstanding leaders.”
Along with the traditional five medal categories, three COVID-19 Hero Medals will be given to two individuals and one organization who have displayed tremendous acts of resourcefulness and courageous efforts during the Coronavirus pandemic.
The 2020 Medal categories and recipients are:
Vanguard Legacy: Polly Baca
Polly Baca has spent decades advocating for the people of Colorado through her service in the legislature, her work in national politics and her roles in nonprofits. She has long been a pioneer for women and the Latino community after experiencing segregation at an early age. Polly served in both the Colorado House of Representatives (1975-1978) and the Colorado State Senate (1979-1986). She was the first woman to hold the office of Chair of the Democratic Caucus of the Colorado House of Representatives and the first woman of color elected to the Colorado State Senate.
Emerging Community Leader: Ananda Birungi
Ananda Birungi is a recent graduate of Thornton High School and is a Freshman at Harvard University in Cambridge, MA. A Ugandan immigrant, Ananda is a shining young leader and advocate for empowering women through education. She has initiated projects with significant impact in her under-resourced school and broader Colorado community, including support for young women of color and seniors navigating the college application process.
Growth & Innovation: Kent Thiry
Kent Thiry (KT) was CEO of DaVita from 1999 to 2019, a Fortune 400 Company with 65,000 teammates across 12 countries. During his time there, DaVita became known for its distinctively engaged culture and corporate social responsibility. In 2016, KT led Let Colorado Vote, a group that passed two statewide ballot initiatives, re-establishing the presidential primary and opening Colorado’s primaries to unaffiliated voters. KT has founded several innovative nonprofits and initiatives committed to advancing economic mobility, including Colorado Thrives, AdvanceEDU and the Gap Fund.
Public & Community Service: Rosemary Rodriguez, Executive Director
Rosemary Rodriguez is a Colorado native and a long-time civil servant who has spent her lifetime serving the citizens of Colorado in a number of critical roles. Her goal has always been fair representation and government responsiveness to citizens. From 1997 to 2002, Rosemary served as Denver’s clerk and recorder where she fought to create a more transparent, accessible and equitable process for all of Denver’s voters regardless of race, gender or socio-economic status. Prior to founding Together We Count, a nonprofit organization meant to promote fair participation in the 2020 census, Rosemary was the State Director for Senator Michael Bennet of Colorado. She also served as a commissioner on the U.S. Election Assistance Commission and chaired the commission in 2008.
Corporate Citizenship: VF Corporation
Founded in 1899, VF Corporation is one of the world’s largest apparel, footwear and accessories companies connecting people to the lifestyles, activities and experiences they cherish most through a family of iconic outdoor, active and workwear brands. Headquartered in Denver, Colorado, VF is a purpose-led company committed to powering movements of sustainable and active lifestyles for the betterment of people and the planet. Through the company’s independent grantmaking arm, the VF Foundation has contributed more than $20 million globally over the past three years to non-profit organizations that protect outdoor spaces, promote the value of trade work, and contribute to a world that prioritizes equity and belonging for all people.
COVID-19 Hero Medals
- Dr. Rachel Herlihy, Colorado State Epidemiologist & Principal, Population Health Solutions, LLC. Dr. Rachel Herlihy is a preventive medicine physician and the State Epidemiologist for the Colorado Department of Public Health & Environment. She has been with the Department since 2011. Dr. Herlihy is currently leading COVID-19 surveillance, case investigation, and outbreak response activities for Colorado. She is passionate about protecting the public’s health and impacting change on a significant scale.
- Pat Myers, COVID Innovation Response Team, Constrained Medical Supply Team Leader. Patrick Meyers is owner and CEO of PEM Enterprises, is the former Chief of Staff to Governor John Hickenlooper of Colorado, the Chief Operating Officer for the Hickenlooper 2020 presidential campaign, the Chairman of the Hickenlooper 2020 Senate campaign. He is now with the State of Colorado on the COVID Innovation Response Team. Pat has led the team as the Constrained Medical Supply Team Leader and has been instrumental in sourcing PPE and other supplies to the state.
- Colorado Health Foundation, Denver. The Colorado Health Foundation is a long-time statewide philanthropic organization focused on bringing health in reach for all Coloradans by engaging closely with communities across the state through investing, grantmaking and advocacy. For more than two decades, The Foundation has focused on improving the health of Coloradans, with a specific emphasis in recent years on achieving health and racial equity. The Foundation has provided critical funding to organizations across the state responding to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“The 2020 Medal recipients embody what it means to not only be a successful leader but more importantly, a significant leader for our state,” said Jennifer Landers, Executive Director of CiviCO. “CiviCO is dedicated to shaping the best community leaders in Colorado and we are honored to partner with the State, Governor Polis, and former Governors to honor these esteemed medal recipients. We strive to bring a sense of hope through their stories as we continue this valued tradition even through these trying times.”
The eight medal recipients will also be represented in the “What’s Your Story?” exhibit at the History Colorado Center. This interactive and immersive exhibit honors the legacy of Colorado leaders and engages visitors by allowing them to learn about their leadership traits, as well as share in the passion and impact from so many of Colorado’s great influencers.
The Colorado Governor’s Citizenship Medals and all associated events are generously sponsored and presented in partnership with the Office of the Governor and Gold Sponsor JPMorgan Chase. Nominating Partners include Endeavor Colorado, History Colorado Center, Mile High United Way, The Boettcher Foundation and the University of Colorado School of Public Affairs.