Get to know Nuria Rivera-Vandermyde through this Q&A in her own words.
A bilingual native of Puerto Rico, Rivera-Vandermyde is the first female city manager of color in Boulder’s history and the second female city manager.
What drew you to Boulder?
Without a doubt, the landscape. Followed closely by the passion of everyone we spoke with who seemed so invested in the city they called home and proud of how the community has remained committed to its open spaces and environmental stewardship. It’s not often you hear a community boasts about how many times it has taxed itself to preserve its environment and address the impact of climate change.
Boulder has faced challenges and adversity in 2020 and 2021. What are your hopes for the community looking ahead?
Truly, I hope we’re able to face them together. Between COVID-19 and the March 22 tragedy, I recognize Boulder has faced some incredible hardships over the past year or so. Nationally, we seem so polarized in our dialogue, and I am hopeful this community continues to face the challenges before it with openness, candor and a spirit of collaboration. Passions run deep and there are topics for which none of the answers are easy, but I hope we’re able to hear differing perspectives and regardless of the decisions that are made – whether they favor one point of view or another – we're able to showcase that our community’s strength comes from unity, not from polarization.
What is an important skill or perspective you bring?
Spending time in multiple cities and multiple sectors has given me a strong sense of cross-sector and community-focused collaboration. Externally, it’s allowed me to learn about different cultures and how very differently some communities approach government - lessons that have informed how we, as cities, engage with community and continue to build trust with those we serve. Internally, it’s allowed me to be a very adaptive leader, learning about the existing work culture and finding ways to support staff while also challenging us all to continue enhancing and transforming our services for the benefit of our community.
I’ve also become very data-driven throughout my career, and have learned to expand my own definition of “data” to include not just empirical data, but also valuable qualitative or lived experience narratives as part of the data-informing process. Finding ways to lift up the voices of those most impacted by our policies or decisions can be difficult, but in my experience, those voices make our conversations richer and enhance our collective understanding of the issues at hand.
What is something you love about Boulder?
I’ll always start with the mountains – they were the first thing that drew me in. But I also love how hyper-local all the businesses and restaurants feel. I’ll admit to being a bit of a foodie so I’m excited to explore all of Boulder’s culinary offerings.
What attracted you to working in local government and what do you like most about it?
I came to public service over 25 years ago in a rather unusual way, but what struck me the most was the power government has to very directly enhance people’s quality of life. I genuinely believe government can be transformative, and that we have powerful levers to help achieve the outcomes we really want to see in the community. We may not always be able to achieve all of those outcomes alone or in exactly the way some would prescribe, but we can do what we can to partner, to collaborate, to advocate, and to lead work that is meaningful, impactful and transparent.
What do you plan to focus on the first few months on the job and what do you hope to learn?
I have some catching up to do on all the initiatives that are moving forward, but I hope to do so quickly by talking to staff, talking to Council Members, and talking to community partners, organizations and individuals directly. Staff has been doing a great job of trying to get me up to speed on some of the more pressing items being discussed currently, and I hope to carve out time to dive deeper and broader on the work as soon as I arrive.
I am a big believer in the power of team. I hope to get to know staff and partners alike, make sure we have the right teams formed and the right people in the room to inform our very best decision-making. And I hope I learn where I can best add value and support for work that is both moving forward and work perhaps that has been stuck and could benefit from a new perspective.
Boulderites love to get out and enjoy the great outdoors. What is your favorite outdoor activity or pastime?
The two places I grew up – Puerto Rico and Kentucky – could not have been more different. Riding bikes and climbing trees was second nature to me when I was very young, and then I moved back to Puerto Rico at 10 in a more urban setting where the infrastructure was lacking for bikes and hiking, but was abundant in all sorts of new beach activities – swimming, boogie-boarding, and some very unsuccessful attempts at surfing. I have to admit that I still miss my early morning swims in the ocean to start my day.
I’m most excited to buy my first electric bike and start exploring some of your wonderful paved multi-use paths. My husband is an avid hiker so he’s already got his sights set on exploration that will no doubt have me also exploring Boulder on foot in no time.
What was the last book you read?
I tend to read multiple books at a time, depending on my mood. I’m currently reading Bill Gate’s How to Avoid a Climate Disaster and La Vida es Sueño by Pedro Calderón de la Barca. The latter is one of my favorite plays and a recent conversation with my best friend from college made me pick it up again.
What else do you want the Boulder community to know about you?
I hope they know I’m always open for conversation and that I’ll always try to get it right – even when I don’t. I’m curious by nature so am always willing to know what I don’t know, and perhaps most importantly, that I’ll do all I can to serve the community well, with as much integrity and transparency as I can. That has always been my commitment to the communities I’ve served.