Amy Lathen, the El Paso County Commissioners chair, will tell you sleep is overrated. “I used to love to sleep in,” she says. “But it just isn’t possible any more. I had to get used to getting less sleep, and you know, you really can get things done on five or six hours.”
Lathen is the quintessential community activist. Her list of volunteer jobs and activities requires the scroll function when viewed online. “It’s organized chaos around here,” she admits, referring to her hectic home and political life. The suggestion that she might slow down provokes peals of laughter. “Are you kidding? We just added to it by agreeing to raise a guide dog puppy!”
Lathen‘s upbringing is the stuff of Depression Era novels. Her father worked for TRW and, for years, was assigned to a plant in tiny Ogallala, Neb. She went to a one-room schoolhouse through the sixth grade where the most students the K-6 school had at one time was 12. “It was fantastic — it was like being tutored!” she says. “The older kids helped teach the younger ones. We got an excellent education there.”
Eventually the family relocated to Colorado Springs, where Lathen graduated from Rampart High School and went on to earn a college degree in psychology. Fast forward to 1999. Married with two children (the third came later), she found herself becoming increasingly frustrated with the direction local politics were going in. Not one to sit idly by and complain, she offered herself up as a volunteer with the Republican Party.
“You know how that goes,” she said with a sigh. “Once they spot a devoted volunteer, they keep throwing things at you.”
By the time she was elected to county commissioner for a four-year term in the fall of 2008, she had a good grasp of the significant local issues. She was a bit startled by the workload — “I was overwhelmed” — but she hung in there, got her arms around the job, and flourished.
Sometimes her family complains about the long hours, the myriad meetings, the chaotic schedule that comes with a political career. “But at least I can sort of set my own crazy schedule so I can be at most of the family events,” she says. “My family knows this is important to me. Heck, the kids were out on street corners waving political signs almost as soon as they could walk.”