Retirement doesn’t mean less love for downtown

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Jacque Stanley insists she’ll continue to drive down from Teller County every Friday.

Jacque Stanley insists she’ll continue to drive down from Teller County every Friday.

Jacque Stanley loves downtown Colorado Springs. For years it has given her photographs, good times and a livelihood.

As a teenager, Stanley made her first traffic court appearance at what is now the Pioneers Museum; she had a first date at Poor Richard’s with the man who would become her husband; and she has worked at the Downtown Partnership for more than a decade.

“Downtown has always been where the activity is,” she said. “The people are down here, the sidewalks are alive, and I love the fact that it just feels like a small town. … It’s fascinating and it’s beautiful, and I feel safe here.”

Stanley plans to retire Dec. 1 after 12 years as the organization’s business manager. But she said it doesn’t feel like a typical retirement, where one has grown weary and chosen to shrink into the shadows.

“If there ever was a last job to go out on, it would be this job, because I know I’m going out in a very top, positive position,” she said.

People and numbers

Stanley, the daughter of an Army colonel, spent the better part of her childhood in Colorado Springs and graduated from Palmer High School. Her first job, at age 19, was as a clerk for Sears at Southgate, where she discovered her budding business savvy.

“That is when I found that I was great at working with people and working with numbers,” she said. “I found that I just loved work.”

This discovery came at a time in the 1970s when downtown Colorado Springs was beginning to feel the adverse economic effects of sprawl and the birth of shopping malls — threatening to squeeze life from the city’s core.

“I was turning 21, and downtown was just dead,” she said. “There was nowhere to hang out for our age group.”

After escaping to Miami for three years, she returned for the climate and found a job in real estate with Harry Salzman. Later she worked as a comptroller for an architecture and planning group owned by Clifford Nakata — always with an eye on the part of town she loved.

“Even when I wasn’t working downtown, I would come down here for lunch,” Stanley said, reflecting on her time working along Garden of the Gods Road.

Coming home

As she walked through the atrium of Plaza of the Rockies 20 years ago, peering through windows and feeling out the corporate structure, Stanley decided that she would one day work there.

Then, 12 years ago, she got her chance.

“When this job opening came up, I walked in and flat-out said, ‘I’m your person,’ ” Stanley recalled. “I care that much about this downtown.”

Stanley’s job allows her to dabble in human resources, insurance, bookkeeping and other tasks for each of the organization’s four companies: Community Ventures; the Business Improvement District; the Downtown Development Authority; and the Partnership itself.

“We have four companies, but they all have the same goal in mind — it’s all about downtown,” she said.

It would have perhaps been easier to work for a large corporation specializing in just one thing, but she wouldn’t have received the varied experience she has. She has dived in a dumpster to search for lost keys, she has helped bale hay for the annual ice-skating rink, and on a regular basis she handles calls about miscellaneous issues on the city’s streets.

“My career has been all about customer support,” she said.

The effects of her tenure have not been only internal — she also has helped downtown businesses with tax issues and assisted in their success.

Sam Eppley, who owns Sparrow Hawk Gourmet Cookware and has served on boards for the Downtown Partnership, said Stanley’s role at the organization has been important for the success of his own business.

“I’ve worked with her for years and she has done an absolutely fantastic job for the organization,” he said. “She has definitely taken care of my interests. She’s a super person. We’re really going to miss her and everything she does for us.”

Greg Warnke, parking administrator for the city of Colorado Springs, seconds that sentiment.

“It has always been a pleasure working with Jacque over the years,” he said. “Members and staff come and go, but Jacque has been the one constant in the Downtown Partnership for many years. She always had a can-do attitude and took pride in her work.”

Postponed decision

Stanley was planning for retirement when the organization underwent a major overhaul in 2013. For the Partnership’s best interest, she committed to president and CEO Susan Edmondson that she would stay an additional two years in support of the new structure.

“I’m so glad she was there, and she has been such a tremendous support through this transition,” Edmondson said. “She has dedicated her heart and soul into this organization … and she loves downtown.”

Stanley moved to Teller County in 1994 but has kept downtown Colorado Springs an integral part of her everyday life. Though after Dec. 1 she no longer will make the hour trip to and from work, she doesn’t imagine ever giving up Friday downtown date-nights with her husband, visiting with her former coworkers and volunteering when she can.

“You can’t stop doing that,” she said. “That’s one thing that I can’t stop doing once I retire; I must keep coming down here. That’s what keeps you young.”

When Dec. 1 rolls around, Stanley will join her husband (a retired Colorado Springs Utilities employee) to prepare handmade crafts in time for Christmas with the family.

“He’s already at home having a lot of fun,” she said. “I want to be there having fun with him.”

Stanley looks forward to touring national parks in the couple’s fifth-wheel RV, but she’s enjoying the time she has left with her people and her numbers, in an office she loves and for a city she adores.

“I come to work with a smile, because I know I’m working with this group,” she said. “I love my job.”