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That's what she said

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Bill Rigler, Naropa’s university relations director wants to bring mindful leadership to council


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Bill Rigler, right, gives the "Best Young Rider" jersey to Tejay van Garderen in the inaugural USA Pro Challenge in 2011. That year, Millennium Promise, a nonprofit Rigler worked for, was the official charity of the race.

Bill Rigler, right, gives the “Best Young Rider” jersey to Tejay van Garderen in the inaugural USA Pro Challenge in 2011. That year, Millennium Promise, a nonprofit Rigler worked for, was the official charity of the race (photo courtesy Bill Rigler)

Bill Rigler recalls stepping off the subway in New York City on Sept. 11, 2001. At the time, he was a graduate student at NYC’s Columbia University, studying international relations. The skies were blue and it was a primary election day in the mayoral race.

Then, he heard the news of the towers being struck—and that tragic moment in America’s history became a transformative experience for Rigler. Fast-forward twelve years later to Sept. 11, 2013, when Rigler had recently moved to Boulder and the city was hit by historic flooding, which became another defining moment for the City Council candidate.

“Both were these transformative experiences that were characterized by neighbors helping neighbors,” Rigler says. “It showed me that those things that unite us make us so much stronger than what divides us.”

Rigler, 40, the director of University Relations at Naropa University, says that the 9/11 attacks and floods also showed him the importance of having strong, experienced leadership in place.

For the past two decades, Rigler has lived and worked around the world on issues related to climate change, sustainability, economic development, and the health of the world’s most vulnerable populations.

Rigler first came to Boulder in 2013 to work as the spokesman and director of communication for former Vice President Al Gore’s global climate change initiative.

Previously, he worked for the United Nations and the Rockefeller Foundation. He also was the chief of staff to Geraldine Ferraro, who was the first woman to ever run for vice president. In a role with Millennium Promise, a nonprofit that works to eradicate extreme poverty, hunger and preventable diseases, Rigler worked in Uganda. The nonprofit’s efforts helped reduce malaria by 70 percent, increase agricultural yields by 400 percent and resulted in more children being able to attend primary school.

Rigler, in his role at Naropa, promotes Naropa’s work in mindfulness, social impact, and contemplative education.

“I absolutely love my job at Naropa, I have never had more fun,” he says. “Naropa is at the forefront of mindfulness.”

Rigler says that his affiliation with Naropa can set him apart from other candidates.

“I think it’s time to have some mindful leaders,” he says. “Mindfulness leadership continues to grow in popularity and effectiveness and I think people are hungry for those who are able to lead with compassion and authenticity.”

In March 2015, Rigler was appointed by the Boulder City Council to the Transportation Advisory Board. He’s an advocate for multi-modal transportation options, supporting a community-wide EcoPass program and added bus-rapid-transit corridors.

Rigler, who rents in Uptown Broadway, also says that affordable housing is one of his primary platforms as he knows the difficulty of not being able to afford to own a home in Boulder.

Seth Levine—a managing director at the Foundry Group, a venture capital firm—first met Rigler while on a bike ride. Levine says Rigler is passionate about the outdoors and is always looking to connect with new people in fun ways.

“As an example of Bill’s temperament, it seems like every time we are standing at the bottom of Sanitas, he looks at his watch and says ‘How fast do you think we’re going to get up to the top this time?’ He’s always looking for ways to push himself and he brings a fantastic intensity to both work and play.”

Levine says that Rigler could bring a youthful energy to the council, which has typically lacked representation from those under the age of 50. Also, he says, Rigler, as a renter in Boulder, understands the importance affordable housing. Levine says he sees the importance of affordable housing every day in his work with companies who are struggling to recruit young families to move to such an expensive housing market.

Levine also is impressed with Rigler’s pragmatic mindset.

“I can tell you that across the business community, people feel like they’re not even being heard right now – especially by council members who have clearly already made up their minds on many issues affecting the business community,” Levine says. “I think Bill can be an effective bridge here and bring a level of professionalism and tact that the current council is missing.”

Rigler, who was born and raised in Montana, has traveled to 60 countries and speaks Japanese. His godfather, Mike Mansfield, was the longest-serving Senate Majority Leader, in office from 1961 to 1977. Mansfield, a former U.S. Ambassador to Japan, encouraged Rigler to study Japanese.

In his free time, Rigler is a competitive bike racer, racing on a local team. He’s also enjoys hiking Mount Sanitas, mountain biking and trail running in Boulder’s open space, as well as skiing, snowshoeing and rock climbing.

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