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Monday September 16th 2019

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That's what she said

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Jan Burton, Co-owner of tiny home start-up interested in creative affordable housing solutions


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Council candidate is pictured on top of Quandary Peak, her first Fourteener (photo courtesy Jan Burton)

Council candidate is pictured on top of Quandary Peak, her first Fourteener (photo courtesy Jan Burton)

Jan Burton and her refurbished 1961 Airstream travel trailer, dubbed “Stella,” are traveling partners.Together, they’re on a mission to visit all 58 of America’s National Parks. So far, Burton has checked 18 off the list—with adventures that have included winding the back roads through the Black Forest to Mt. Rushmore, touring the Anasazi ruins at Mesa Verde and getting snowed in during a blizzard at Bryce Canyon.

Burton blogs about her trips with Stella, a 16-foot “Bambi” vintage model, who, when not on the National Park circuit, serves as a dollhouse for local neighbor girls, goes tailgating and hosts cocktail parties.

Burton, 59, is a co-owner of a tiny home start-up company and a University Hill resident who is among the 17 candidates vying for a spot on the Boulder City Council this year.

After graduating from Kansas State University with a bachelor’s degree in business, she became one of the first female salespeople for IBM, selling computers in 1978. Because, she was covering about two-thirds of Kansas, she got her pilot’s license so that she could efficiently move about her territory.

A business leader in the high-tech industry, she has experience living and working in Europe and has worked for companies including Apple Computer, IBM, Symbol Technologies, Avaya, Lucent and Motorola.

She moved to Boulder 6 years ago after her husband passed away.

“I picked Boulder because I thought it would be a great place to heal,” she says.

Here, she is the co-founder of Boulder start-up Rhino Cubed, which creates tiny houses from upcycled shipping containers. The company’s mantra is to blend art with sustainability.

“There is a whole movement out there of people choosing to live small,” she says.

Burton says the interest in tiny homes started to gain traction during the economic collapse in 2009 when people began questioning their values, and had desires to live smaller.

“The younger generation doesn’t have this desire to collect as much stuff and live in the same way their parents did,” Burton says. “The older generation is learning a lot, too, and when they retire, they want to have time for travel.”

The tiny home movement dovetails with her affordable housing platform, as she’s concerned that hard-working low-and-middle income people can’t afford to live in Boulder. Tiny home communities could be among the creative, affordable housing solutions, she says.

Since living in Boulder, Burton has become invested in the community through several volunteer roles.

She volunteers with Boulder Open Space Mountain Parks raptor monitoring program, helping to protect raptors during their mating season. She’s also serving on the board for the Colorado Music Festival and created the “Music Mash-Up Concert & Party Series” to attract younger audiences to the festival. The mash-ups of different music genres—including rock, indie, jazz, folk and classical—are performed with the Colorado Music Festival Orchestra. Prior to the concerts, there are hikes through Chautauqua park, as well as a mixer featuring food and drink samples from local restaurants, breweries and coffee shops.

Burton also is the founder of the Connor Burton Aviation Foundation, which she set up in honor of her late husband, a retired American Airlines Captain who died in June 2008. The foundation has awarded more than 140 scholarships and supported Kansas State’s flight teams and programs.

Here in Colorado, Burton has become involved with the University of Colorado’s Leeds School of Business, mentoring and employing Master’s in Business Administration students.

Liz Spencer, Burton’s campaign manager, is the Class of 2016 president of the MBA Association at CU’s Leeds School of Business.

Spencer says she appreciates the mentoring role that Burton provides to the Leeds School of Business as she’s connected Burton with student groups and students looking for mentoring. Spencer consistently hears feedback from her peers about how invested Burton is in the mentoring roles.

Spencer says that she’s also impressed with Burton’s ability to creatively solve problems as well as her high-level of energy.

“No problem ever seems like a crisis to her,” Spencer says. “She’s always calm, collected and smiling.”

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