Kathryn Young, Colorado Springs City Clerk
City Clerk Kathryn Young is rightfully proud of her many achievements since she entered public service three decades ago. But she takes special pride in something that has nothing to do with government — and everything to do with making Colorado Springs a better, and sweeter-sounding, place.
She and her sister put together a gospel group of young people ages 7 to 21 at the Payne AME Church. “I play the piano, my sister directs. And these young people are sounding pretty good, if I do say so.”
The youth gospel choir offers an insight into Young’s character. Most people may see her as the longtime — and highly effective — City Clerk. But there’s more to her than meets the eye.
Young is a native Coloradan. Her mother worked for Hewlett Packard for more than 25 years, struggling as a single mother to raise three girls. “She is what I would call my role model. I saw my mother overcome a lot of adversity.”
Young, the eldest child, often had to take charge of her sisters. “I learned about responsibility and caring for others from a very early age,” she says.
Her mother’s example of diligence and sacrifice stayed with her. Yet she was also fated to follow her mother in other ways. She became a single mother of three children, raising a family alone, working and going to college. “It’s that circle of life,” she reflects. “There are so many things that go around and come back again.”
Like her mother, Young refused to give up. She had a vision: She wanted to be a leader. “I just knew that, if I could get a job in management, I could get people to work hard and produce,” she says. With support from her mother, she earned her undergraduate and graduate degrees. She got a job with the city. But she almost left town right before her big break.
“I was ready to go. I had made up my mind to go to Atlanta. I felt I would never get ahead here.” Then, fate intervened. The City Clerk position became available. A colleague suggested she apply. “I prayed over that job. I asked God if this was the plan. And then, I was selected.”
Since then, she has turned the City Clerk position into much more than required by the job description. She spent years educating herself on the nuances of public elections. Then, she began to pass the knowledge on. “I wrote the curriculum for an on-the-road workshop on the clerk’s role in elections,” she says. “Then there was no one to go on the road. So I did that, too.”
She’s logged thousands of miles mentoring hundreds of clerks across Colorado. She’s braved terrifying mountain pass crossings (“Independent was the scariest”) and days away from home to educate other city clerks in election management. “I always wanted to teach,” she says. “This was my opportunity.”
These days, she supervises election protest hearings. She teaches the civic engagement portion of the African American Youth Leadership Conference. When the awards honoring her achievements began to pile up, Young could only shake her head. “That is not why I do the things that I do,” she says. “I have an obligation to help other people.”
Which takes us back to the Payne AME Church youth gospel choir. “I can play the piano. I love young people. This is something that is important to them, to me. You do what you can do with what God gives you.” And it doesn’t hurt that the kids sing like angels, either.
By Dan Cook