After living in Colorado Springs for three years and working for the city, 31-year-old Nina Vetter thinks young professionals who want to help shape the future of Colorado Springs should join a city board or commission.
As treasurer for Connect! Colorado Springs and a member of the professional development committee for Colorado Springs Rising Professionals, the senior analyst from Connecticut leads the city’s strategic planning process. She says local organizations want more people to get involved.
“Not everyone thinks being on a board is a mechanism for making an impact or change, but it really can be,” she said. “I recommend for people really interested in this community and want to see it thrive, to do that.”
Vetter works in the finance department, developing, implementing and monitoring the city’s annual operating budget, but she said her job is anything but boring and bureaucratic.
“It’s fast-paced, we’re working on great projects, and there is a lot of opportunity to work with community partners,” she said.
This week, Vetter took time to talk with the Business Journal about her background in public administration, as well as the growth and potential she sees in Colorado Springs.
Why a career in local government?
I went to school in [Washington,] D.C., and then moved to Chicago to pursue my master’s degree in public administration, which is really what got me working in local government.
My first job was working for a suburb of Chicago, and then I decided to try federal government, thinking “That’s got to be more exciting and challenging.” So I went overseas to the [Republic of] Georgia for two years and decided I liked local government better and got back into it. My best friend growing up lives in Denver, so I looked at moving to Colorado and began working in Colorado Springs three years ago.
What do you do as a senior analyst?
The strategic plan is my biggest project and most important [responsibility]. It drives what the organization does, our focus and budget process. It’s also something that is year-round, because not only do we develop the strategic plan, but [we] have to have a plan of how we’re going to implement it and track our progress. It involves all our managers, strategic advisory team, department heads and community partners. It’s really interesting, and I get a lot of time with our partners and internal city personnel.
What is a new component of the strategic plan?
What we did for the first time this year — or at least haven’t done since I’ve worked here — is engage our community partners in the very beginning of our planning process. We had a big meeting at City Hall and asked them their opinions about what the initial plan initiatives looked like from our prior strategic plan, and what they want to see from the city and don’t want to see. Then we asked them to put their business cards next to individual initiatives. That was pretty cool because I felt like they were able to have more of [an] impact and say in what we do. It was awesome to see the number of partners who put their business cards next to 15 to 20 initiatives and said, “Yes, I want to help you achieve these things.”
What is an initiative that stands out?
We have four main goals in our strategic plan, our first being to promote job creation.
One of them is focusing on our economic opportunity zones and is something we’ve been talking about for a long time. We established them years ago and have made a lot of progress this year on EOZs, which is really exciting.
We’re undertaking a North Nevada Master Plan to address that EOZ and have some work happening on South Academy. A lot of community partners are involved in that.
These projects involve our businesses, neighborhood organizations and the [Colorado Springs] Regional Business Alliance.
How would you describe the business climate in Colorado Springs?
What I think is different about Colorado Springs, even compared to Denver, is that we’re super friendly.
What’s also nice about Colorado Springs is that it’s still pretty young in terms of developing “live, work and play” in the same area, and tight-knit walkable and bikeable neighborhoods.
It’s exciting because I think the city is on the brink of being huge and feel like more people recognize that this is a cool place to live and do business.
Business here isn’t just to do business and make money. They also care and invest in our community and I think that’s pretty neat.
What is something you would change about this city?
I love budget, but find it kind of frustrating in Colorado Springs because we just can’t do everything. We’re so spread out — between 911 response and transportation — we’re big with limited resources. It makes it hard to provide services. It’s difficult from a budget perspective and even just as a local resident, it’s frustrating to have to go so far sometimes just to be with friends.
How can Colorado Springs retain more young professionals?
I think a lot of it is perception. Historically, Colorado Springs hasn’t had the best image, but it’s getting better. I think the walkable, bikeable neighborhoods are really important to attract young professionals, allowing them to walk to a grocery store or bike to work. Also, affordable housing is important in terms of affordable for a young professional who is maybe in a startup position.
I think we are getting an increase in young professionals staying and moving here from other places because of the access to recreation and great weather. When my friends visit me in Colorado Springs, they love it.
Has the pace of your job changed with time?
It’s picked up. Budget is a high-energy, fast-paced office. Particularly during certain times of the year, when we’re actually preparing the budget document itself and in the middle of budget season, which is right now. It’s picked up but made me more consistent throughout the year.
What do you like to do in your spare time?
I like to snowshoe, hike and I’m learning how to play the cello. I also play the flute, like to read and bake. My boyfriend and I have a Brittany spaniel dog — he’s very high-energy, sometimes too much energy for me!