Mayor Ken Jaray: Age disrupter

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David Harry Stewart is the originator of the AGEIST concept and a highly successful award-winning photographer. He is passionate about changing the way we view aging. Through his website, agei.st, he’s made popular the concept of “age disrupter,” referring to aging adults who refuse to become invisible. These are people between the ages of 50 and 70 who are different than people their age were 20 years ago. They are the first group to have spent their entire lifetimes exercising, having a proper diet and a healthier lifestyle.

Believing that the new Manitou Springs mayor is a good example of an age disrupter, I reached out to Ken Jaray to catch up. I first met Ken years ago through our involvement with the Colorado Springs Leadership Institute. At the time, I was the CEO of Peak Vista Community Health Centers and he was a partner in his law firm, Jaray & Webster. A Manitou Springs resident for almost 40 years, Ken was also passionate about his community.

Ken and I reconnected several years later as I headed toward the end of my time with Peak Vista, and he was beginning to step away from his practice. We found we shared similar experiences as we transitioned from our respective careers. I was exploring my highest and best use during this new phase of my life, and Ken was trying to “find a new tribe.”

Recently, on the morning of his first Manitou Springs City Council meeting, I met with Ken again and asked him to reflect on his journey since leaving his law firm in 2012. He confessed that he had wandered for a period. He especially missed the tribe he knew through his profession and set about looking for a new one.

Spurred on by a speech he heard at a Colorado Sustainability Conference, he decided to pursue becoming an investor in startup small businesses. In this, he felt he might find new meaning.

Armed with cash to invest and a belief that he had  entrepreneurial experience as a result of running a successful small law practice for years, he sought out and attended investor meetings. He offered his legal expertise to entrepreneurs and was excited to help people invest in our local economy.

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Ken said it was an eye-opening experience, but the difficulty of working his way into the entrepreneurial infrastructure told him it was time to pivot.

Part of that path was re-engaging more deeply with the Manitou community. He had become concerned that decisions were being made without a good public process. Unwilling to disregard his concerns, he volunteered to help develop Manitou’s Master Plan.

As a result, he made the decision to run for mayor. Thankful for the way the community rallied behind him, Ken said, “On the first day after my election, I realized I had already accomplished one of my goals: pulling the community together.”

His focus as mayor is on further bringing the community together through a clear vision, clear goals, clear norms and adding the voices of young people to the community conversation.

Ken is an age disrupter who certainly is not invisible. Nor does he have an “age defeatism” attitude. According to AGEIST thought leader David Cooley, this is an attitude or life stage where people are convinced that their skill set is dated and that they have a low probability of contributing again because of their age. Ken believes that key skills he brought with him from his past career — mediation and facilitation skills — will serve him well in helping Manitou Springs become an even greater community.

Lead on, Mr. Mayor, Mr. Age Disrupter.

BJ Scott, former executive director of Peak Vista Foundation and former CEO of Peak Vista Community Health Systems, can be reached at bjscott2325@gmail.com.