Being powerful is like being a lady. If you have to tell people you are, you aren’t.
– Margaret Thatcher
Dennis Polhill contracts with the Independence Institute as a Senior Fellow in Public Infrastructure. As Chairman of the Colorado Term Limits Coalition (CTLC) from 1994 to present, Dennis has come to realize the extremes to which the status quo will go to resist reforms to the political system.
Dennis spent the first 26 years of his life in Illinois. Born in Freeport on September 12, 1946, he received two bachelors degrees (Mathematics and General Engineering) from the University of Illinois in 1970. Committing to a career of public service, he spent the next decade working his way from a construction engineer to a City Engineer and finally to a Director of Public Works supervising a staff of 200 before the age of 30. He worked for the cities of Urbana, Illinois; Cumberland, Maryland; and Lakewood, Colorado.
His habit of attending perpetual night classes ended in 1975, when the U.S. Department of Transportation awarded him a fellowship for graduate study. In 1978 the University of Pittsburgh awarded him two masters degrees: Transportation Engineering (MSCE) and Public Works Management (MPA).
In 1981 he left government employment to do consulting and his firm, Pavement Management Systems, Inc., was instrumental in elevating awareness and establishing the new field of Pavement Management. The new field integrated materials science, computer data management, operations research, and financial analysis to help governments manage their pavements more effectively.
Dennis became a Registered Professional Engineer in 12 states and a Registered Land Surveyor in two states. He was also active in a multitude of professional organizations: American Association of Petroleum Technologists, American Consulting Engineers Council, American Public Works Association, Asphalt Reclaiming and Recycling Association, American Society of Civil Engineers, American Association of Public Administration, American Water Works Association, International City Management Association, Institute of Transportation Engineers, National Society of Professional Engineers, and Transportation Research Board. As President of APWA in 1984, he lead Colorado to receive a myriad of national awards, including Most Outstanding State Chapter, and he was recognized nationally for “Meritorious Service.” He also served 4 years as National President of the Graduate Public Works Alumni Association.
As a nationally recognized pavement expert, Dennis taught numerous workshops and seminars. In 1984 as an Honorary Professor, he taught a graduate level course in Pavement Design for the University of Colorado.
In 1987 Dennis sold his consulting business, but continued to consult to his firm and also consulted independently, while venturing into several commercial real estate deals when the Colorado economy was lagging. Involvement in commercial real estate allowed Dennis to observe and participate in literally dozens of businesses learning real world economic impacts and consequences. With the Colorado economy recovered in 1994, Dennis sold his interest in most ventures and retired from typical work.
Dennis has traveled extensively including several trips to Communist block countries: Soviet Union (1989), Czechoslovakia (1993), China (1993), and Moldova (1997). The Moldova trip was a two month stay by invitation of the U.S. State Department to assist with Moldova’s fledgling collective farm privatization effort. Moldova would become the model for much of Eastern Europe. A private sector capacity for surveying and subdividing was created and it has since resulted in millions of Moldovan farmers owning their own land and millions more in other former Soviet Republics that copied Moldova.
In 1993 Dennis became a Senior Fellow in Public Infrastructure at the Independence Institute, Colorado’s public policy think tank. In addition to infrastructure and transportation, Dennis also writes about economic, role-of-government, and democracy issues. Several pieces are posted at www.i2i.org.
As a former bureaucrat and consultant to government, Dennis was conditioned to be silent. This ended in 1991 with his first letter to the editor. His citizen activism grew and in 1994 he became chairman of the Colorado Term Limits Coalition. CTLC mounted petition drives in 1994, 1996, and 1998 to amend the Colorado Constitution. All succeeded in achieving ballot status and in winning election. Unhappy politicians reacted with attacks on the petition process. Dennis joined other populist groups from both the left and right to defend the process. Several legislative attacks have been successfully repelled. In 1996 and 2006 the same left-right coalition advocated the Petition Rights Amendment with Dennis as a lead proponent to forever protect the process from the Colorado Legislature. PRA achieved ballot status, but special interest money defeated the Amendment at the ballot box.
Dennis has also been involved in civic activities. A former member of both the Jaycees and Chambers of Commerce, Dennis was appointed as a delegate to the Governor’s Statehouse Conference on Small Business in 1991 and 1993 and became an issue leader at both helping to form the lobbying coalition: Colorado Coalition for Fair Competition. As a member of the American Cancer Society Board of Directors, he received their Volunteer of the Year Award in 1994.
Dennis and Debby have lived in Colorado for over 30 years, and have 4 children and 9 grandchildren.
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