Meet a Member: Gay Porter DeNileon

Gay Porter DeNileon is a leader for both NFPW and the Colorado affiliate. She is a hard worker who comes up with great ideas on ways to do things better. It has been a pleasure having her as NFPW secretary. She is dependable and is willing to work behind the scenes and give others credit in an effort to make improvements. She is a respected communications professional.She is a leader and a great asset to NFPW. It is a pleasure to introduce my unique and unbelievable friend Gay.

Gay Porter DeNileon pauses at American Falls, Idaho following the NFPW conference in Idaho in 2008.

Gay Porter DeNileon pauses near American Falls, Idaho following the NFPW conference in Idaho in 2008.

Name: Gay Porter DeNileon

City and State: Wheat Ridge, Colorado

Affiliate and any leadership positions:

Currently president of Colorado Press Women (also was president 2007 – 2009); former chair of the CPW Program Committee. Current Secretary of NFPW

Years a member of NFPW: 11. I really got involved in 2005 when CPW started planning the 2006 national convention in Denver, that was so much fun and I really learned to appreciate the CPW members, especially the two conference co-chairs Marilyn Saltzman and Ann Lockhart, and then president Judi Buehrer.

Tell us a little about you.

I’m one of those lucky J-School grads (University of Colorado) who has always had a communications job. My college internship with the CU Athletic Department led to a stint covering World Cup skiing and the Winter Olympics with a niche publication called Ski Racing, which led to numerous freelance articles for different publications, including Sports Illustrated and Frontier Inflight. I continued to work in the ski business as the public relations manager for Crested Butte Mountain Resort and as the press liaison for national championships and the Aspen Winternational. Then I was a reporter and editor for a Crested Butte weekly for several years — covering everything from the town council to the local sports to the society news. When I moved to Denver area in the early 90s, I like to say that “my snow melted” and I began to work for the water industry. I’ve worked for American Water Works for 22 years now, first as managing editor and reporter of the association newsletter, then on two other periodicals and more recently as senior manager of editorial development and production of books. Books are a different challenge than writing and editing articles, and I’ve learned a lot along the way.

Gay having dinner with her husband, Mike, and daughter, Hilary, on the beach in Punta Vista, Uruguay

Gay having dinner with her husband, Mike, and daughter, Hilary, on the beach in Punta Vista, Uruguay

Outside of work, I’ve been happily married to Mike DeNileon for 19 years; we have two granddaughters from his two sons and another grandchild on the way. My daughter, Hilary, is a graduate student at Cornell. (I went back to school a few years ago so I could get my master’s before she did and received my Masters in Public Administration in 2009 from the University of Colorado – Denver.) I love to ski, ride my road bike, garden (although Mike is the real farmer; we had a great harvest the last couple of years), water sports, cook, read, bead, travel, spend time with friends. After we go to Alaska for this year’s NFPW conference, I will have visited every state except four — and I’ll get to those within the next decade.

Any career advice you would give?

Ask questions. That’s what reporters do and why we are important. If you don’t understand something, chances are your readers won’t either, so ask for fuller explanations, do more research, and tell the whole story.

Also, everybody needs an editor, and being an editor can improve your own writing.

Which talent would you most like to have?

I’d love to be able to do improv comedy — and to be able to break dance. I’ll probably take tap dancing lessons when I retire.

If you could live anywhere, where would it be?

Gay sailing in Charleston Harbor on the NFPW post tour last year.

Gay sailing in Charleston Harbor on the NFPW post tour last year.

Well I grew up in Michigan, so I love the lakes, and I love the mountains of Colorado, so Lake Tahoe might be the perfect combination of both — if my family and friends were close!

What book are you reading?

I just finished The Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd (loved it!) and am buzzing through The Children Act by Ian McEwan. And I’m listening to The Wishing Trees by John Shors in my car.  I belong to two book clubs and organize the community reading event for the Wheat Ridge Cultural Commission (I’m a second-term commissioner) so I’m always on the lookout for a good read.

What would people be surprised to learn about you?

I was the water industry go-to person on counterterrorism right after 9/11. My involvement in the issue began in 1999 when I became the AWWA staff liaison to a group of water utility executives addressing the industry’s response to Presidential Decision Directive 63, which addressed security and critical industry. In that role, I attended training at Argonne and Sandia National Laboratories and was part of a research advisory group developing a risk assessment methodology for water (and later taught the RAM-W method to water utilities). In May 2001 a peer-reviewed article I wrote on the water community’s counterterrorism efforts and the potential to be attacked was published in Journal AWWA. So four months later, I was the only person in our office tracking the issue when terrorist-driven planes took down the World Trade Center. As the national source for water information, AWWA was inundated with phone calls about how secure the drinking water supply was against terrorist attacks, and I fielded a lot of the calls, set up a web resource center for our members, and my article was widely cited in the media.

Another surprising fact is I directed five plays for the community theater in Crested Butte (and acted in an equal number) and if I had known it could be a career, I might have become a movie director. I’ve got a couple plays in me that I’m hoping to write when I retire.

Why is your affiliate and NFPW important to you?

The active members of my affiliate and the people I’ve met through NFPW are all extremely bright women with interesting ideas and experiences that bring a lot to a conversation or an event. They and the events they plan stimulate me and expand my horizons.

Way to follow you on a website, twitter, Facebook, etc. 

LinkedIn, Goodreads, and Pintrest

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