When I met with Juanita Chacon, we both were wearing the same shade of purple! Just happens to be one of the school colors for the North Denver High School Vikings – which is the high school we both attended.
Realtor and civic-nonprofit-political activist, Juanita is a vibrant and highly accomplished woman with a strong desire to give back to her community. Of special interest to her is helping the growing Latino/Latina population build a better future by creating a more level educational field and preparing them for professional and entrepreneurial opportunities in the future – without discrimination.
Rich in the love of her heritage, and with a solid upbringing given to her by loving dedicated parents, Juanita Chacon’s Colorado life began when her hard-working, coal-miner father brought the family back to Denver from their home in Utah to be with Juanita’s ailing, asthmatic grandfather. Fortunately Grandpa Chacon lived to be well in his 90’s.
After college - and before she became a realtor, Juanita was stationed in a variety of cities while working as a flight attendant for Continental Airlines, but Denver was always home. Amazed by all the growth that has taken place, Juanita says: “Denver could be the model in the housing recovery for the rest of the country! Our city has gotten so successful that it’s unfortunately created a gap in education for the working class. I’ve sat on 27 boards and commissions and have a strong interest in transitioning women from welfare to work. A good education plays a key role in a person's ability to secure a job that can create a successful life; and I want to do what I can to turn those schools that are failing around.”
Aside from being on the Denver 2008 Democratic National Convention Host Committee, Juanita’s political involvement goes way back to working with her friend, former Denver Mayor Federico Pena. She was a guest of President Clinton’s at the White House and actually danced the salsa with him at a dinner! Juanita quips: “This little girl from North Denver did pretty well! I also got to meet Pope John Paul II when he was in Denver in 1993.”
Juanita is a great communicator and holds herself to a higher standard in all aspects of her life. Always immersed in a project for one of her causes, Juanita loves to engage in conversations with people – and stays current and up-to-date on just about everything!
Juanita has taken her well-earned experience as a community activist and transformed herself into a powerful figure to be reckoned with. She has brought the deeply personal experiences of herself and her parents to her daily life and has the values and character to keep giving back and helping to develop other Latina leaders.
When I asked Juanita what advice she had for others wanting to really get involved in civic engagement she said: “So many people assume you don’t need to write a check… No matter what the amount is - you still do. That access allows you a seat at the “big kitchen table” and the opportunity to really make a difference!”
What took you down the real estate career path? Initially I obtained a license for my own personal use; shortly afterwards the airline I worked for went bankrupt, and I felt it was an easy transition after 15 years in the airline industry.
How and why did you become politically active? In 1982, I met a man named Federico Pena, and he did two things: Represented me as a Latina as I wished to be represented – and taught me that one person can make a difference.
How do you look at life, what is your philosophy on living life to its fullest? Four words sum it up for me: Love, Live, Laugh, Give.
What is the most important lesson someone ever taught you? I have been the beneficiary of some really amazing accomplished individuals – but it was my mother who modeled the “Gift of Giving.”
How can we pass these values on to the kids of today? The same way by modeling… I take my nieces to delivery Thanksgiving baskets; and I try and share stories of those less fortunate when we drive by persons asking for money or explain homelessness.
What do you like to do with your personal time? Are you into cooking? Personal time is easy – family and golf. I can tell you about every new fabulous restaurant, and I love dining (not eating) - but cooking is a skill I only appreciate!
What is your favorite Denver restaurant(s)? I love Sushi Sasha. I can eat sushi as often as I do Mexican.
What do you consider your greatest accomplishment? I’d like to think I was a really great daughter. I was blessed with amazing parents. I had a wonderful father who didn’t drink or chase women – he came home to his family. We traveled together, and my parents were enormous role models for me. They truly were part of the greatest generation. My mom has taught me about being a great friend and a great neighbor and to live with integrity. She cares so much about people, especially those that don’t have much. If I wasn’t wearing something, it was gone – and given away to someone who needed it. Mom has always been about her neighborhood and her church. I remember when she took care of a neighbor who was sick and had no children. It wasn’t like she took her cookies – she really took care of her! I hope I let my parents know how special they are/were in my life.
Tell us something no one knows about you? I had the female lead in my 9th grade play – thought my life would be in theater. Found out that year that I couldn’t sing.
With all the new technology out there, what’s your preferred way to get world news and current events? Still that old fashion newspaper; I love going out early morning and I love opening it and I love being able to touch it.
Where in this world would you still like to travel? As a flight attendant, I was very fortunate to travel extensively – maybe Argentina…
As a single person, what’s the best way to meet people? Million Dollar Question! Helen Thorpe once called me the “Queen of Networking.”
What (or who) makes you laugh no matter what? I love to read the books of true humorists (several times) such as Alan King, Bill Cosby, Erma Bombeck and Joan Rivers. The who is my friend, Jeri, a former flight attendant. She has this quick wit and usually has me laughing within minutes.
What causes have grabbed your attention? I have been on 27 boards or commissions in the last 25 years, so quite a few. I have a strong interest in Early Childhood Education, Social Justice, and Civic Engagement. One of my favorites has been Family Star Montessori School. A nonprofit I have my eye on now is Girl Scouts of Colorado.
Can you name some of the boards/commissions? Community Corrections City and County of Denver Board, Director on the Board for the Regional Transportation District (RTD), the Colorado State Housing Board (appointed by the Governor), Denver Urban Renewal Authority, and I am the co-founder of the Latina Chamber and have helped create several initiatives.
What event wouldn’t you even think of missing each year? Latin American Educational Foundation (LAEF) events.
What distinguishes you from other realtors? First of all (and this isn’t necessarily a good thing), me being a realtor was the best kept secret in Denver when I was appointed to the Colorado State Housing Board - and one of my brokers was appointed to the Real Estate Commission. She mentioned it to Governor Romer (the person who appointed me), and he said: “Oh she’s a realtor too?” Many people just thought I was a “wealthy” community activist. Realtor is what I do, being involved in the community is who I am. See my website: JuanitaChacon.HomesinColorado.com
Now seriously Juanita, I’ve heard so many great things about you as a realtor in Denver for years! What skills put you in the “cut above” category? I would say that in addition to my enthusiasm, it’s my expertise in residential marketing and promotion and a commitment to provide quality real estate services. My success depends on understanding and solving the real estate needs of my clients. When they tell me what they are looking for, I focus closely on what they say and put all my resources to work...and deliver! I’m definitely ready to step up to the challenge.
What do you enjoy most about what you do? I get tremendous satisfaction from helping first time buyers with home ownership. It is their first step in creating wealth, and I still love looking at homes!
What do you still hope to accomplish in your lifetime? I want to write a book about all of my heroes; and shoot an 80 score on any golf course!
What is your vision for the future of Denver? I love Denver! As a member of the Host Committee of the Democratic National Convention, I knew we could sell Denver in 2006 when we started our campaign to bring the convention here. My vision is: 1) Lead the country in economic recovery. 2) That the administration’s housing recovery programs continue to play a role in making our neighborhoods stronger and better performing schools will emerge as the result. 3) Support Small Business. I love what has happened in the last 10 years: The new redeveloped neighborhoods - Ballpark, Curtis Park, LoHi, Stapleton…
Where do you see yourself 10 years from now, and what will you be doing? No doubt still non-profit fundraising. Since I have been reflecting back on the last 10 years, I’d like to think I would still want to help grow and promote these organizations. One of my strengths has been to connect small grass root organizations with businesses.
How do you want to be remembered? At the end I hope it would look like this: Realtor is what she did – Community Activist is who she was.
Juanita Chacon’s Honors and Awards: RE/MAX 100% Club, RE/MAX President's Club and RE/MAX Hall of Fame, Denver Board of Realtor's Million Dollar Roundtable,
Hispanic Realtor of the Year, Denver Hispanic Chamber of Commerce Businesswoman of the Year, and Girl Scouts of Colorado “Woman of Distinction 2012” which will be presented to Ms. Chacon on October 23, 2012 at the Women of Distinction “Thin Mint” Dinner at the Sheraton Denver downtown.