Hello. I am Judy Amabile, and I am seeking to advance progressive Colorado values as your next representative in House District 49.
Having lived in the state for almost 50 years, I am a proud Coloradan, and passionately devoted to this amazing place and its people. Throughout my life and business career, I have helped bring real solutions to bear on significant challenges facing our communities.
My experience for this job is derived from my roles as an entrepreneur, employer, mother, and hardworking community activist. In all of these roles, I have become known for creative problem solving, open-mindedness, and pragmatism. I am strong on the issues I believe in, and skilled at bringing people together to build consensus. In essence, I get things done.
My parents were an interesting mix of modest and fierce. My dad Frank, a lawyer and Italian-Catholic, taught his kids to be good shoemakers; in other words, it didn’t matter what you did as long as you did it with integrity and devotion. He wouldn’t tolerate arrogance or showoffs, and he modeled for me the value of humility. My mom Ann, an Irish Catholic, had a wild personality and a lot of grit. She was a feminist first and foremost and taught her children (I am the youngest of five) how to engage and fight for what’s right. We were a big and complicated family, centered in love. We learned that taking care of each other is the most important thing.
My entire family (ok, there’s one rogue cousin) is left leaning. We all learned that the accident of being born into a family that valued education and had the resources to take care of us meant we should give back, and look out for those with less. My brother and sisters have had distinguished careers in public service: two public defenders, a teacher who works with new English learners, and a nurse turned software analyst.
After my parents’ divorce in my 8th grade year, we moved with my mother from New York to Aspen. I was a city kid out of concrete. That very first semester we went on a grueling outdoor education adventure that was the most difficult thing I had ever done. After two weeks of back country hiking, rock climbing, rappelling and a solo overnight, I felt an incredible sense of accomplishment. I was forever changed.
My first job was bagging groceries at City Market in Aspen. I worked hard and all the checkers loved me for it. We joined a union while I was working there and it was exciting to be in the fight. Management was not happy, but I got a big raise.
I earned a BA and an MBA at the University of Colorado in Boulder.
After graduate school, I worked at Coopers and Lybrand as a Senior Consultant and hated it. We did mediocre work for huge fees. One assignment was a downsizing at El Paso Electric Company. We laid off 50 people and the company used the savings to pay big bonuses to the executives who hired us. I felt dirty and decided to make a change.
Twenty-five years ago, I co-founded Polar Bottle, a Boulder company that manufactures smartly designed sport water bottles. It wasn’t easy, but with hard work and determination, my former husband and I made this business a success. We did so while upholding values that aren’t always thought of as good business: we manufactured our products exclusively in the USA, we paid our employees dignified and fair wages, and we ensured they had time off to attend to family needs.
We didn’t start that way. Our original idea to eschew Chinese manufacturing was based on the notion that we didn’t want to profit by exploiting workers there. But then we woke up to the fact that paying our local employees minimum wages was equally unfair. We made some big changes. It wasn’t easy at first but certainly paid off over time. From this experience, I saw that it is possible to optimize the well-being of all business stakeholders – customers, employees, and shareholders — without compromising employees for short-term gains. This is a truth I think all businesses can embrace.
I am the mother of three sons who grew up in Boulder and attended Boulder High School. Two of my sons have earned college degrees. One of my sons has a serious mental illness that developed at age 18 and has gotten worse over time. Finding treatment has been overwhelmingly frustrating. I’m one of a legion of parents who know the despair of trying to access mental health services in a system that seems designed for failure. As we are learning, the costs and consequences of a broken mental health care system are devastating to people, families, and society at large. I aim to change things.
Managing a growing business, caring for up to 65 employees, and parenting three boys has informed every part of my life. Beyond these foundational aspects, my story includes significant success in community service. I have forged collaborative relationships with change makers in many realms, and sought out opportunities to serve in meaningful ways.
In 2017, I was a founding board member of Good Business Colorado, a consortium of outstanding businesses that together advocate for a strong Colorado economy, thriving communities, and a sustainable environment. I currently serve on GBC’s board.
I have been politically active with terrific, heavy-weight organizations such as The League of American Bicyclists, traveling to Washington multiple times to lobby for bicycling accessibility. As a member of the Outdoor Industry Association through Polar Bottle, I was involved in Washington lobbying events to advocate for our public lands.
Recently, I testified before the Colorado General Assembly on the Extreme Risk Protection Order bill that Governor Polis signed into law on April 2, 2019. With my son’s mental health condition, this issue is extremely close to my heart and I am buoyed by its success and the protections it will provide to desperate families. I believe this bill signifies a new track record of common sense gun legislation to come.
I’ve testified before Colorado house and senate committees on other issues too, like the Pay Equity Commissions bill. It was a first step toward achieving equal pay, and it died in a Republican-controlled committee. I’d like to bring that issue back to the forefront. For three years running, I have testified on Paid Family Leave, with several Polar Bottle employees joining me to share their experiences as highly productive workers who want to be able to attend to their family responsibilities too. I’ve been invited to share my expertise on initiatives such as the Colorado Secure Savings Plan and Local Control of Minimum Wage.
For two years, I served as the Vice President for the Democratic Women of Boulder County. For eight years, I served as a member of the Daily Camera’s Editorial Advisory Board, where I enjoyed weighing in on important community issues (we’ve made many of my columns available to read on this website, go to On The Record). I am currently serving on the Community Affairs Council, the advocacy group for the Boulder Chamber of Commerce,
In the last several years, important issues have become magnified for me and I feel drawn to serve. My big three areas of focus?
- Ensuring wages for working families keep up with the costs of housing, health care, child care and college tuition.
- Increasing access to mental health resources to address the staggering rise in homelessness, drug addiction, incarceration and suicide.
- Acting boldly on climate change and environmental stewardship.
I believe in Progress for All, and know through my experience that true change is possible when we all work together.