With over 30 years of experience in the private, public, and nonprofit sectors, I have dedicated my life to serving the people in our community that need help the most, whether running my own small business or through my experience in social work, nonprofit management, teaching, and legislative advocacy.
Growing up in a large Minnesota construction family, I learned the value of hard work and experienced firsthand the struggles of America’s working class families. My parents worked hard to make sure I had the access to a good education and college opportunity, giving me a passion for giving back.
I have lived in Colorado for decades, and been happily married to my husband Vern for over 25 years. I began my career as a middle school teacher, but soon moved on to become a youth counselor in a juvenile detention center and later as a social worker, working with at-risk children and their families. These experiences solidified my determination to serve our community and our families. I went on to manage a Colorado organization, earn a law degree, and eventually work as an issues advocate and then a legislator at the State Legislature.
I served as the Director of Adolescent Services, Gemini House, and the Director of Battered Women Services, Women in Crisis, with Family Tree in Jefferson County. This experience managing a large organization with a limited budget gave me the skills to build my own small business dedicated to working with small businesses and nonprofit organizations to improve their strategic planning, budgeting, and management.
For 15 years, I had my own small business working with small businesses and nonprofits. I worked to help build capacity through mentoring executive directors, developing policy and boards. I also served as a project manager for several innovative federally funded projects. In addition, I worked as a lobbyist at the state capitol representing two mental health organizations.
I have also taught at Metro State and Regis University, and have been involved as a volunteer by serving on the board of directors of local and national nonprofit organizations, volunteering with organizations such as Energy Outreach Colorado, and serving as an active member of the Colorado Business and Professional Women and the League of Women Voters. As my reputation as a community leader grew, I was appointed to serve on the Jefferson County School District Strategic Planning and Advisory Council, the City of Arvada Citizen’s Capital Improvement Committee, and the City of Arvada Human Resources Council. I also serve on the Jeffco PTA, the Arvada Chamber Government Affairs committee and the Westminster Chamber Government Affairs committee, and the Juvenile Justice Delinquency Prevention Council.
My experience, passion for service, and commitment to community made me the right person to represent the people of House District 29 in the Colorado House of Representatives. I was reelected to a second term representing HD 29 in 2014, for a third term in 2016, and a fourth and final term in 2018.
As the State Representative for House District 29 (Arvada and Westminster), I served as the Chair of the Business Affairs and Labor Committee. I was also a member of the Appropriations Committee and member and past Chair of the Legislative Audit Committee. I also served on the Transportation and Energy Committee. I served as chair of the Sales and Use Tax Simplification Task Force, on the Juvenile Justice Prevention Council, Governor Hickenloopers’ Blockchain Council, Governor Polis’ Behavioral Healthcare Task Force, Behavioral Health Task Force and the NCSL Sales Tax Legislative Task Force.
My main legislative priorities were to encourage economic development and workforce development and to increase access to mental health services.
I met my husband, Vern Tharp, at a political rally, and although we had different political views, we have built a solid marriage of over 25 years with deep roots in the community. Vern is an entrepreneur and businessman with a focus on distressed companies and real estate transactions.
As both a small business owner and legislative advocate, I have witnessed the challenges that families, small businesses and community organizations face during difficult times. My firsthand experience bringing legislators on both sides of the aisle together to change policy in the mental health field has given me the critical experience our community needs in our state representative.
I have been honored by many organizations including Circle of Families, Cleantech Colorado, National Association of Social Workers (NASW), Community Reach, Colorado Independent Auto Dealers, Women’s Chamber of Commerce, Colorado Behavioral Healthcare Council, Colorado Nonprofit Association, Jefferson County Labor Initiative Friend of Labor, Common Sense in the Court Room (7 times), Colorado Technology Association, Bioscience Association, Champion of Mains Street by the Independent Bankers of America, the Colorado Bankers Association, Friends of Truckers, Interior Design Association and the Independent Electrical Workers Association. I was recognized at Celebrating Jeffco Women by the Jefferson West Chamber and as a Power Book Leader Government Category finalist by the Denver Business Journal. I was recognized in 2018 by the national Tax Foundation for my work in simplifying Colorado’s sales and use tax system and as a Sales Tax Simplification Champion by the Simplify Colorado Coalition.
My business common sense, my passion for public service, and my experience getting results on the complex issues facing Colorado families are the skills we need.