Dennis spent the first 26 years of his life in Illinois. Born in Freeport on September 12, 1946, he received two bachelor degrees (Mathematics and General Engineering) from the University of Illinois in 1970. Committing to a life of public service, he spent the next decade working his way from construction engineer to City Engineer and finally to 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 master degrees: Transportation Engineering (MSCE) and Public Works Management (MPA).
In 1981 he left government employment to start a consulting firm, Pavement Management Systems, Inc., that was instrumental in elevating awareness of 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 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 Public Works Association, American Society of Civil Engineers, American Consulting Engineers Council, American Association of Petroleum Technologists, Asphalt Reclaiming and Recycling Association, American Association of Public Administration, American Water Works Association, Institute of Transportation Engineers, International City Management Association, National Society of Professional Engineers, and Transportation Research Board. As President of APWA in 1984, he led Colorado to receive a myriad of national awards, including Most Outstanding State Chapter, and he was recognized nationally with the “Meritorious Service Award.” 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, he taught a graduate level course in Pavement Design for the University of Colorado as an Honorary (Adjunct) Professor.
In 1987 Dennis sold his consulting business, but continued to consult to his firm and consulted independently, while entering into several commercial real estate ventures when the Colorado economy was lagging. Involvement in commercial real estate allowed Dennis to observe and participate in literally dozens of businesses. With the Colorado economy recovering in 1994, Dennis sold his interests and retired.
Dennis has traveled extensively throughout the world, 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 collective farm privatization effort. Moldova became the model that other former Soviet block countries copied. A private sector surveying and subdividing capacity was created and it has since resulted in over 1,000,000 Moldovans owning their own farms.
In 2001 Dennis led a team of international election observers in Somalia, East Africa on behalf of the Initiative and Referendum Institute. Dennis helped found IRI in 1998, serving as its first Board Chairman.
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. Over 50 research papers are posted at www.i2i.org.
As a former bureaucrat and consultant to government, Dennis was conditioned to remain silent. In 1991 Dennis wrote 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 amending the Colorado Constitution. All succeeded in achieving ballot status and in winning election. Politicians reacted with attacks on the petition process. Dennis joined other 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. PRA would have restored subverted citizen rights and forever protected the petition process from the Colorado Legislature. PRA achieved ballot status, but special interest money defeated PRA.
Dennis has also been involved in many civic activities. A former member of both the Chambers of Commerce and the Junior Chamber 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 nearly 30 years, and have 4 children and 9 grandchildren.