District News Articles

  2. Hamlet “Chips” Barry, the CEO of Denver Water, the state’s largest utility, died after an accident on his farm on the Big Island of Hawaii, Sunday May 2, 2010.  Barry, 66, had been the head of Denver Water since 1991 and was set to retire in a few weeks and recently honored for his services in a Resolution adopted by the Platte Canyon Board of Directors last month.
    “We are greatly saddened by the news,” said Penfield Tate, president of the Denver Board of Water Commissioners.
    In April, the agency announced that Jim Lochhead, a longtime water-law attorney and a lead shareholder at Denver’s Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck LLP, has been chosen to head Denver Water upon Barry’s retirement.
    Denver Water had planned for Lochhead to take over the agency on June 1.  On May 3, the agency said Bob Mahoney, Denver Water’s director of engineering, will be acting manager until Lochhead takes the post.
    Both the state House and Senate paused for moments of silence in honor of Barry.  Rep. Joel Judd, D-Denver, said of him: “This is a man who brought Denver Water into the 21st century, really brought us into the age of watching our consumption and brought us into the future.”
    Sen.  Bruce Whitehead, D-Hesperus, said: “He was a great man.  He will be missed greatly here in Denver, as well as statewide.”
    Barry, who never held an elective office and is probably unknown to most Coloradans left a legacy that those who knew him say they will never forget.  "If you want a monument to Chips Barry, just turn on your water faucet," said former Colorado Gov. Dick Lamm.  "He was an unsung hero, one of those people who helped keep the infrastructure going."
    Barry was preparing land on his Big Island macadamia-nut farm that he would run in retirement.  He had taken a tractor out to do some mowing, and it flipped on top of him.  There were no known witnesses.  His wife, Gail, discovered him in the field after she became concerned about his whereabouts as night approached.  "It makes me so sad as he was so looking forward to his retirement and all the projects he had waiting," Gail Barry wrote in an e-mail to friends and colleagues in Denver.
    Barry took over Denver Water in 1991, assuming responsibility for finding and buying water and piping it to more than 1.3 million metro-area customers.
    In a business where disputes are often settled by lawsuits that take years to play out, Barry was known for his sense of humor, his willingness to negotiate and his ability to avoid--rather than provoke--conflict.  "He always disagreed with a smile," recalled Eric Kuhn, manager of the Colorado River Conservation District, who participated in hundreds of water-planning meetings with Barry over the years.
    Barry announced in January that he planned to retire, wanting to spend more time on his farm, where he produced macadamia nuts, coffee and honey.  But even as a July retirement date neared, he was working with his successor and completing a mediated dispute with Western Slope parties over use of the Blue River.  "I want to do whatever I can to make Denver Water successful," Barry said.
    Politicians across the state and in Washington, D.C., said Monday that he accomplished that goal.  "He was a pioneer who helped build a conservation program that is nationally and internationally recognized as a model of success," Denver Mayor John Hickenlooper said in a statement.  "However great his legacy in water, what we will miss most is the person--the warmth and the wit, the charm and the kindness.  He was one of the most gracious and considerate people I've ever known."
    During his tenure, Denver Water implemented a conservation program, built a recycled water distribution system, invested millions in improvements at its treatment facilities, monitored recovery from several devastating wildfires in Denver Water’s watershed and led the scramble to recover from one of the worst droughts in the city’s history.  The 1997 Integrated Resource Plan, which details Denver Water’s long-term water supply plan, was adopted under Barry. He also oversaw a cooperative agreement with customer districts.  "He revolutionized Denver Water, making it a national leader in conservation and a better partner for everyone who cares about this state," Gov. Bill Ritter said.
    Internally, Chips transitioned Denver Water from a hierarchical, insular organization to a more modern governmental entity that seeks the best talent from inside and outside and encourages interdivisional cooperation.  Chips’ open-door policy has made him accessible to employees throughout the organization.  "He was a gregarious, warm person with a wonderful sense of humor, but a little quirky," said Penfield Tate, president of the Denver Board of Water Commissioners.
    Externally, he set about to change Denver Water’s relationships with its neighbors on the East and West Slope and beyond Colorado. Denver Water’s relations with distributor customers in the metro area have been completely revamped, and the entities are now partners rather than opposing litigants.  Through Chips’ personal efforts, Denver Water also dramatically improved relationships with many entities on the West Slope.  Chips was the initiator and founder of the Western Urban Water Coalition, which represents all the major water utilities in the semi-arid west and has become a respected voice in Washington on such issues as endangered species and federal regulation of water.
    Macadamia farm life in Hawaii "was going to be a new chapter of his life.  It's so incredibly sad that he can't realize it," said Harris Sherman, a high school classmate of Barry's who is now U.S. Department of Agriculture undersecretary for natural resources and environment.  "He really brought the East and West Slopes closer together.  He's the one who insisted on communication and dialogue.  As a result of that, there is a dialogue--a very effective dialogue."
    U.S. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar said Barry's tenure at Denver Water left an indelible mark on the state.  "All Coloradans," he said, "owe him a debt of gratitude."
    A longtime Denverite, he was a graduate of George Washington High School, Yale University, and Columbia Law School.  He went on to serve with his wife, Gail, as a VISTA volunteer in Alaska and as a legal services lawyer in the Marshall Islands before returning to Colorado to work in state and local government.  He served as director of the Colorado Department of Natural Resources under Governor Roy Romer before being hired as the Manager of the Denver Water Department in 1991.  Long known as a consensus builder, his negotiation skills and vision modernized Denver Water moving it to focus more on conservation, cooperation, and long term planning.
    Barry is survived by his wife, Gail; two sons and their families, Duncan and Karolina Barry, and Pennan Barry and Winifred Kao with grandson, Malcolm Barry-Kao; as well as two sisters, Ellen and Rebecca. 
    Denver Water said Monday that condolences and stories about Barry can be emailed to  In lieu of flowers, donations can be made in Chips’ name to Water for People, an international, nonprofit organization that focuses on the development of locally sustainable drinking water resources, sanitation facilities, and hygiene education programs.
    A Toast and Celebration to honor Chips Barry will be held on May 21, 2010, 4:30 p.m., at the Wells Fargo Theater at the Convention Center in Denver.  The celebration is open to the public.  Doors will open at 3:30 p.m., and the Toast and Celebration program will begin at 4:30 p.m.