Gov. Jared Polis appointed Taylor McLemore to the PERA Board of Trustees in 2021, and in January McLemore was elected by his Trustee colleagues to fill the Vice Chair seat vacated by Suzanne Kubec.
We recently sat down with McLemore to talk about his background and his new role on the Board.
Tell us about yourself and the experience you bring to the Board.
I am an entrepreneur, and my career has spanned across a variety of industries and sectors, everything from starting in the investment banking and capital markets world, to founding companies, to helping grow and scale companies, and now I’m a venture capital investor. I’ve also spent time in the nonprofit world, founding and building nonprofits focused on education and economic mobility.
I believe every organization, for-profit business or nonprofit has the opportunity to truly influence their community. I approach the Board’s work from that ecosystem perspective, and I hope that’s something that makes me a productive and contributing Board member. PERA exists to serve its members, but PERA also has a critical relationship with the broader State of Colorado, our Legislature, the partners that we invest in and so on. My varied experience provides me with open-mindedness to be listening and be thoughtful as we balance input from lots of parties to figure out how we achieve the most important thing—a stable PERA that serves its members.
The term “fiduciary” comes up a lot in Board discussions. How do you view that duty with regard to the Board’s work?
Our role as fiduciaries is very clear. It’s articulated in both state and federal law what that means and how we need to prioritize the interests of the organization above all other interests. It’s our duty of loyalty and a duty of care, putting PERA’s priorities first and managing any conflicts of interest. It is important that the Board do the work within the mandate of our charter by the State of Colorado and the laws established by our state Legislature. The Board focuses on governance and policy for PERA as an organization. The Executive Director is responsible to the Board to lead PERA and drive outcomes aligned with PERA’s strategic plan. PERA’s management team leads and runs PERA. It is critical that the Board operate from its clearly defined role. Additionally, we, the Board, utilize a set of highly skilled and intelligent consultants and service providers to serve the Board. It is our responsibility that PERA has a competent and aligned Executive Director, and for the Board consultants that we have the professional and capable firms and consultants supporting all of the functions of the Board.
You’ve been leading the Board’s Ad Hoc Committee that’s searching for PERA’s next Executive Director. How has that experience prepared you for a larger leadership role on the Board?
PERA is a large organization with a fair amount of complexity, so it takes some time to really understand the organization well enough to be able to support from a governance perspective the executive team that’s operating and leading PERA. In addition to serving on the Board for three years, chairing the Ad Hoc Committee for the Executive Director Search has been a great additional layer of experience because our committee had to ask some really specific questions about what skills, competencies, and lived experience PERA’s future leader needs to have. That profile that we have developed to guide the Executive Director search process is a reflection of what we have learned as a Board and the critical areas of focus going into the future. This embodies my approach to leadership on the Board. We have a valuable diversity of experience and knowledge across the Trustees, and we need to operate in a manner that leverages our collective wisdom, channeling it into action and then outcomes.
Do you have any updates on the Executive Director search?
Our search firm has contacted over 400 people in the search process, which is one of the things we really prioritized—casting a broad net. We know there are some candidates already in the public pension space who are probably highly qualified candidates, but we really saw value in seeking out a diversity of candidates, with diversity defined a lot of different ways, including lived experience and professional experience. We received over 200 applications and have narrowed those candidates down to a smaller pool that the Ad Hoc Committee will be interviewing. We’ll then recommend an even smaller subset of candidates to the full Board, which will select and hire the next Executive Director.
Do you have any advice for PERA members interested in running for one of the four open seats on the Board?
I think serving on the PERA Board of Trustees is a really meaningful form of service. I really think of PERA as a critical set of community members in Colorado. There’s nothing more important than people who are teaching our children, the state troopers keeping us safe, the people in the judicial branch that are administering justice, and that’s just a subset of our membership. This state doesn’t run without the people of PERA, and even when they’re retired, we know that PERA members continue to be amazing leaders in their communities. And so if someone is running for election, it’s probably because they’re already a meaningful public servant in how they are pursuing their career, and running to join as a PERA Trustee is a great way to extend that service and impact.