Kirsten C. Decker

Kirsten C. Decker (MPA 2014)
2022 KUCIMAT Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Award

Kirsten Decker
"I have been particularly impressed by Kirsten's passion for public service and her inclusive leadership."
- Jonathan M. Fisk
Associate Professor, Auburn University

About Kirsten   

Kirsten serves as the manager of strategy and innovation at the Denver Public Library.  She oversaw the design, formulation, and implementation of the Library's strategic plan, its program evaluation framework, and translated data into insights and stories.  


Kirsten led Values in Action teams comprised of over 60 individuals across disciplines of the library system and the community.  COVID hit at the beginning of the process, but Kirsten found innovative ways to gather feedback from stakeholders and successfully received input from over 75% of the organization.  The fact that 3 out of 4 employees contributed to the strategic planning process is a testament to Kirsten's work ethic and dedication to the process.  

Nomination of Kirsten C. Decker  

Submitted by: Jonathan M. Fisk, Associate Professor Auburn University

Dear Members of the Award Committee: Please accept this correspondence as an enthusiastic endorsement of Kirsten C. Decker, Manager of Strategy and Evaluation at the Denver Public Library for a KUCIMAT Award for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion.

I met Kirsten over ten years ago and have continued to collaborate with Kirsten, especially as it relates to public service leadership, diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) and students’ professional development. I have been particularly impressed by Kirsten’s passion for public service and her inclusive leadership. This commitment, I believe is especially important as the Denver Public Library traverses the global pandemic as well as its own DEI journey. I should note that Kristen’s current position is on top of an impressive array of prevision positions, which are summarized below:

•She served as the Process Improvement Program Manager for the City of Fort Collins, CO. Here, she designed, launched, and managed a city-wide process improvement program, resulting in more than $100k of documented savings in FY18 for the City.

•She served as the Director of Continuous Improvement for the City of Baltimore, MD. Here, she managed the transition of the Process Improvement and Innovation Program from a department-owned initiative to a Cabinet Level Office, including financial analysis, structural reorganization, creation of a long-term strategy and facilitation of change management

•She served as the Senior Government Innovation Analyst as well as a Budget and Performance Analyst for the City of Baltimore, MD. In these roles, she managed operations and finances of the City's Innovation Fund and Lean Government programs empowering approximately 14,000 employees.

Today, Kirsten is the Manager of Strategy and Innovation at the Denver Public Library. Under Kirsten’s leadership, she and her team coordinate the Library system’s strategic planning and performance management operations. This work alone is impressive, as it includes 27 branches, over 550 employees, and dozens of various stakeholders throughout the City of Denver. As part of this effort, Kirsten oversaw the design, formulation, and implementation of the Library’s strategic plan, its program evaluation framework, and translated data into insights and stories. Her work has enabled Denver’s Library system to identify additional efficiencies while still maintaining high levels of performance.

Kirsten’s dedication to inclusion vis-à-vis the strategic planning process is laudatory. She described the process as:  “After outlining the technical elements – outcomes, indicators, framework – and aligning organizational leaders behind a shared vision for this work, we recruited 60+ individuals from different disciplines across the system to serve on Value in Action teams to ensure a diverse representation of voices were at the table. Our goal was to unveil this staff-driven strategic plan in late 2020 – but COVID had other plans for us, shifting HOW we did our work. The library’s WHY, however, remained constant – and we were able to engage more than 30% of the organization in the development of a strategic plan that demonstrates how the library is working to enrich the lives of Denver residents.1

Kirsten’s inclusive and effective leadership has created meaningful results for her colleagues at the Library as well as the citizens of Denver. She continues: “The Strategic Roadmap was adopted by the Library Commission in the Spring of 2021 and alongside the formal document, I worked with my Change Team to launch a companion engagement tool for individuals to deepen their personal connection to the library’s vision – more than 75% of our organization has actively participated!”2

As someone who teaches leadership and ethics, I understand the tremendous effort it takes to engage with even half of an organization. The fact that 3 out of 4 employees contributed to the strategic plan is a testament to Kirsten's work ethic and her dedication to ensuring that as many voices are heard.


Equally impressive is her commitment to the next generation of practitioners. Kirsten has collaborated with me to provide additional mentorship to several Auburn MPA students (despite her being a loyal Kansas grad!). I have seen firsthand how Kirsten strategically shares her knowledge so that my students learn from her experiences. Based on follow-up conversations with those students, Kirsten supports them while also pushing them to develop the requisite skills to be successful in the field. She accomplishes this in a remarkably patient way - so that the students understand the ‘why’ behind her recommendation and not just the how. This undoubtedly takes extra time, but I believe it is necessary so that students can develop the competencies to be successful as future public servants. A former student of mine described Kirsten’s mentorship as:

“Kirsten was helpful simply because she cares. She values public service and wants to ensure that the current state of it and the future, are in good hands. She is insightful, witty, and energetic and she really helped reassure me in the job hunt. She’s also knowledgeable on professional development and gave me some useful résumé feedback while pointing me in the direction of job prospects that matched my goals and aspirations.”

Kirsten is a wonderful and effective leader within the Library and the larger Denver community. She exemplifies a work ethic, a set of skills, and values that are necessary during periods of uncertainty. In short, Kirsten exemplifies inclusive excellence and I firmly believe that she very much deserves a KUCIMAT Award for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion.


Jonathan M. Fisk Associate Professor Auburn University