DENVER – When Julie Levy Duvall, state director for U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet, thinks about the challenges facing her office, she is reminded of a placard that was on the desk of former President Barack Obama. The placard read: “Hard things are hard.”
Duvall, who moved from Denver to Durango in 2001 to attend Fort Lewis College and married local Trey Duvall in 2013, said the saying reminds her of the work that her staff and Bennet both face in moving the nation forward.
“It is a simple, almost jovial, expression, but it reminds us that it takes energy and time to reach our goals,” Duvall said.
For Duvall, 33, this manifests in finding the underlying factors that drive an issue, and being willing to bring disparate parties together. That is something she experienced first-hand in Durango, where she studied political science at FLC and served as the public relations director of the student-run Environmental Center and student body president.
Those opportunities provided her a chance to broaden her perspective on environmental and policy issues, and get hands-on experience affecting change, both on campus and in the Durango community.
Perhaps the most valuable lessons she learned at FLC were on the responsibility that comes with representing a group of people who don’t always share the same views, and the difficultly of finding common ground and affecting real change.
“You have to go through a process and you have to go to the body and place that has the ability to make a decision in order to affect change, and that’s something that seems so self-evident, and yet, I think so often it’s harder to do than we imagine,” she said.
Duvall wasn’t sure where she was headed in the professional world after graduating in 2005, but she jumped in head-first and explored areas of personal interest.
Her first job was as a community development coordinator at Region 9 Economic Development District under former director Ed Morlan.
Duvall said the job gave her the chance to establish herself in the working world. From there, she served as the deputy director of the Regional Housing Alliance of La Plata County before switching gears and working her way up to being the executive assistant for the president and chairman of BP’s American headquarters in Houston, Texas, in 2013, before returning to Colorado in the summer of 2016.
While she was developing her professional resume, Duvall completed her master’s degree through University of Colorado in 2009 and was also heavily involved in the Durango community as a volunteer, including a stint on the Durango School District 9-R board from 2009 to 2013, which corresponded with Bennet’s first term in Congress. It was as a board member that she first interacted with him.
She was involved in conversations over education policy that Bennet would pursue at the Capitol, and when he was re-elected, she took the time to congratulate him, which sparked a conversation over what his staff would look like during his second full term in office.
Soon after, she was offered the position in Denver.
As the state director for the Bennet office, she focuses on facilitating constituent services, a catch-all for reaching out to stakeholders to ensure the congressman’s policy decisions reflect Colorado’s values, and fielding calls from voters who need assistance navigating governmental bureaucracy.
Even though her career and travels have taken Duvall far from Durango, it and FLC hold a special place in her heart.
“I don’t think I’ll ever be able to give back enough to Fort Lewis and to Durango for what that community did for me,” she said.
What has also stuck with her is the desire to continue exploring subjects that are important to her, Duvall said.
“I’ve been trying to learn how to play the violin, which has been a long process and not something I’ve been very successful at.”
“Hard things are hard” indeed.
Editor’s Note: This story was corrected to indicate that U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet is entering his second full term. An earlier version identified it as his firstname.lastname@example.org