DENVER – Denver-TV deprived Durangoans may have missed it live, but videos online catch it: Gov. John Hickenlooper’s chief of staff flipping a fellow staffer the bird.
Now, hear the story behind it.
At a victory celebration Wednesday in the Capitol rotunda – where a throng of giddy sleep-deprived supporters gathered to celebrate Hickenlooper’s re-election – Roxane White is seen flipping both middle fingers at colleagues.
The seemingly crude gesture was in response to a crowd chant of “four more years” that began directed at Hickenlooper, but later ended in White’s direction.
The longtime Hickenlooper confidant – who started with the governor nearly 12 years ago when he was mayor of Denver – is leaving the administration later this month for the nonprofit world.
It’s no secret that the cabinet would like her to stick around.
“That was her saying, ‘I really love you guys, I’m really going to miss you guys,’” explained Hickenlooper senior media adviser Maximillian Potter.
You may be wondering how an obscene hand gesture could possibly translate to affection. Potter said you have to think of the Hickenlooper team as a family of friends. Anyone who has ever playfully flipped off a dear friend knows that an obscene hand gesture in one context is a gesture of an entirely different kind among a tight group.
“What everyone witnessed is what I see everyday, and it breaks my heart that she’s leaving,” Potter said, adding that a good chunk of why he joined the administration in 2013 was because of White’s reputation.
The short firecracker of an adviser is known as a no-nonsense woman around the office. As Hickenlooper pointed out at the victory event, White keeps a framed Shakespeare quote on her office wall. “Though she be but little, she is fierce,” it reads.
“She is fierce indeed, but also loving and brilliant,” Hickenlooper said.
Her intimidating but caring attitude can leave certain staffers a bit squeamish in her presence. But when White offers two middle fingers to a member of the Hickenlooper administration’s family, it means everyone is willing to give it their all.
“It’s done with a smile on my face, like, ‘You guys are pushing me as far as you can push me, stop pushing you guys,’” White said, adding that she actually loves giving the team her all.
But the toll of being a chief of staff has weighed on her and her family, and so she is leaving the administration for new opportunities.
“They made me cry today,” White said of all the warm praise and hugs she received Wednesday from colleagues who are sad to see her go.
“I hugged her after we walked out of there,” added Potter. “I hugged her as hard as I’ve ever hugged anybody.”