Ritz falls back on leadership experience in run for APS School Board

Published 9:51 pm Friday, September 16, 2022

A relative newcomer to Austin has thrown in his hat to serve Austin Public Schools.

Denver Ritz, who grew up in the Des Moines, Iowa area and a recent transplant to Austin, is running for a spot on the School Board and will rely on a long and varied background to get elected.

Ritz came to Austin about a year and a half ago when he was recruited by Hormel Food Corporation to be its learning and talent development manager for the US, Brazil and China.

But it’s his background with youth that Ritz points to as being a real advantage. He was the director of youth leadership for eight different school systems, which focused on, “real life experiences that focus on the ‘what’s next for me’ outcome,” Ritz said.

“Coming here I was looking for ways to engage,” Ritz continued. “People kept telling me to run for school board and here I am.”

Ritz said he will fall back on his strengths to get elected, including sitting down and listening and finding common ground, but he also wants to make sure educators and students have the support they need.

“Things I would like to see happen is honoring our education and making sure they have a work place where they are heard, trusted and supported,” Ritz said. “Where students are ready to thrive from the moment they grasp that diploma  and make sure we have equitable access for each student to the tools and resources they need.”

Ritz’s experiences in Des Moines in some ways mirror that of Austin. Both cities host diverse populations and Ritz believes those experiences will lend well to a term on the school board.

“I think we have to consider that we’ve done a lot of good things as a community, otherwise we wouldn’t be in the position we are now,” Ritz said, adding. “Are we actually meeting the needs of that diverse background?”

Like all those currently on the board or running for a term, Ritz would have to tackle the upcoming referendum, regardless of which way the vote goes.

A passing referendum would generate nearly $2.5 million in revenue while a failure would result in cuts throughout the district that could have lasting effects on how education is delivered.

“At this point, it is something I’m personally supportive of,” Ritz said. “Asking anybody to pay more money right now is hard to do, but thinking about the overall impact — I think it’s in our best interest to pass it.”

Since coming to Austin, Ritz has embedded himself in the community, serving in a variety of areas that work well with his background from Iowa where he served on a variety of boards, some of which he’s still waiting for terms to run out.

Currently, he volunteers at Nexus-Gerard Family Healing, mentoring high school individuals that identify as male, Leadership Austin and is collaborating with the Austin Area Chamber of Commerce on an HR education series for small businesses. This series brings together insights from community members to help support small businesses who may not have the necessary resources.