Who I Am And Why I Run
My name is Maria Orms and I’m running to represent the people of Senate District 31 in Denver and Arapahoe Counties. Like everyone, I’ve had life experiences that have shaped who I am. Mine have brought me to this decision. For me right now, the challenge of this moment is straightforward and compelling: climate change will affect every aspect of this state’s capacity to thrive. Colorado can be the guide state leading the nation to a sustaining environment and thriving economy.
I was born in Texas to a social worker father and mom who was a nurse. When I was five, we moved to Standing Rock Sioux Indian Reservation in North Dakota for my dad’s job with the Bureau of Indian Affairs. I saw up-close the struggles of this Native American community. It’s painful. The Native American people and too many minority Americans are on the receiving end of disdain, contempt, and discrimination. This experience fuels my passion for fairness, equality, and respect for others.
At 12, my family moved to Billings, Montana. My parents’ marriage broke over economic strain and domestic abuse. My mother was raising four children by herself. I had to work full time at 16 to help support my siblings, while I was trying to finish high school. We survived on my income, my mother’s, and a small amount of public assistance. Of course, we didn’t have healthcare. And of course, that wasn’t fair for my family or equal to my peers. Health care is not just right and necessary; it’s a human right, and thus necessary.
I graduated from high school and attended college for a semester. I couldn’t keep it all up, so I joined the US Air Force, the path to opportunity for many of us who grow up in tough circumstances. I was sent to West Germany in 1989. It was just West Germany then, a country seemingly split forever. But during my two-year station there, the wall came down, and Germany started its reunification from the long left-over wounds from World War II and the newer wounds of the Cold War. What better lesson in the empowering ideals of freedom and democracy can there be than experiencing the Berlin wall coming down? I learned those lessons. They fire my passion for our democracy and the opportunity for people to live decently and freely.
Finally, after my military service, I could pursue my education, always grateful for the GI Bill. I studied telecommunications at Weber State and earned my MS in engineering from CU-Boulder. It’s been my profession to work at the front end of information technology and telecommunications research and development, operations, and technology patent consulting.
I now am a senior manager for one of the largest telecommunications companies in the nation using technology to enable our clients – businesses – to grow and thrive. I continue my work to support veterans through Soldiers’ Angels and young people who want to learn about business through Junior Achievement. I volunteer for The Colorado Nepal Alliance to support freedom and democracy in that nation. And I’m one of the lucky people who get my health insurance through my company. But I don’t forget that this benefit wasn’t always mine.
In 2006, my children, husband and I moved to Colorado and settled in Thornton. In summer 2015, I had trouble breathing, my chest hurt, and I had headaches. My family and neighbors had similar symptoms, and more – bloody noses and dizziness. Fracking was now happening close by our home and it was affecting our health and well-being. I worked feverishly to organize my community to protect ourselves from the fossil fuel development all around us. My knowledge grew, as did my worry and frustration. I joined the board of Be the Change Colorado, dedicated to progressive legislation on oil and gas development and green energy. I am a part of the Colorado Rising coalition that passed SB-181. We moved to Denver because I can’t sacrifice my family’s health to dirty energy development.
My life experiences formed my beliefs during my hardest encounters with how we treat each other and our physical environment. My personal passion is to ensure that my children’s future – and my two girls are now serving in the US Air Force – will enable them to thrive in a sustainable state. Our energy infrastructure is the backbone of this sustainability. A green energy world will give us better health and a strong economy. It will be the foundation upon which education, health care, and transportation can pull together to ensure our children can meet this century’s challenge to, literally, save our earth.