Katherine Archuleta has had a long, distinguished career in public service — much of it in Colorado — and it came to the end of a tough chapter on Friday, when she resigned as director of the Office of Personnel Management, where she'd been given a warm welcome just twenty months ago. Archuleta, who'd led the agency since November 2013, had appeared before the Senate's Homeland Security committee five weeks ago to talk about a privacy breach of more than four million current and former federal employees. But after the Obama administration revealed last Thursday that a second hack had exposed sensitive information for at least 22 million people, Archuleta turned in her resignation, e-mailing to staff: “I conveyed to the President that I believe it is best for me to step aside and allow new leadership to step in, enabling the agency to move beyond the current challenges and allowing the employees at OPM to continue their important work.”
Archuleta, who was born in the North Lincoln Homes, a public housing project on Denver’s west side, grew up in Aurora, and became the first member of her family to go to college. She attended the University of Colorado and ultimately graduated from what is now Metropolitan State University of Denver, became a Denver Public Schools teacher and administrator, and then moved into the political sphere when Federico Pena was elected mayor of Denver in 1983, working on many of the ground-breaking projects that administration introduced. “We felt that what we had could be so much more,” she told a Metropolitan State University writer last summer. “It was a magic moment in the Denver community and its economic history. When you think about what happened – the development of the 16th Street Mall, the baseball stadium, the airport, the convention center, the parks — all of that changed, and who was at the table making decisions changed.”
Archuleta moved on to Washington, D.C., when Pena was named Secretary of the Transportation by President Bill Clinton, and went with him to the Department of Energy. She also worked with then-Denver Mayor John Hickenlooper before being tapped by the Obama administration, first as chief of staff for Labor Secretary Hilda Solis, then as director of the OPM. Although the home page of the Office of Personnel Management has updated info on the cyber attacks, it still lists her as director.
The Wall Street Journal just reposted Archuleta's initial blog post after her first day in that office on November 8, 2013:
My first week at OPM is already over and it’s been an intense, exciting, challenging and informative first five days on the job. I’ve had the chance to meet the senior staff and their support teams. I’ve also learned a great deal about all of the intricacies of OPM’s departments and how much everyone at OPM does on a daily basis. So, for that, thank you. Your work is important and impressive. We couldn’t run this agency without you.
I thought this would be a good time to talk to you all about a few of my priorities and goals for my time at OPM.
First and foremost, I want to be your champion. I want the American people to know who you are, and what you do, and how that makes a difference in their daily lives. I am going to represent you across the country, because you deserve the recognition. You deserve to have people know how hard you work and that you dedicate long hours to very difficult issues. Federal employees deserve to be recognized.
I want to tackle some of our most pressing issues to ensure that we are able to serve to the best of our ability. In my first 100 days at OPM, I plan to work with my team to create a plan for handing I.T. modernization across the agency, especially for retirement. I’ve had the chance to meet and talk with our new CTO, the CIO and others every day this week, and I can say that there are some fantastic ideas in the mix. We’re definitely on the right track.
Until it went off the tracks.
But while Archuleta may be done with D.C., this longtime public servant may not be done with Denver. “I have a few more good years in me and I want it to be in Denver," she said last summer. "This is the fifth year I haven’t been home. I want to go home and be part of the community I deeply love. Those are my roots; Colorado is a state that has magical blue skies, beautiful cities, rich history and it’s really true for me—I crave being there.”
Keep Westword Free... Since we started Westword, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Denver, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Denver with no paywalls.