Director of Kids First Shirley Ritter Retiring After 25 Years of Service
Contact: Shirley Ritter, Director of Kids First, 970-920-5370 or Shirley.Ritter@aspen.gov
Aspen, Colo. – June 13, 2022 – Shirley Ritter, City of Aspen Kids First Director, is retiring on December 31, 2022, after working for local government for 25 years. Ritter’s entire tenure has been spent at the helm of Kids First, a department of the city that serves as an early childhood resource center that supports quality, affordable childcare choices in Pitkin County and Aspen.
“I feel so fortunate to have been able to serve my community and provide assistance to hundreds of young children and families through Kids First services,” Ritter said. “I really admire and respect the residents of Aspen who have voted more than once to support our city’s youngest members and the various City Councils who have put sincere and concerted focus on the future of our children and creating priorities and policies that support working families.”
Kids First began in 1990 with funding provided by a dedicated sales tax in the City of Aspen. Kids First has been recognized locally, regionally, and nationally for its unique position as a government entity and for the services it provides.
“I’m extremely proud that as a local government we have been able to use our dedicated tax in a way that has been and continues to be responsive to community needs,” Ritter said. “When the tax was renewed more than twenty years ago, the first thing we did was create a financial aid system that increased parents’ ability to use childcare if they were above the poverty threshold. Before that there wasn’t an intentional effort to support families.”
Kids First funds an average of 40 families at a time with financial aid because of this program.
Other programs that have been initiated over the course of Ritter’s service include a nurse consultant that allows childcare providers to offer vision, hearing, and dental screenings annually; and an on-call substitute teacher who works for Kids First but is available to childcare programs when a staff member is out of the classroom.
Stefan Reveal, Kids First Advisory Board Co-Chair said, “Shirley has been the constant thread for the past 25 years that has pushed the City of Aspen and the community-at-large to realize that a thriving community requires excellent early childhood education. Her steadfast leadership has ensured that all our local kids have received high quality education. That is her legacy and the positive mark she has left on this community. I will miss her knowledge, kindness, and sense of humor.”
City Councils have continuously supported the work of Kids First with specific goals, such as the current Council goal to increase childcare capacity to support families, our workforce, and the health of our economy in Aspen and the region.
“The community and all its families have benefited from Ritter’s time leading Kids First. The improvements in the quality, access, and diversity of childcare options were facilitated in part by Ritter’s enthusiasm and dedication. We are grateful she worked with us for so long and for Council’s continued support of Ritter and the Kids First Department,” said Sara Ott, Aspen City Manager.
In addition to focusing on families, Kids First and Ritter have also created reward, incentive, and internship programs that empower and assist teachers.
“This department is really about the team and working together,” Ritter said. “We’ve had some really long-term staff and the level of commitment and passion they exhibit is a significant part of this community’s recognition of the significance of early childhood education.”
A national search for a new director will begin immediately.