Staff Spotlight: How Public Health Response Director Lacey Klindt Makes Decisions

Staff Spotlight: How Public Health Response Director Lacey Klindt Makes Decisions

September 6, 2022

Lacey Klindt knows a thing or two about speaking up and making decisions. She got her first pair of skates for Christmas when she was just seven years old. And, soon after, she’d lace up at the Alpine Ice Arena in south Denver and spend time racing across the ice with her father and younger brother.  

She wanted to play on a hockey team, but the closest girls’ team was three hours away—in the mountains. So she joined a nearby all-boys team and practiced as hard as she could. “I played in the upper-skill level, and I wasn’t scared to be rough,” Klindt said. “Playing hockey and coaching helped me find my leadership style and be brave enough to say what I feel needs to be said.”  

That mindset translates well to Klindt’s current role as CU Denver’s first-ever public health response director. She helps the campus community plan, identify, and make decisions related to public health challenges—everything from COVID-19 to MPV and the seasonal flu. Day-to-day, Klindt can be found on the 10th floor of the Lawrence Street Center at her desk, next to a window overlooking campus and a large whiteboard with a diagram of the university’s 2030 Strategic Plan goals and the words “public health” at the center.  

Protecting the Planet and People 

Some may recognize Klindt’s name from her leadership during CU Denver’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic. For more than two years, Klindt oversaw two integral areas that helped keep the Lynx community safe: check-in stations to monitor individuals for symptoms before they entered campus buildings and contact tracing operations at both CU Denver and CU Anschutz—along with a team of more than 80 students. But she didn’t always know her career would be in public health. 

Lacey Klindt

Klindt, who grew up in Aurora, played hockey on the all-boys’ team for four years, and was the captain for one year, until her mother and another parent decided to organize the first girls’ hockey league in Denver. The AAA team called “The Xtreme” began with about 20 players of all ages and grew to what is now the Colorado Select Tier 1 Girls Hockey Program.  

Klindt’s passion for the sport continued and she attended Bemidji State University in northern Minnesota on a hockey scholarship. She started as a freshman player on the D1 team. In 1999, she was selected as one of 160 players to try out for two opening spots on the women’s Olympic hockey team in Lake Placid, New York. She also coached and mentored young girls and women in the sport. 

She loved hockey and the sense of competitiveness, comradery, and power she felt on the ice, but she grew tired of the upper midwestern region’s bitter cold and gloomy weather. “It was cloudy from September to May,” she recalls, noting that during one finals week in May, there was three inches of ice on the bordering lake and it was snowing.  

So she decided to move back to Denver and enrolled at CU Denver and worked full-time as the manager of a Petsmart grooming salon. “I took a lot of different classes to see what I liked, and I ended up falling in love with environmental sciences and environmental health, and learning how we can protect people by saving the Earth,” Klindt says. 

Lacey Klindt playing hockey on a competitive women’s team during her senior year of high school.

Building a Family at CU Denver 

In 2007, Klindt graduated from CU Denver with a degree in geography and environmental sciences with an emphasis in biology. The Monday after graduation, she started working as a health inspector for Tri-County Health Department, which served more than 1 million people in counties surrounding Denver. There, she handled inspections at restaurants, public pools, daycares, and tattoo parlors. She also addressed complaints from apartment owners and once had to intervene when a hoarder’s home needed to be condemned. In a hazmat suit, she assisted the City of Aurora Code Enforcement in a site inspection to determine if the single homeowner was in danger of being in an unsafe and unhealthy living environment due to the excess amount of belongings and trash inside the home. She then worked with the older man’s family to get him to a safe location.  

Lacey Klindt at her CU Denver graduation in 2007.

She was also the coordinator for yearly hazardous household waste drives. “It involved organizing a bunch of people, putting them into shifts, and making sure everything is on track and safe,” Klindt said. “That helped prepare me for the COVID-19 check-in stations and contract tracing operations at CU Denver.” 

Ready for a change, Klindt took a job in the food inspection industry and then at Jeffco Public Schools as an environmental health team supervisor before becoming a stay-at-home mom to her two children, who are now 9 and 6. In 2018, she became an environmental health specialist at CU Anschutz’s Department of Environmental Health & Safety Office and worked as a dual-campus employee through the pandemic until transferring full-time to the Denver campus in May of 2022.  

Lacey Klindt (top-right) stands with her student contact tracers.

What she loves most about CU Denver is the small-town feel—employees have the opportunity to get to know each other and interact with students, who she says are joining the university at one of their most inspirable times in life.  “We get to see the magic that can change their lives forever,” she said.  

Through COVID-19 especially, what stood out most to Klindt are CU Denver’s people. “In all of the phases of the pandemic, I had students that stuck with me because of the comradery and respect,” Klindt said. “We built a family.”