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20 Under 40: Kelly Cook

Kelly Cook (Photo by Shelby Reardon)

Kelly Cook technically has a desk job as administrative assistant at Steamboat Lake State Park. She keeps finding new ways to expand her job description and get out from behind the desk, though.

She has obligatory paperwork to complete, but with a degree in zoology and a master’s degree in education, filling out forms and accounting don’t make Cook’s heart flutter. So, she finds ways to ignite her passion and improve the community.

Since the Steamboat Lake Visitors Center technically falls under her jurisdiction, she asked permission to add new exhibits in the display area. She secured grant money, a North Routt neighbor created blueprints and built the display that houses some amphibians and a local artist painted a gorgeous mural of local wildlife.



She’s also working with an exhibit designer to create a new display that features North Routt’s Native American history, natural history and mining history.

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“She is not satisfied with the status quo,” said John Jump, a volunteer at Steamboat Lake State Park. “She’s always trying to expand the offerings that the park can give both to the visitors and to the folks that work there.”

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Cook, 39, is also the mastermind behind the floating concerts at Steamboat Lake, entertainment that has become a regular occurrence at the state park.

“I do the accounting, the budgeting, the revenue and purchasing. So, that is not really my wheelhouse. It was a new skill that I learned when I came here. It’s not the most exciting part of the job,“ Cook said. ”The other stuff is how I reward myself and how Julie (Arington, park manager) rewards me for doing a good job on the other things. The education piece and wildlife piece and teaching kids and families … that’s my absolute passion.”

When Cook, a former zookeeper at the Detroit Zoo, first moved here in summer 2018, she only knew her cousin. So, she started networking.

She went to Schmiggity’s and met friends involved with Steamboat Dance Theatre. She then shared her Scottish and Irish dance knowledge with the group and has been choreographing dances for several years. Cook loves dancing and being able to give back to the arts community, which gave her so much when she was younger.

She appreciates how many adults are open to learning new skills through Dance Theatre, which is a value she shares.

“Now it’s basically all of your friends getting together, and we all learn to dance together,” Cook said. “And it benefits the kids in the long run.”

The first year she was in Steamboat she participated in City 101. Not only did she meet people she could work with through her job but friends as well. When the City 101 group visited the ice rink, she was recruited to join an adult hockey team. She’s also started curling because she simply enjoys learning new skills. Additionally, she volunteers as a foster for the Routt County Humane Society, taking in kittens before they go to their final home.

“Networking is a much talked about phrase,” Jump said. “Kelly, to me, she is the epitome of that and putting it to work. She’s not networking so she can get a better job, so she can raise her own status in the community. It’s about sharing the wealth of the community. That’s really important for a community and for an area like North Routt County.”


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