CDOT welcomes Marsha Nelson to lead newly-created Environmental Justice and Equity Branch

News Release

December 10, 2021 - Statewide News

STATEWIDE — The Colorado Department of Transportation has hired Marsha Nelson to lead its newly-created Environmental Justice and Equity Branch. The branch was established as part of SB21-260, the comprehensive transportation funding and modernization bill passed by the legislature and signed by Governor Polis this Spring.

Nelson joins CDOT from the Denver Department of Transportation and Infrastructure of the City and County of Denver, where she helped lead the department’s priorities in transportation equity and the development, execution and prioritization of multiple high priority special projects and initiatives, including internal/external stakeholder relations. Prior to her service with Denver, Nelson held multiple roles with M.A. Mortenson Company’s Denver Operating Group; most notably as a chief spokesperson and lead change agent in corporate compliance and social responsibility initiatives. In both her public and private sector roles, she has focused on the implementation of Equity Diversity and Inclusion principles within practices, policies and procedures of large organizations, economic equity for disadvantaged, small, minority, women and veteran owned businesses and advancing career opportunities in professional and skilled trades for women and minorities in the construction and transportation industries.

“Marsha has a stellar track record as a leader in our industry with a proven ability to bring people into a field that hasn’t always been known for its diversity or equity,” said CDOT Executive Director Shoshana Lew. “By bringing Marsha onto our leadership team, CDOT is aiming to advance these core principles and become a national leader in empowering everyone who is connected to our work.”

Over the course of her career, she has served on numerous boards and committees focused on workforce development, small business equity and supporting military veterans. She currently serves on the board as President of the Conference of Minority Transportation Officials (COMTO) Colorado Chapter; Contractor Academy; and the Aurora Public Schools Foundation. Other involvement includes Building Jobs 4 Colorado; a coalition of construction industry owners, general contractors, and sub-contractors across the state; and former board member of the Hispanic Contractors of Colorado.

“Achieving equity requires intention,” said Nelson. “It requires collaboration and respect of different perspectives and the lived experiences of others. I am eager to begin the work, both internally and externally, to advance transportation equity, environmental justice, and in shaping future generations of transportation leaders. I am honored and humbled to serve in this new and very important role.”

The Environmental Justice and Equity Branch is a part of CDOT’s Division of Engineering, and Nelson will report directly to the Chief Engineer. Among the first tasks the branch will take on under Nelson’s leadership will be a public town hall on environmental justice issues, as well as the development of an equity framework for transportation. Details on the town hall will follow.

“From the people we hire, to the firms we contract with, to the communities we serve and with the projects we deliver, CDOT has an enormous reach--and therefore a great responsibility to do all we can to do our work to support and promote equity,” said CDOT Chief Engineer Stephen Harelson. “Marsha will lift up our ongoing work and push us to go even further to meet this great responsibility.”

Nelson is a 2016 Denver Business Journal ‘40 Under 40’ recipient. In 2012, she completed the Leadership Denver program of the Denver Metro Leadership Foundation and in 2010 completed the Chamber Connect Leadership Program, now known as the Urban Leadership Foundation, where she received the highest award of “Distinguished” graduate and the “Empowerment” award ‘for being committed to bringing the best out of others.’ In her free time, she enjoys spending time with family and friends, traveling and volunteering with the ‘Women of Hope’ of her home church, New Hope Baptist Church in Denver.