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Reflections on a career in water

Trina McGuire-Collier has been making waves in public relations for 30 years.

January 4, 2019

By Daniel J Vaccaro

When Trina McGuire-Collier started at Denver Water at age 27, she was a bit out of her depth.

“I’ve never been a technical person,” she says. “I didn’t understand the mechanical side of the water industry. But in a way, that was good because I learned how to take very complicated concepts and explain them in simple ways.”

In other words, she became even better at public relations. She was so good, in fact, that she would spend the next 25 years of her career working her way up the Denver Water pipeline from a humble media-relations coordinator to the director of communications and marketing.

If you’ve lived in Denver for the past decade, you know McGuire-Collier’s work. Her team was responsible for the award-winning “Use only what you need” advertising campaign. Its ubiquitous orange signage, sticky copy and marketing stunts (such as the time someone in a toilet costume ran across Mile High Stadium and was tackled by a security guard to encourage people to “stop running toilets”) made it one of the most memorable advertising campaigns in city history.

McGuire-Collier’s roaring success, however, started as more of a trickle. A graduate of George Washington High School in Denver, she headed off to a state college and what she hoped would be a career in media.

Things did not go as planned.

She knew from the first week that it wasn’t the right decision. Academic probation and an unexpected pregnancy confirmed that feeling. In a year and a half, she was back in Denver, humbled but not deterred.

“If anything, I felt more determined than ever to get my degree,” she says. “I knew I’d have responsibilities that would require more of me.”

If you’ve lived in Denver for the past decade, you know Trina McGuire-Collier’s work as Denver Water director of communications and marketing. Photo by Alyson McClaran
If you’ve lived in Denver for the past decade, you know Trina McGuire-Collier’s work as Denver Water director of communications and marketing. Photo by Alyson McClaran

McGuire-Collier quickly found a home at Metropolitan State University of Denver. She majored in broadcast communications with a minor in African American studies. She remembers a community that was diverse, respectful and extremely supportive. She could put her daughter in child care on campus, and faculty understood that students were dealing with more than just classes.

Perhaps most impressive to McGuire-Collier was how connected her professors were to industry professionals. As a result, she scored multiple internships, getting her feet wet at a radio station, a TV network, a newspaper and a magazine. They were all great experiences, but it was her work at a small PR firm that ultimately helped her chart her course.

“In PR you aren’t exactly delivering news, but you are making sure that the public has access to the information they need to make good decisions,” she says. “That’s what moved me.”

McGuire-Collier graduated from MSU Denver in 1990. After a few years honing her craft at agencies and nonprofits, she joined the team at Denver Water, where she would work until her retirement in 2017.

Despite developing a passion for and expertise in water over more than two decades, McGuire-Collier assumed she’d move in a different direction after retirement. But that was not to be the case. She was recruited by engineering firm HDR, where she serves as director of strategic communication as the company tries to build deeper connections in the water industry.

And who better to lead that effort than someone who has a proven track record for making waves in the industry?

McGuire-Collier says she picked up that go-getter attitude at MSU Denver.

“There was no way I wasn’t getting an education,” she says. “That kind of scrappiness is something so many Roadrunners have. We will do whatever it takes to make good things happen.”