STEVE LEWIS/Durango Herald
A bona fide dignitary is in Durango.
And according to Beverly Simpson, the British consul-general, who arrived Monday, the state of Durango’s relationship with Great Britain remains strong.
At an editorial board meeting with The Durango Herald on Thursday afternoon, Simpson said she was in town to “try and help establish partnerships and links” between the British government and British companies and American companies looking for access in the United Kingdom.
Since arriving in Durango, Simpson has met with representatives from a raft of companies, including BP, Soundtraxx and Ska Brewing.
She’s also visited Fort Lewis College, where she met with FLC president, Dene Kay Thomas, and the college’s small but vibrant band of British students.
“They were all great – they’re all footballers and really love being here. The thing is, in the U.K., we don’t have collegiate sports as you do here,” said Simpson, who, in a novel experience for Americans, proceeded to heap praise on our collegiate athletics programs.
Simpson said she’d been deeply impressed by her tour of the Center of Southwest Studies. After praising its textile collections and archive, Simpson said she thought the Victoria and Albert Museum – which in renown is second only to Britain’s Tate Modern – might be interested in displaying its textile collection.
Simpson, whose previous post was Iraq, said she’d first heard of Durango while she was still adjusting to her new job in Denver, when City Manager Ron LeBlanc showed up at her office apropos of nothing and gave her the hard sell on Durango’s ravishing beauty and sunny economic outlook.
While Simpson’s consular district spans Colorado, Wyoming and New Mexico, she said Le Blanc’s gift of an Osprey backpack, manufactured in Cortez and suitable for globe-trotting, sealed the deal.
Speaking of Le Blanc’s bold introduction, Simpson said, “I don’t know what the impetus was, but he let me know what Durango had to offer, about the southwest of the state, and I thought I had better come see for myself.”
Almost two years later, she did. And she plans to stay for a few days as a tourist.
It is unclear whether Le Blanc is in the habit of soliciting consuls; he did not respond to requests for comment about Simpson’s visit.
But it seems they are on good terms. Simpson said Durango City Council was taking her to dinner at Seasons on Thursday night.
Simpson’s conversation with the Herald’s editorial board covered a wide range of topics, including President Barack Obama’s professional rapport with British Prime Minister David Cameron, Margaret Thatcher’s legacy and Prince Harry’s visit to Colorado Springs in May.
She said Thatcher had “reshaped the British economy, making it ready for globalization,” defended the Falkland Islands War and emphasized that the most embarrassing instances of Thatcher supporting General Augusto Pinochet occurred after she left office.
In May, Simpson said, she was going to host a reception for Prince Harry, who is making his first official visit to Colorado for the Warrior Games – an annual athletic event thrown by the U.S. Olympic Committee for wounded veterans.
For the first time, the U.K. will field a team.
Simpson said the British consul had invited Colorado Olympian swimmer Missy Franklin to partake in the U.K.’s celebration of the Warrior Games.
Prince Harry’s most recent visit to the United States was cut short after pictures emerged showing him naked in social circumstances while staying in a Las Vegas Hotel.
When asked whether Olympic swimmer Ryan Lochte, whom Prince Harry came to know while staying in Las Vegas, also was invited, Simpson again said that the British Consul hoped Franklin would accept her invitation.