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A quarter century ago, Eric Sondermann helped plant the seeds of SE2 today

By January 16, 2024No Comments

In the mid-1990s I was adrift.  

A child and sibling of newspaper reporters, all I had ever wanted to do was become one too.  

And then, after a half dozen years of journalism in Washington, Hong Kong and Denver, I hit a wall. 

My gut, literally a knot in my stomach, told me I was done with newspapers.  

But I had no idea what was next. I realized journalism wasn’t how I’d make my mark on the world, but I didn’t know what else I could do.  

So, I called Eric Sondermann. 

I met Sondermann when I was a political reporter. I came to appreciate his straightforward, spin-free commentary.  

Sondermann was (and remains) a political iconoclast.  

He grew up as a Democrat but increasingly felt uncomfortable with that party’s orthodoxy. He found common cause with free-market Republicans but had no use for right-wing social dogma.  

I was a political and policy junkie, but I, too, didn’t feel completely comfortable in one camp or the other.  As a political reporter, I had effortlessly moved back and forth across the aisle – finding thoughtful voices among both Democrats and Republicans – and I didn’t see why I should have to choose sides.  

I also was impressed that, back in the day when most political consultants happily cashed checks from Big Tobacco, Sondermann worked only on the scrappy and underfunded side of anti-tobacco rebels. (We continue to fight the tobacco industry today.) 

I was hungry and ready to learn, and Sondermann let me learn by his side, initially as a sort of apprentice and then quickly as a business partner, when we co-founded SE2 25 years ago.  

Although Sondermann stepped away from the agency in 2014, we carry lessons I learned from him. 

Here are three: 

  1. The customer is not always right. Always tell clients the truth, even when they don’t want to hear it. 
  1. Focus on the bold strokes. While it’s easy to become preoccupied with tasks and to-do lists, we must focus on the big strategies that will make a lasting impact.  
  1. Stick to your values. It’s easy to chase the money or go with the flow, but all we have in the end is our reputation and credibility.  

Sondermann remains engaged in the community and as insightful as always in his commentary, which includes a regular column in Colorado Politics and the Gazette newspapers and the Colorado Inside Out panel on PBS12. 

He’s a voracious reader and deep thinker who loves ideas. I don’t always agree with him, but I appreciate the intellectual rigor in his takes on current events.  

Thanks, Eric Sondermann, for helping to set me – and SE2 – on the journey that we continue today. You’ve helped us all make a positive impact on some of the most pressing issues of our time.