A sharp businessman, always looking for a deal. A big heart. A public figure that could tower over a crowd — and, yet, a warm voice that relished getting lost in a good conversation.
That’s how colleagues and loved ones remember David Schlatter, a dedicated member of the south Denver metro business community, who died at 57 in late June.
Schlatter, who recently moved to the Denver Tech Center, lived in Centennial for many years, said his friend, Colorado state Sen. Jack Tate, a Republican of Centennial.
Jeff Keener, a former colleague of Schlatter’s and the president of the South Metro Denver Chamber of Commerce, remembers always smiling at the sight of Schlatter approaching, knowing a colorful and animated conversation was about to begin.
“He was a character. He was one of those guys,” Keener said, who would “just start talking about whatever was on his mind.”
Recalling conversations with Schlatter, Keener laughs, remembering that they “could go on for hours, and there’d never be that lull where you’re lost for words.”
Before earning a reputation as an affable but driven advocate for business interests in the south Denver area, Schlatter grew up in Oregon.
With graduate studies in business administration under his belt, he built a career of more than 25 years of experience in commercial real estate sales and leasing. His family moved from Oregon in 2011 because of Colorado’s preferable commercial real estate market at the time, said his daughter, Kayti Schlatter.
Along the path of his career, Schlatter turned his energy toward pushing for opportunity for others.
Bob Golden, former South Metro Denver Chamber president, recalled Schlatter taking initiative as soon as Golden took the organization’s helm.
“David was one of the first people to reach out to me when I accepted the position of CEO of the South Metro Denver Chamber. We met for breakfast, and we had a very in-depth conversation about the chamber and what my vision was for future initiatives and the overall direction,” Golden wrote in a July 14 chamber newsletter that announced Schlatter’s death. “There was no question he was checking me out in an almost interview fashion as only David could do.”
Golden encouraged him to get engaged, and Schlatter came to lead the chamber’s Economic Development Group, an effort of business and community leaders to enhance the economic climate of the south metro area.
Schlatter worked hard to bring speakers and relevant information at the chamber’s monthly economic development meetings, sessions for business members to learn about topics such as what cities are doing for the business community, Keener said. Schlatter also served on the chamber’s board of directors.
Ever opinionated, Schlatter’s ideas for shaping the chamber “were always well thought-out with an execution plan in place,” Golden wrote in the newsletter. Chamber leaders didn’t always agree with Schlatter’s vision, but many of his efforts “came to fruition and made us a stronger and more effective organization,” Golden wrote.
For Keener, Schlatter’s sense of community toward local businesspeople stood out.
“He was going to put in his own time, effort and determination to make that community better. It was almost like he wasn’t going to let anyone tell him no. He was going to sweep you up and take you along on the ride, and nothing was going to slow him down,” Keener said. “There was no ‘give up’ in him. If he had it in his mind, he was going to get it done.”
But for all his drive in business and economics, Schlatter lived with a vivacity and warmth in his personal life, as his daughter highlighted.
“My dad was a man full of excitement for life and passion for people. He was one of my best friends and greatest cheerleaders,” Kayti Schlatter wrote in a Facebook post. She added: “He cared deeply and loved quickly. Some people in his life never knew how much he cared for them, but if my dad had asked for your name, he was planning on remembering it forever.”
Schlatter had “a deep faith in God and felt every emotion,” his daughter wrote.
Schlatter is survived by Kayti, 24; her brother, Joseph, 27; and younger brother Danny, 21, all residents of the south Denver metro area.
Schlatter’s openness left an impression on Centennial City Councilmember Kathy Turley even though they weren’t close friends, Turley wrote in the chamber’s newsletter.
“Dave was bold and courageous in his thoughts, speech and demeanor,” wrote Turley, also a member of the chamber’s board of directors. “When in a crowd, he was the tallest in stature and always in command of his audience, Yet, there was a softness and vulnerable nature that was captivating and engaging.”
Tate called Schlatter “a dear friend” in the newsletter.
“I loved to hang out with (him) in all contexts: from a social event at the South Metro Denver Chamber to watching football games together. He always challenged me to think about what could be done differently,” Tate wrote.
Schlatter also was involved in the chamber’s Business Leaders for Responsible Government program, an arm of the organization that allows business owners to engage with public policy and elected officials. Schlatter served as a board member of the Global Chamber of commerce’s Denver branch, and he chaired Arapahoe County’s 2017 Citizens Budget Committee.
In a 2018 Colorado Community Media op-ed, Schlatter implored his fellow residents to take part in the decisions that affect them locally.
“Too often, we focus on national- and state-level issues when much more direct impacts are felt at our city and county level such as potential new taxes,” Schlatter wrote. He added: “Talk to your commissioner. Share concerns with your county-wide elected officials.
“Get involved in a city or county committee. Come to public hearings. It is your county,” Schlatter wrote. “Take action.”
Services were held July 31.