Highlands Ranch: “Home is Where the Heart is”

Highlands Ranch has bragging rights for numerous awards. Long-time residents Debbie and Ken Rudolph and Diane and Dennis Pahler attest to its quality of life.

In January 1980, Ken started his job as director of engineering for Mission Viejo, developers of the New Town of Highlands Ranch, 20 months before the company sold its first house in September 1981. At the time, the Rudolphs were in a new house in Morrison. “However, we decided to move to Highlands Ranch because I was working on the project all the time,” Ken said. They moved to Northridge in April 1983 when son Andrew was 3.

Besides the shorter commute, Ken liked that “Mission Viejo wanted development done right.” The company’s dedication to doing “everything right” began with special treatment of its fledgling community. “We received turkeys for Thanksgiving and tree ornaments at Christmas,” recalled Debbie Rudolph. That personal touch enhanced the feeling of “home.”

Highlands Ranch has garnered one award after another, such as Money Magazine(link is external) and Travel & Leisure’s recognition as the “Top 10 Best Places to Live” in the U.S(link is external). In 2020, U.S. News and World Report ranked Douglas County as the second healthiest community in America. Highlands Ranch’s walking trails and four recreation centers offer opportunities to develop healthy lifestyles. “I don’t know if I’d be healthier living somewhere else,” said Debbie.


The “country” atmosphere of Highlands Ranch appealed to the Pahlers who moved into their Northridge home on Dec. 31, 1986, with their children, Luke and Stefanie, then 5 and 2, respectively. “Since it was New Year’s Eve, our friends rushed out after helping us because they had plans,” said Diane with a laugh. “We had sheets for window coverings and had dinner at Village Inn.”


At the time, the road ended at Broadway and HR Parkway.  Dennis Pahler recalled walking there with Luke and Stefanie to watch cowboys brand horses on a cattle ranch.


Today, Safeway is on that site.  Luke, a computer engineer, is now a Highlands Ranch homeowner

The Rudolphs are in their second Highlands Ranch home, a ranch style in Westridge. “We feel we’re married to the community,” said Ken. “All our friends of 35 years have stayed here,” Debbie added.

Elvis Presley’s song “Home is where the heart is” rings true for the Rudolphs and Pahlers. Their homes and hearts remain in Highlands Ranch.

This year, the Highlands Ranch Historical Society shared snippets of the community’s 40-year history. Simultaneously, HRHS is celebrating its 30th anniversary as an invaluable resource of archival information about Highlands Ranch’s history. For more information, visit: https://theHRHS.org/

HRHS 30th Anniversary Logo

Author of this History Tidbit and a BIG Thank you to

Shirley Cavanaugh, HRHS Publicity Chair, 2021