Leadership Fellows spotlight: Robyn Hazlitt

By Robyn Hazlitt
Philanthropic Services Assistant

Almost nine months ago, I was accepted into Leadership Fellows Boulder County – a joint leadership development program of the Community Foundation and the Boulder Chamber. I joined a cohort of 31 Fellows from different backgrounds and business sectors, and I have loved getting to know and learn from each of them.

We have taken deep dives into subjects ranging from Boulder County economics to local government, planning and development, education, and health. Each session has provided the opportunity to learn from local leaders in these fields – and discover how ordinary members of our community are inspired to make a difference locally.
Dedicating a session each month to a different aspect of our local society has helped me gain a better understanding of how the many issues we hear about in the news all tie together. At least once during each session, I’ve had a “wow” moment about some surprising, key piece of information that I wish everyone knew.  
For example:
  • Our local economy exists thanks to a unique concentration of many huge business sectors, including the university, the aerospace industry, information technology, the national labs, natural foods, and the outdoor and fitness industries. Most counties our size would be lucky to have just a few of these industries, let alone sustain more than a handful as we do. Human services organizations also play a major role in our local economy, employing more than 2K people across Boulder County with an economic impact of $258M.
  • Last year, the Sister Carmen Community Center – a grantee of the Community Foundation – worked with 2,500 families through the foodbank, distributed 1.3M pounds of food, and provided $380K in assistance to 721 families in East County alone.
  • The average family that sought services from the Emergency Family Assistance Association last year – also a foundation grantee – has an annual income of $15K, 72% of which is earmarked for rent.
  • One thing that wasn’t so surprising to learn, since most of us have already personally encountered this challenge, is that there’s a lack of affordable housing in Boulder County. What is surprising, however, is that – according to the Community Foundation’s TRENDS Report – nearly 60% of renters in Boulder County are spending more than 30% of their income on monthly rent, and more than 30% of homeowners are doing the same. Indeed, as I write this blog, the National Low Income Housing Coalition released their annual report, which found that someone working a full-time minimum wage job could not afford a two-bedroom apartment anywhere in this country; in Boulder County, specifically, someone would need to earn around $25 per hour to afford a two-bedroom apartment.
  • And did you know that nearly 70% of our community members will rely on safety-net services at some point in their lifetimes?
  • At the same time, I was encouraged to learn that every dollar invested in arts and culture translates to $6-10 in economic impact.
  • Also notable to me: Boulder City Council members get paid at most $10K annually for 25-40 hours’ work per week. This is most likely a significant barrier for those without independent financial resources, and is probably why there’s a lack of diversity in these kinds of community leadership positions.
Everyone who becomes a Leadership Fellow agrees to join a nonprofit or government board or commission, run for office, or support a candidate or issue in the next election. Our cohort will graduate from the program later this summer – thinking of the Fellows I’ve gotten to know this year stepping up into leadership positions makes me very hopeful that we can meet and overcome the many challenges facing our community, our country, and our world.