By Elisabeth Monaghan
Have you met Britta Fisher? Until Sept. 29, she was the executive director for Wheat Ridge-based nonprofit Localworks, an organization where Fisher spent the last 11 years. The Neighborhood Gazette had an opportunity to meet with Fisher just before she left Localworks to discuss how she came to be the organization’s executive director.
Fisher’s path towards Localworks began in 2005, when she and her husband were looking to purchase their first home. Not finding anything in Denver, Fisher and her husband decided to heed their Realtor’s advice and expand their search by “crossing Sheridan Boulevard.” In doing so, the Fishers found a ranch house in Wheat Ridge that was perfect for them. Because Fisher believes in actively participating in her community, she quickly set out to familiarize herself with her new neighborhood and learn about its people and policy makers.
Among the first individuals Fisher spoke with while exploring her new community was then-City Council member Wanda Sang. Their meeting took place just as the City of Wheat Ridge was passing its neighborhood revitalization strategy. That strategy included the creation of a nonprofit whose purpose was to facilitate and encourage appropriate development in Wheat Ridge.
Upon discovering Fisher’s enthusiasm for her new neighborhood and interest in being an active member of the community, Sang felt Fisher would be a great fit for the newly formed nonprofit, which at the time was called Wheat Ridge 2020. Fisher happily joined the organization as a volunteer, while working full time for a different nonprofit in downtown Denver.
After volunteering for about a year, Fisher was asked by the executive director of Wheat Ridge 2020 and members of its board to join the organization as an employee. It took some convincing, but within months, she took them up on their offer.
Two years later, when the organization’s executive director left, Fisher stepped in as interim executive director. After conducting a national search, the hiring committee realized Fisher was the ideal candidate and in 2009, they made her the full-time executive director. In 2015, the organization changed its name to Localworks.
Under Fisher’s leadership, the organization earned the 2014 Governor’s Awards for Downtown Excellence winner in Marketing and Branding for its work on Ridge at 38 Brand and Marketing Plan: Ridge at 38 Leadership Committee. This past March, Localworks was named nonprofit of the year by the West Chamber, which serves Jefferson County. Also this year, Fisher was among the Denver Business Journal’s 40 outstanding professionals under the age of 40.
While Fisher is pleased with the recognition she and Localworks have received, she is most proud of the changes she has seen her community undergo.
When she started at Localworks, Fisher says Wheat Ridge was mostly a bedroom community. Today, more residents and businesses are very much part of the community, volunteering for or participating in activities like the Ridge at 38 Criterium and Brewfest, RidgeFest, and Trunk or Treat. It is the welcoming spirit of the Wheat Ridge community and the willingness of its residents to get involved that has helped fulfill Localworks’ mission to promote the city and make it a more vibrant and sustainable community. With the numerous festivals and family-friendly activities that Localworks has helped create, there are ample opportunities for those who want to get involved.
“One of the things that makes Wheat Ridge special is if you want to make a difference in your neighborhood, in your community, you can,” said Fisher.
Fisher is leaving Localworks to be the executive director for Mpowered, a financial health nonprofit that believes in financial security for all Coloradans who want to learn about money management and participate in coaching to achieve an individual definition of financial success. Fisher says she will miss the Localworks’ staff and its board of directors, but she knows she is leaving the organization in good hands. Carolyn Doran and Ashley Holland will serve as interim co-executive directors while the Localworks’ board of directors searches for Fisher’s replacement. (The board will make an announcement when it has launched its search.)
If you did not have the opportunity to meet Fisher while she worked at Localworks, there’s a good chance you’ll run into her at a community function or at the local grocery store. She may be leaving Localworks, but she and her family will continue living in Wheat Ridge and doing their part to ensure it remains a vibrant and caring community.