Longtime Colorado Springs resident Whitley Crow graduated from Pine Creek in 2007 and from Montana State University four years later. Happily for Colorado Springs, she deserted Big Sky Country after a brief stint as a bank teller and returned home. By 2016, she had a three-pronged job as research and resource developer for Pikes Peak United Way, Conspire! and mPACT. In late 2017, the 29-year-old was hired by El Paso County as a project analyst — a complex, demanding job that would challenge any employee.

“Ms. Crow works toward developing effective, innovative strategies related to a vast array of County operations and programs,” wrote El Paso County Administrator Henry Yankowski in a letter supporting Crow’s nomination for recognition as a Rising Star. “She has built her professional career and personal life around enhancing the lives of our most vulnerable citizens and she approaches every task with the highest level of integrity.”

Crow’s position is new, she said, adding, “It involves facilitating community partnerships, helping facilitate and streamline projects and find new partners.”

In other words, it’s a job that requires extraordinary creative ability. Crow has to establish new networks, exploit existing linkages and create new ones, figure out what to do and how to do it, and continually reinvent the entire process. It sounds daunting, but Crow is delighted by the challenge.

“[If I’m stuck] I can always go to [Deputy County Administrator] Nicola Sapp or Henry Yankowski and ask them to connect me with people I might not know, and those connections can create opportunity,” she said. “Sometimes you go into a project with an idea of an outcome, and then it takes a different turn, and you have to adjust your thinking.”

Such clear-headed flexibility has shaped her working life in Colorado Springs. She described her operating philosophy in her previous position as being “proactive in helping the region seize opportunities … and identify ways in which certain priorities intersect with others to create multifaceted approaches for success.”

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That, according to her colleagues and nominators, is overly modest. The unanimous consensus: If you can’t figure out how to do something, Whitley can.

— John Hazlehurst

What do you want to be when you grow up?

I never want to stop learning and growing as a person; I want to live out of my values and convictions; and I never want to lose sight of the opportunity to make the community in which I live better through my relationships, occupation, faith and talents.

Editor’s note: This article has been corrected to reflect that Crow is a project analyst with El Paso County.