Q & A with Jannette Whitcomb, RFL Academy 2002

Originally from Illinois, Jannette Whitcomb moved to the Roaring Fork Valley 24 years ago to work for the City of Aspen’s Environmental Health Department where she focused on providing programs that empowered the community to improve their health and well-being. After years of “leading from the side,” as Jannette describes, this past June, she achieved a longtime career goal of taking on a director-level position when she was named Garfield County’s new Environmental Health Manager.  

Recently, RFL sat down with Jannette to learn more about her career path and how RFL taught her that she could be a “leader without a title.” 

Roaring Fork Leadership: What made you want to participate in RFL? 

Jannette Whitcomb: The City of Aspen has been a big supporter of RFL programs over the years. A big part of the culture is to participate and attend leadership training.  

RFL: How did RFL inspire your leadership journey? 

JW: I was part of the 2002 Academy cohort – that’s where I learned I could be a leader without a title. Throughout my career, I’ve been tasked with leading programs that were multi-agency and multi-department. RFL taught me how I could take on leadership roles in those positions even if I didn’t have the manager or director title. Since then, I’ve been able to hone my philosophy of engaged leadership in various continued education programs from RFL and other organizations. 

RFL: What was the biggest highlight of your RFL experience? 

JW: I had this realization that I could be a leader – I can lead without being a titled person. From Greg Cortopassi [RFL faculty], I learned it’s okay to be vulnerable, to have emotion, to be my authentic self. I need to come from my truth to help others discover how they can lead and grow. 

For me, it was also really important to learn about human interaction – being a successful leader is all about understanding other people and human behavior.  

RFL: How has RFL had an impact on your career growth? 

JW: It’s taken me 24 years – since 2002 — to actually see my goal to fruition of becoming a director. I have the trust and confidence in myself as a leader because of all the things I’ve learned over the years and through my continued involvement with RFL. I became a leadership coach with RFL, which helped me practice this stuff. I’ve learned to trust in the journey. When I was denied opportunities, it hurt, but I picked myself up, refined things, and learned from those failures.