Q & A with Kathleen Wanatowicz, RFL Academy & Mastermind Alum

When Kathleen Wanatowicz moved to the Roaring Fork Valley over 20 years ago to work for the City of Glenwood Springs, she had no idea where the challenge of being a young leader would take her. In a life full of “twists and turns,” Wanatowicz has appreciated the training and resources that RFL has provided at each stage of her career – from a twenty-something just starting out, to where she is now, owning her own strategic communications and project management firm, Project Resource Studio. A wife and mother of two (her “other” full-time job!), Wanatowicz spoke to RFL about how going through RFL Academy and Mastermind shaped the leader she is today.

Roaring Fork Leadership: What led you to RFL?

Kathleen Wanatowicz: I was the first public relations director for Snowmass Village. The base village had just recently been approved through a voter referendum, which was very controversial. And I became the first community relations and public relations manager during, what they called at the time, the “renaissance” of Snowmass Village. That process was happening around 2004-2007 and included the building of base village, the town hall, recreation center, the entryway project, and redeveloping a few other old lodges. It was a huge undertaking for the small town of Snowmass Village. I was in my 20s at the time, and it was a great job, but also very challenging, with lots of different community healing that needed to be done and community collaboration.

Before that, I had gone through quite a challenging time at the City of Glenwood Springs, with building a new community center and the growth that the town was going through. I wanted more ability to manage projects, more tools. I wanted something more than just what I had learned in college and what I had learned in my first three to four years of working. I was a young leader at the time, and RFL Academy came at a perfect time in my career. I was able to put into practice some of the leadership skills that we learned in the program right away in my position at Snowmass Village.

RFL: What value has RFL brought to your life?

KW: What was great was the ability to practice some of the leadership skills we were learning throughout the Academy program — conflict resolution, higher-level listening, communication within a cohort of people. I kept my notes [from RFL Academy] for several years. We are a rural community with urban problems and having the resources available to grow has been so valuable for me.

More recently, I did Mastermind, the women’s leadership program. So, 20 years ago, I was a different person than I am today. As a young leader, I needed something different than what I need now, where I’m at an executive level in my career and have completed an MBA. I think overall, the value of RFL is its ability to continue to identify new programs that meet people’s leadership needs as they grow in their career.

RFL: How has RFL shaped you as a leader?

KW: More than anything, it really humbled me and gave me an opportunity to look at areas of my life that needed improvement. You can use RFL as a personal growth experience. For me, it really shined a light on areas that I needed to focus on. You need to work on yourself to be a better leader.