Women in Business  November 16, 2022

Larimer County exec employs ‘compassionate leadership’

FORT COLLINS — As the newly appointed Larimer County manager, Lorenda Volker of Fort Collins already knows she’s taking over “a well-run organization.”

“The county as an organization that provides services to the community; it is already strong,” Volker said. “It’s a pleasure to move into the next level and not worry about fixing things.”

Volker was appointed county manager July 12 by the Board of Larimer County Commissioners after serving as interim county manager and filling in for Linda Hoffmann when she retired in April. Volker’s been with the county since 2008, first as director of human resources, then as assistant county manager, where she led the county’s Internal Services, Human Services and Economic Development departments.

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“The culture of the organization drives the service, collaboration and communication (of the county). My goal is to continue that and move it forward,” Volker said. 

With her years of service with the county, Volker already understands the value the county offers and the “great work” it does, she said. 

“I’ve been impressed year over year about the way employees care (and how) the community responds and the community helps each other in times of crisis,” Volker said. “I felt like I could push those things forward.”

Just like a board of directors and a company CEO, the county commissioners make policy and the county manager works with the staff to carry out those directives, doing tasks like managing the budget and the county operations.

“We’re very fortunate in county government that the three commissioners are full time,” Volker said. “We interact every day in lots of different ways. … They’re open to new ideas. We have great, honest conversations.”

Volker served as assistant county manager from 2008 to 2022, working with policymakers and other elected officers and the county’s department heads. She was exposed to how the entire organization works and the services it provides from community services to the Extension Office and the Office of Emergency Management.

“I was able to touch a lot of different aspects of county government and get a deeper understanding of what the community wanted … and how the commissioners’ goals might be achieved,” Volker said.

For instance after a flood, the community wanted washed-out roads to be replaced, and following the pandemic, financial support for impacted local business, Volker said. 

“It’s never the same, which is the wonderful thing about this job,” Volker said. “There’s an opportunity to do something different almost every day and support the community in various ways.”

That’s because the county celebrates innovation, creativity and collaboration, welcoming new ideas and programs for better efficiencies and adding staff and technology as needed, Volker said. 

“Those kinds of creativity measures make Larimer County unique in government, and I’m really proud of it,” Volker said.

Volker plans to continue to support the county’s innovation in several ways, such as using the American Rescue Plan Act funds to support urgent COVID-19 response efforts, increasing access to fiber in the county’s more rural areas through partnerships with several municipalities, and expanding behavioral health services by adding services for youth.

The county also is working with the cities and school districts within its borders and several nonprofits on eight regional projects in housing, child care, behavioral health, technology and workforce development, so that they don’t have to compete for funds.

“They’re pooling resources to meet community needs,” Volker said. “That’s unique to Northern Colorado, and it’s exciting to be part of it. … We’re not sponsoring all of them but are participating in them. Different groups are taking different leads.”

Volker is leading the county in developing a new set of goals for the 2024-2029 Strategic Plan, convening with a community group to identify the county’s major issues and the internal and infrastructure improvements that need to be addressed over the next five years.

“We’ll be ready to go to a new series of goals,” Volker said. “We try to go into it with a really open mind. Last time there was synergy around major areas, and it was easy to distill to three major goals. … We really don’t want to steer it too much.”

As she does this work, Volker considers herself to be a “compassionate leader,” she said. 

“I think, for me, that would mean I collaborate well, listen well and weigh people’s thoughts,” Volker said. “I see myself as being very supportive of the staff.”

Volker aims to be respectful, working to build trust among staff and board members, so that they’re free to bring to her problems to solve and things they believe are worthy of celebration. 

“She’s fostered relationships across the county with our municipalities,” said Kristin Stephens, chairwoman of the Larimer County commissioners. “She comes to the position in a strong place because she’s built up those relationships. … She’s seen as a leader who likes to collaborate and work with others. That’s how she’s made the county a better place and will continue to do so. … She’s kind and compassionate but also is fair and will speak up for the county and the people of the county.”

As the county manager, Volker loves that she has the opportunity to interact with and learn from the commissioners, other local leaders and county staff and to brainstorm interesting ideas and projects. She also learned a great deal from her work as human resources director from 2008 to 2014 before she became the assistant county manager, she said. 

“The HR department helps the county solve personnel problems and rewards staff,” Volker said. “By the time I was in a different role, I already had a good relationship and a pretty good understanding of the county’s services and the culture of the staff. Each department has its own culture within the county culture; what’s important to them and their hopes for new services. … Having those relationships created a lot of trust.”

Volker worked for 15 years for two cities in Florida in the oversight of human resources, collective bargaining and public works functions. She has a bachelor of arts in political science from Florida State University, which she earned in 1989, and a master of public administration from Nova Southeastern University of Davie, Florida, which she earned in 2004.

Volker then moved her career to Larimer County, liking how the county as an organization is “caring,” she said. She likes the county’s diversity, the combination of urban with rural areas, and that even the rural areas are diverse with their own personalities, she said.

“People are welcoming and friendly. It’s a beautiful place,” Volker said. 



Lorenda Volker, front, middle, is with Larimer County staff after being appointed county manager July 12. “We have some of the best employees (who are) caring and committed to the community. … There are so many things to love. I raised my kids here. The schools are amazing. It’s a supportive community,” she said. Courtesy Larimer County

FORT COLLINS — As the newly appointed Larimer County manager, Lorenda Volker of Fort Collins already knows she’s taking over “a well-run organization.”

“The county as an organization that provides services to the community; it is already strong,” Volker said. “It’s a pleasure to move into the next level and not worry about fixing things.”

Volker was appointed county manager July 12 by the Board of Larimer County Commissioners after serving as interim county manager and filling in for Linda Hoffmann when she retired in April. Volker’s been with the county since 2008, first as director of human resources, then as assistant…

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