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El Pomar Fellow Serving Nonprofits and Focused on Government


Brian Brown

In a 1999 book, “The New Public Service,” Brookings Institution scholar Paul Light pointed out an increasing trend—over the past decade, more and more young people interested in public service had ended up working in the nonprofit sector, rather than in government.

First-year Fellow Chris Ellis does both.

Chris was born and raised in Colorado Springs and attended Colorado College. He graduated in May 2010 with a B.A. in economics and a minor in Spanish. And today, he is putting that B.A. to work in the office of the governor.

In fall 2010, Chris was given the opportunity (with colleague Samantha Maytag) to assist El Pomar Chairman and CEO Bill Hybl on the economic development transition team for Governor John Hickenlooper. As he provided administrative support for the team’s efforts, he witnessed firsthand the economic challenges facing the state—and many of the talented people offering their services to meet the challenges.

In February 2011, Chris found himself invited to serve as a liaison between the Colorado Association of Funders and the governor’s office. His task: to strengthen relationships between the two, and maximize the value of state and nonprofit funding.

“It’s the best of both worlds,” Chris notes. “I’m doing what I love to do—foster relationships and encourage collaboration. In this job, I get to meet interesting people doing exciting things, and connect them with each other.”

Chris’s new responsibilities include meeting with foundation heads and leaders from the Colorado House and Senate, and coordinating a legislative debrief in June to begin improving their lines of communication. Later on, as he works to improve the conversation between nonprofit and government leaders, he will find himself briefing the governor as well.

This meshes well with Chris’s vision of how to serve the people of Colorado. “Public service means being involved—talking to stakeholders, and being able to connect at all different levels with people who are interested in effecting change.”