Douglas County program grooms leaders, builds bridges

Leadership class has personal, professional benefits


Erik Bostrom had to decide in a split second whether to shoot the suspects. He hesitated.

“I got shot both times,” he said.

The scenario wasn’t real — it was a simulation offered through the Douglas County Sheriff’s Office and part of a Leadership Douglas County class. It gave Bostrom a new layer of respect for law enforcement.

“What’s really shocking about it is how attuned you need to be to the development of the situation, and the need to react,” he said. “It’s very difficult.”

Bostrom was among 18 Douglas County residents who went through the nearly yearlong leadership class in 2011-12. The owner of Highlands Ranch’s Hand and Stone Massage Spa and a delegate with the Highlands Ranch Community Association, Bostrom wanted to learn more about the area.

“If you’d like to improve yourself or know more about your community, it’s well worth your time,” he said.

Douglas County, like all counties, is a web of interconnected municipalities, agencies, businesses and individuals. Leadership Douglas County helps its students untangle that web, and see the connections.

“I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard a class participant say after the program, ‘I used to be a resident of Castle Rock. Now, I’m a resident of Douglas County,’” said Melissa Moroni, vice president of programs for the Castle Rock Chamber of Commerce. “They see there are so many entities that collaborate that affect all of us.”

The Castle Rock Chamber established the program in 1999. The $495 fee includes monthly, daylong classes that begin September and end in June. The program offers its students hands-on education about Douglas County’s resources and helps develop leadership skills in both classroom and field trip sessions. 

During the law enforcement session, students participated in the video simulator Bostrom described, among other things. In exploring emergency services, they donned firefighter bunker gear and held a charged fire hose as part of an exercise. During trust-building sessions, they climbed a rock wall. In the classroom, topics run the gamut from hydraulic fracturing to Colorado history.

“The goal is to identify, educate and motivate current and emerging leaders,” Moroni said. “People apply for different reasons. For some people, there’s a personal growth aspect. There’s a leadership growth aspect. Then there’s a connection aspect.”

That aspect clicked for City of Lone Tree spokeswoman Kristen Knoll.

“The biggest benefit to the program is the networking opportunities,” she said. “I use my classmates as a resource professionally. You get to know people you wouldn’t have a connection to otherwise.”

Moroni said she’s watched the program change lives, with students who changed careers, decided to study abroad and found renewed purpose.

While many students are employed with government entities, the program includes a cross-section of individuals. Bostrom believes it builds vital bridges.

“There’s so much animosity in today’s news and government organizations,” he said. “The politics that goes on trickles all the way down to the county level. But when we’re able to get together and have conversations, I think we find good solutions.”

Leadership Douglas County asks participants for a two-year commitment. Students who graduate from the first year of the program are invited to serve on a steering committee that helps direct the next class.

For an application and more information, visit the Castle Rock Chamber’s website at



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