Barb Winter thought her career in personnel at Colorado Interstate Gas Co. might end before it ever started.
Just after Winter interned and then accepted a job at CIG in 1972, Houston-based energy giant Coastal Corp. approached the company about merging. CIG rejected the offer, but Coastal then launched a hostile and eventually successful takeover, and Winter thought the newest employees would quickly be shown the door.
“I knew nothing about the business. I had been recruited for the job because of the internship and I didn’t get any other job offers because we were in the middle of an economic downturn,” Winter said. “I was pretty green during the takeover and people seem to go easily during those types of situations.”
Instead, Winter, now 68, would spend 29 years with CIG and later add safety, administrative services, audio-visual, building management, the mail room and even the company’s aviation department to her management responsibilities.
“I have been able to survive and gain more responsibility over time,” she said. “A lot of life is about luck, but it is also about doing a good job, improving and growing.”
She eventually took early retirement in another subsequent merger and joined Ent Credit Union as its vice president of human resources just as southern Colorado’s largest financial institution was gearing up for a major growth spurt. She would later shift responsibilities to Ent’s philanthropy and community outreach, and now plans to retire (for a second time) Jan. 4, though she’ll remain active with several local nonprofits.
Winter is stepping down after receiving just about every major business award in the city, including the Athena Award from the chamber and the Accolades Business Executive of the Year from the Southern Colorado Women’s Chamber of Commerce.
She has served as a board member of Penrose-St. Francis Health Services and eventually its foundation, where she now serves as chair; Discover Goodwill Foundation, the Pikes Peak United Way, the Colorado Springs Chamber & EDC, Silver Key Senior Services and the YMCA of the Pikes Peak Region. She also serves on a committee that helps decide what road projects will be financed by its road repair sales tax.
She also helped put together a 15-year marketing and operating agreement, which included naming rights, worth $12.6 million that helped finance construction of the Ent Center for the Arts on the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs campus. The $60 million center opened early this year and includes a 700-seat theater and several other performance venues and art galleries.
She credits longtime CIG presidents Thomas Pelican and Peter King for mentoring and believing in her, which helped Winter both advance her career and learn skills as she took on more responsibilities. Winter said she was a “pretty good student” of business and management and learned quickly that high-ranking mentors could “take you under their wing and help you grow.”
After nearly three decades at CIG, Winter saw they she wasn’t likely to survive the company’s next merger with El Paso Corp. in 2001. She helped set up severance packages for 375 employees who left CIG when El Paso acquired Coastal, and took one of those packages herself, believing that she was “lucky to retire early.”
Her retirement lasted one month. Longtime friend Bill Skea, then Ent’s interim human resources director, and Charles Emmer, then Ent’s CEO, recruited her to join the credit union to replace Skea, who was retiring and moving to Oklahoma. But she had one requirement — the job had to be at the vice president level and report directly to Emmer.
“Bill was reporting to Randy Bernstein (then a vice president) and I had worked hard in my career to get human resources to the table and reporting to the CEO,” Winter said. “I made my case, and in recognition of my experience and expertise, they reorganized management so I reported directly to Charles.”
Shortly after joining Ent, she helped supervise a move to a new headquarters near Woodmen Road and Interstate 25. And just like her career at CIG, Winter gained added responsibilities for facilities, real estate development, payroll, training, investments and eventually community outreach and philanthropy. As Ent grew to the $5 billion financial institution it is today, community outreach and philanthropy became a full-time executive position for her.
She has spent recent years serving as a mentor for others, mostly through volunteering with the Chancellor’s Leadership Class at the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs.
“We help students get introduced to the work world and improve their professional lives by helping them know their strengths and weaknesses and how to balance risk and rewards,” Winter said.
While she is retiring, Winter said she will continue to work with nonprofits like Silver Key, but she will also travel, including a trip to Mexico to satisfy her passion for scuba diving and another to Japan, where she was born to a Japanese mother and American service member father. She was adopted after birth by a U.S. military pilot who was serving in Japan during the Korean War, and was sent two years later to Colorado Springs.
Contact Wayne Heilman 636-0234 Facebook www.facebook.com/wayne.heilman