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Harney County Chamber of Commerce 2019 Woman of the Year

Brenda Smith
Harney County Chamber of Commerce 2019 Woman of the Year

Late 2019 the staff of High Desert Partnership nominated High Desert Partnership's Executive Director Brenda Smith for the Harney County Chamber of Commerce's annual Woman of the Year award. Brenda was selected for this honor and following is what Ben Cate, High Desert Partnership's Ecological Coordinator, shared about Brenda at the awards dinner.


Brenda spends her days and much of her evenings and weekends tirelessly working for the betterment of Harney County. As Executive Director of High Desert Partnership, Brenda is in the business of helping people find common ground so they can work together for Harney County, building a strong rural economy and a flourishing community while maintaining and restoring healthy lands and water.

This work requires many hats. Brenda is a fundraiser, a manager, a partner, a visionary, a planner and someone who cares immensely about her adopted community of Harney County. That she is compassionate to all comes out quickly and clearly upon meeting her. Brenda’s fundraising efforts have brought more than $6 million dollars to Harney County to help with the restoration of Malheur Lake and maintaining the practice of flood irrigation. This translates into new jobs in Harney County. Over the course of just a few years, High Desert Partnership shifted from being a staff of just one to a staff of six plus having the resources to contract with multiple local vendors and offer opportunities to local youth interested in pursuing careers in natural resources. Brenda’s leadership within High Desert Partnership supports six different collaborative initiatives focused in Harney County which pulls together multiple dozens of stakeholders to work toward common causes.

Brenda’s fundraising efforts have also brought funding to Harney County to develop programs for our youth. Great examples are STEM education at the 2018 fair through a partnership with Baker Technical Institute to a new effort this fall helping youth start and run their own small businesses.

In addition to Brenda’s full-time work with High Desert Partnership, she serves as Chair of the Harney County Watershed Council board and is on the Advisory Council that interprets what comes from the USGS and state water resources groundwater study. She also volunteers at the fair where she manages all the flower entries and sets up the display.