For the first time in its 89-year history, a woman is taking the reins of the Tucson Rodeo Committee.
Deborah Barnett, who has served on the board of directors since 1995, was elected as chairwoman of the committee in June and will serve a three-year term.
Barnett, 59, originally from Pennsylvania, has spent more than three decades volunteering at the rodeo in positions varying from selling tickets to being treasurer and vice chair of the committee.
She has several years’ experience helping to manage nonprofit organizations through her company, Management Plus Ltd., which she sold in 2004 and retired from in 2007.
What is your rodeo background?
“I did grow up riding but really had no knowledge or experience with rodeo. I came out here in 1980 to volunteer because a friend said we should volunteer in the community, and the rodeo was coming up, so we came out and sold tickets. This will be my 34th rodeo. I’ve volunteered every year since then.”
What was it about the rodeo that appealed to you?
“What appealed to me when I started was the festive, cultural nature of the event, the tradition … It was fun, and the people were warm and they were welcoming, and it was a good feeling.”
After being part of the rodeo committee for so many years, why did you decide to put your name in the hat for the chairman position this year?
“I think that happened four years ago when I decided to run for the vice chair position because my intent was to see through all six years of those two terms. I think the skill set that I bring to the organization was what we needed at that time. ... Organizationally, we were trying to kind of reinvent ourselves and be a little bit more business-oriented. And that’s really what I bring to the table is a little more organizational skills and business management, and I was at the right place at the right time more than anything.”
Any major goals for your term?
“One of the challenges that nonprofits have is helping volunteers be successful. In this day and age and with our economy — it is a trend across all nonprofits — volunteer time has become more limited. People are not out there constantly able to give their time.
And because we do demand a lot from our volunteers, we want to be sure that the foundation for what we do here as a business is solid, so working with ... our staff here to be sure we are up to speed with our technology and we are being good stewards of our financial situations.”
What’s your favorite rodeo event?
“I actually like saddle bronc. I love the horses, the animal athletes. I am impressed what those guys can do. That it’s kind of like an automatic chiropractic adjustment every time you get on a horse.”