A man of many talents, Barry Weitzenberg is a modest, observant man. Community Foundation Sonoma County’s former board chair’s demeanor—refined, understated, and intelligent—doesn’t suggest the magnitude of his accomplishments.
His activities in his spare time—golf, duck hunting, bike riding, to name a few—keep him physically active, which is perhaps a nod to his early career in competitive water polo. An Olympian with a bronze medal in water polo, and two more gold medals from the Pan American Games, he ventured beyond sports to find success in the optical manufacturing business.
Now retired, Barry remains amazingly busy. When he isn’t exercising or spending time with his family, he serves on several boards in the county, including Community Foundation Sonoma County’s board.
His introduction to the Community Foundation was almost by accident. While working on a project for the Chamber of Commerce to widen Highway 101, he befriended David Voss, a Foundation board member who later called to offer him a position on the Community Foundation board.
“I had no idea what the Community Foundation was,” Barry said. “So I said ‘Sure!’ You know, new people, new challenge, so I got involved.”
Barry joined the Foundation board in 2012 and served as board chair for the past three years. During his time as chair, Barry learned as much about the Foundation as he could and attended a myriad of committee meetings to help ensure they were running as efficiently as possible. With an interest in the big picture, he focused on how the Foundation could evolve in the near future, as well as in the long term, to create a lasting impact in the community.
The October 2017 fires marked a significant milestone in the Foundation’s work. In the wake of the fires, a turbulent time for both the Foundation and the community, Barry, and the entire Foundation board, supported the launch of our Resilience Fund, which has raised over $14 million for long-term fire recovery grants.
“That was an extraordinary time. It was unbelievable, and [the staff] stood up and said we’ve got to do something,” said Barry. “They took the initiative to create the Resilience Fund. …They did all the research, called San Diego, Houston and New Orleans, wherever there have been all of these disasters to get their input on what to do. …I think it was wonderful what they did, it was just amazing. But Beth was right at the heart of that, and basically, everything stopped, and the focus was on the Resilience Fund.”
Barry credits Community Foundation CEO Beth Brown with more than the just post-fire efforts; he says that she’s the reason he was willing to become board chair. Over the course of his time as board chair, one-on-one meetings between the two became a fairly regular occurrence.
They worked closely on what Barry considers his most significant accomplishment as board chair: formalizing the Foundation’s new business model. He sees his role in its creation as an advisor, making sure the process went smoothly on the board’s side.
“I’m a big advocate of strong leadership, and the people here are all strong leaders. Beth is particularly strong,” Barry said. “The Community Foundation provides an element of leadership to the community through a variety of ways, and I think it’s really outstanding. I’m proud to be a part of what we do for the community; it’s very meaningful. But the credit needs to go to the people who work here—they’re all smart and aggressive, and it’s a good, functioning team. And that’s what’s going to enable continued growth and success.”
As we say a fond goodbye to Barry as chair, although he will continue to serve on the board, we also welcome his successor, Deberah Kelley, our new board chair. Deberah has been a member of the Community Foundation board for five years and is former vice chair.