Woman of Influence: Brenda Smith

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Brenda Smith, First Presbyterian Church

Brenda Smith’s father died when she was two years old, leaving her mother to raise her and her six older brothers alone. Her mom cleaned houses to support the family. Smith remembers it all fondly, “I had a wonderful mother and we had an enormous amount of love.”

But, there was not a lot of money. And that childhood uncertainty motivated Smith to make sure that she would always be financially secure. She paid her own way through University of Colorado at Colorado Springs and decided accounting would be a solid career. “Often I was the only female in my accounting classes,” she says.

Smith specialized in accounting for non-profit organizations. She worked steadily, and as the accounting industry consolidated, she merged the firm she ran into BKD, LLP. She eventually became the partner in charge for the Colorado practice of BKD, LLP., the giant regional accounting firm with more than 2,000 employees. After 36 years in accounting, she says “I loved my job. I had no intention of leaving.”

But, Smith’s church, First Presbyterian Church of Colorado Springs, was going through some changes. At a meeting, church leadership decided they needed a strong chief operating officer. “I would never have left BKD,” she says, “but I truly felt it was a calling to serve at First Presbyterian.”

She left BKD and became the chief operating officer of First Presbyterian and worked to get the church on a firm managerial footing. She also groomed her replacement. Smith now works two days a week as treasurer and leader of the business office at the First Presbyterian Church. That leaves her more time for her community activities.

Smith is a trustee of El Pomar Foundation. “I mentor a lot of folks in the community,” she says. “I really enjoy helping people behind the scenes.” She works on various projects through her many community connections.

She is active at her alma mater, UCCS, is past chair of the board of the dean’s executive advisory board at the UCCS College of Business, and helped organize the Colorado Springs Center for Nonprofit Excellence and the Colorado Springs Leadership Institute. She is a past chairwoman of the Colorado Springs Chamber of Commerce.