News and Opinion from Sisters, Oregon

Sisters woman connects community

As the founding president and volunteer administrator for five and a half years of Citizens4Community (C4C), Robyn Holdman has been integral to efforts to make Sisters a more connected community. Her work earned her recognition from the Sisters Vision Implementation Team as a “Connected Community Champion.”

Under her leadership, C4C grew from an idea into an organization with stable funding, playing significant roles in creating a more connected and collaborative Sisters Country.

Through a combination of community tools, projects, workshops, forums, and community celebrations, Holdman paved the way for C4C’s strategies to fundamentally strengthen Sisters Country and bring people together to respectfully address challenges and opportunities so more local voices could be heard and more good things could happen through that power of connection.

“As a result of her incredible passion and heart for community, Robyn has helped channel funds from donors and state and regional foundations directly into Sisters’ community-building efforts: the Sisters Community Builder group; the Sisters Community website (a free platform where Sisters Country residents can go to connect with each other and gain valuable community information, including emergency information); and as a member of the visioning team that developed and implemented the Sisters Country Vision,” according to her nomination letter.

“I’m humbled to receive the honor,” Holdman said. “My intentions have been to help others to have the tools, resources, and encouragement to make a positive difference in their community. Honestly, I’m uncomfortable receiving the attention as I’d rather shine a light on the important work that the Sisters Country Community Builders Alliance is doing to identify and address the issues, needs, and barriers for a vibrant and supportive community. They are the superstars.”

Holdman’s previous work experience made her uniquely qualified to lead the C4C effort. She began as a legislative assistant at the Oregon legislature in 1983, moving on to various jobs at the Oregon Department of Agriculture from 1984-1998, working with commodity marketing organizations such as strawberries, salmon, wine, and microbrewery beer.

She was very involved in the formative years of the Oregon wine industry, serving as the administrator of the Wine Advisory Board, and acted as a liaison to the microbrewery industry as it was forming.

One very special position was as the cellar master for the State’s official wine cellar located in the governor’s mansion, serving three different governors.

According to Holdman, “From 1989-1998, I served as the special assistant to the director of the Oregon Department of Agriculture, spending much of my time with policy, promotion, and public relations work throughout the state. I was the agency’s liaison for regional strategies and key industries economic development work conducted around the state when the Oregon lottery was established and was funding economic development opportunities in Oregon’s counties.”

A special opportunity presented itself when in 1995-1996 the governor sent Holdman to Japan to live for 11 months and to serve as a goodwill ambassador for a sister-state relationship with Toyama Prefecture. She also participated in the State of Oregon’s Leadership Oregon program for young government leaders.

After leaving her work with the State in 1998 and moving to Bend with her now-husband, John Dunlap, Holdman began her work with nonprofits — as vice president for resource development for the Boys and Girls Clubs of Central Oregon and as a fundraiser for Hospice of Bend-La?Pine and Volunteers in Medicine. In 2006, Holdman and her husband formed real estate investment and management companies, of which she is a managing partner.

It was following their move to Sisters in 2014 that Holdman began the effort to establish a civility project in Sisters during a time of some public, disrespectful behavior shown toward government and nonprofit leaders who were volunteering to serve their community.

“Truthfully, it took a lot of courage, personal time, and energy to address the uncivil words and behaviors that were negatively impacting Sisters Country seven years ago,” she said. “I am so thankful for the committed group of people who joined me to form Citizens4Community and to launch the Speak Your Peace Civility Project as one effort to understand and address incivility. This important initiative would not have been possible without the talents of Amy Burgstahler… serving as the ‘voice’ for C4C as well as overseeing the creative design of materials that promote the organization.”

Hard work came early for Holdman, growing up northwest of Pendleton on a wheat and cattle ranch in a community bearing the Holdman name. Her ancestors, who came on the Oregon Trail in 1845 to Roseburg, eventually homesteaded the area near Pendleton in 1882. Her younger brother Chris still runs the farm. Holdman is the third of four children that were born in six years.

Following the 2020 strategic planning efforts of C4C, Holdman explained it was apparent that with the natural progression of the nonprofit organization, “it was time to hire an executive director to oversee the expanding community building work that our community partners were asking us to lead and facilitate on their behalf… Linda Cline has been hired as the ED and I am confident that she has the skills and talent to guide the C4C board at this time...

“With Linda overseeing administrative matters, the time had come for me to shift my attention to my family and to help my husband build a new home in Sisters. I’m actively involved in the design and construction of the house. The laptop computer has gone on the shelf, to be replaced by a paint-brush and tile saw.”


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