In a wide-ranging career spanning more than 40 years, Barbara “Bobbi” Gigone compiled an impressive list of “firsts.”
- First regular female news reporter at the Boulder (Colorado) Daily Camera
- First public information officer for Boulder County
- First director of the county’s newly formed Department of Community Services
In addition to her professional achievements, Bobbi has given freely of her time in support of her lifelong loves of social justice, children and history, and of Colorado Press Women and the National Federation of Press Women. She has served Press Women in at least eight positions — including affiliate president — during her 55 years of membership. In short, Bobbi epitomizes the well-rounded professional whom NFPW honors through the Communicator of Achievement award.
Bobbi, 81 years old, grew up in Zion, Illinois, on the shores of Lake Michigan, the eldest of three children. She attended a four-room elementary school, and then went on to Zion High School where she worked on the school paper. A school band trip introduced her to Colorado and after two years at Monmouth College in Illinois, where she became the school paper’s editor as a sophomore, she decided to transfer to the University of Colorado. She completed her bachelor’s degree in journalism at CU in 1957.
She was hired by the Boulder Daily Camera as its first regular female reporter/photographer. She also shared a desk — read proofs on Saturday morning, clipped and filed stories daily, and filled in as needed for the society editor (one of only two other women on the news staff). Later, she worked as a Camera freelancer, for The Denver Post and for Town & Country Review.
Journalism opportunities in Boulder were limited, and Bobbi didn’t want to commute to Denver from the Gigones’ home in rugged Fourmile Canyon, west of Boulder. When she heard Boulder County was hiring its first public information person in 1976, she applied for and got the job.
Bobbi founded the county’s employee newsletter, staffed the criminal justice advisory committee and co-founded the city-county telecommunications division, even writing the script for a county television production. She soon added director of community corrections to her list of duties. She is especially proud of her work to establish the county’s aging services division and to help spearhead the first branch county office, which included a Head Start program.
In 1987, the county consolidated housing, Head Start, community corrections, workforce, aging services, child protection review and community action programs in a single new Department of Community Services. Bobbi took the helm, a position she held until her retirement in 2002. She also became the county’s liaison to human-services nonprofits. As head of community services, Bobbi was instrumental in several groundbreaking projects, including increasing affordable housing for older adults, low-income families and migrant workers; and opening the first “satellite” county office in the town of Lafayette. Bobbi retired in 2002 at age 68.
Bobbi jokes that she’s only retired from paying work.
As a member of Colorado Press Women for 55 years, Bobbi continues to serve as a CPW board member and program co-chair. But over the years, she has taken on almost every role — including president from 1971 to 1973, a critical time for women in the profession. Recognizing that women’s roles were evolving, Bobbi helped the organization move from a traditional lunch-and-speaker model to professional development and support. She also has taken leadership roles in NFPW.
Press Women is not the only nonprofit to benefit from Bobbi’s generous gifts of time and talent through the years.
In 1994, Bobbi co-founded the Boulder County Movement for Children, an advocacy organization focused on the needs of children that works in partnership with the YWCA. She still serves on the steering committee. Bobbi continues to use her interviewing and writing skills in oral history projects for the Louisville Historical Museum, the Carnegie Branch Library and her church, Community United Church of Christ.
Bobbi’s favorite volunteer activity, hands down, has been as a host parent for international students at the University of Colorado Boulder. For more than 50 years, Bobbi and Jim have provided a home away from home for young adults from Cuba, Iran, Norway, India, Turkey, Germany, Spain and many other countries. Bobbi and Jim hear frequently from former students, host them when they return to the States to visit, and are invited to weddings, christenings and other landmark events worldwide.
Bobbi married Jim Gigone in 1961. They are parents of two sons, Mick and Dan.
The winner of the NFPW Communicator of Achievement — Barbara Gigone — was announced in mid-September during the national convention in Anchorage, Alaska.
— Sandy Graham, CPW member