Britney Appelgate joined Capital Crossroads as its new director in June as part of a new leadership model with consulting firm State Public Policy Group, where she will retain her position as senior program manager. 

It’s part of a new agreement where SPPG will provide various support services for a more comprehensive team to help Capital Crossroads as it continues to grow. Appelgate, who was married in early October, said she’s looking forward to bringing her diverse experience and skills to the conversation at Capital Crossroads over the next year as the organization begins work on its next five-year plan. 

From internships at the Iowa Department of Human Rights, Capital Crossroads and the Greater Des Moines Partnership’s public policy team, to freelance policy research with the United Way of Central Iowa, to serving as an assistant to retired Sen. Tom Harkin at the Harkin Institute at Drake University, and her current role at SPPG, Appelgate said she believes her fresh perspective and experience will benefit Capital Crossroads as it works to increase community engagement and make the community a more equitable and inclusive place for everyone to work, live and play

How has your prior work experience prepared you to take on the director’s role at Capital Crossroads?
I’ve always known I’ve wanted to help people, so for me it’s about community building and policy and system-level changes. It’s looking at the bigger picture and what can we do to prevent people from being in these situations where they need help in the first place. All these things I have done have taught me to learn things really quickly, to understand what the big picture is and see what the strategies and goals are. That’s what I do for Capital Crossroads. It’s very comprehensive and touches every part of our region. To get connected to the experts who know the details but then stepping back to see the bigger picture. It’s that high-level thinking that I like to do.

What are your goals in your new position?
I’m excited to start looking at ways we can do things differently. Next year we’ll start our next five-year vision process. What I’m hoping to do is not just look at what our goals are for the region, but also what our goals are as an organization. Are there different ways we should be doing things? Those are the kind of questions I’m asking now that I’m new to the group. I think that’s what I’m most excited about and where I can provide leadership and new insights as we start that process next year.

What attracted you to the position?
I had the unique experience of being an intern [at Capital Crossroads] several years ago, so I got kind of a sneak peek, and it was interesting that we were looking at everything from green space and water trails to immigration and how that impacts our region. That experience was intriguing to me, and when I saw this position come open I thought it was the perfect opportunity for me to put my diverse knowledge and skill set into …  one initiative working on multiple facets of our region and our community.

What do you see as the biggest advantage Des Moines offers? What is its biggest challenge?
We are a region that has a lot of the amenities of big cities. In a lot of ways it feels like a big city but still has that small-town feel, and I think people really appreciate that and like that connection. People in Des Moines and the region are accessible to each other, and that means a lot, and you don’t always get that in bigger cities. One of our biggest challenges is making sure everybody can enjoy that. It’s no secret that many people in our community enjoy a lot of those things and some people don’t; there’s that disparity there. For me, that’s one of my biggest goals. I’m expecting that equity work to grow in our next iteration and make sure there is an equity lens on all that we do to make sure that if you live here, you can enjoy your work, your living and playing in this community no matter who you are.

Describe your management style.
For me it’s about making sure I understand the folks around me, what their strengths are and lifting up those strengths and taking on or delegating where maybe they’re not as strong. Lifting up and providing support in areas where I can fill in. And believing I’m not perfect. I don’t have all the skills or the knowledge, so making sure I can get connected to the experts so they can help guide our work, and I think that’s important for a manager to do.

What are you looking forward to the most in your new position?
This next iteration I’m excited for. Our current plan is great, but when people worked on it in 2017, I don’t think anybody expected a pandemic to rock our world. So I’m excited for everyone to get together and start thinking big about what comes next for Des Moines. We’ve accomplished a lot of the things Capital Crossroads had set out to do, so this is another opportunity to think bigger and push ourselves more. 

Is there an advantage for you coming on board at the beginning of conversations for the next five-year plan?
I’m really glad I was hired at the time that I was because I get this opportunity to be the new person in the room and ask questions about why we do things a certain way or have we thought about doing it a different way? We’ve had a lot of people involved in Capital Crossroads since its inception, and they’re smart, they’re visionaries. But I think when that’s the case, you need a new perspective to come in and push things and question the status quo a little bit. That’s the role I’ve tried to take on, and I think it’s benefiting what this next process will look like. 

At a glance

Age: 26
Hometown: Clive
Family: Married, husband Ian, a software developer at NCMIC
Education: Bachelor of Arts in social justice, Spanish and applied philosophy from Simpson College.
Activities: Traveling, participating on a trivia team, watching movies, going to live shows and spending time with her two cats.