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Karen Palus, Moderator

Executive Director, Colorado Springs Leadership Institute

Karen Palus is the esteemed Executive Director of the Colorado Springs Leadership Institute (CSLI), a distinguished program in direct collaboration with the Center for Creative Leadership. CSLI is dedicated to uniting influential leaders within our community to effect meaningful change in our city. Since its inception in 1996, CSLI has graduated over 400 impactful leaders.

With over three decades of executive management experience in local government and non-profit sectors, Karen Palus is renowned as a strategic visionary, driven by a profound sense of purpose. Armed with a Master of Public Administration specializing in non-profit management from the University of Central Florida, and a Bachelor of Science from the University of South Florida, Karen has consistently demonstrated a penchant for operational excellence.

Karen’s recent tenure as the Parks, Recreation, and Cultural Services Director for the City of Colorado Springs exemplifies her commitment to transformative leadership. Serving nearly half a million residents, Karen spearheaded initiatives that revitalized the city’s recreational landscape. Notably, she orchestrated the implementation of a pioneering park system master plan, acquired over 2500 acres of open space, inaugurated the city’s first new community park, John Venezia, in over a decade, created a department that received accreditation from the Commission for Accreditation of Park and Recreation Agencies (CAPRA) and facilitated the largest neighborhood park redevelopment in city history at Panorama Park.


A fervent advocate for professional development and leadership advancement, Karen’s contributions have garnered prestigious accolades. She was honored as a Downtown Star by the City of Colorado Springs Downtown Partnership for her exceptional civil service and received the Colorado Parks and Recreation President’s Award for her instrumental role in the re-authorization of Great Outdoors Colorado. Additionally, Karen was bestowed with the Women of Influence Award by the Colorado Springs Business Journal in 2019 and received the U.S. Forest Service Chief’s Award in 2023 for her leadership in the development of the new Pikes Peak Summit Visitor Center.

Beyond her professional endeavors, Karen Palus remains actively engaged in various volunteer roles, including Pikes Peak United Way-Women United, Fox Run Nature Center Campaign Development Committee, Forge Evolution Teen Center Development Committee, and the Pine Creek Football Parent Committee.

When she’s not immersed in her leadership endeavors, Karen relishes spending quality time with her family, and her two pugs, exploring the abundant outdoor recreation opportunities that Colorado has to offer.