The New Leader of Safe Nest Continues to Champion Women’s Issues

Whether you’re helping a child or an adult, a community of people working together makes a big difference. Liz Ortenburger knows this firsthand. As she steps into her new role as executive director of Safe Nest, Nevada’s largest non-profit agency devoted to domestic violence issues, she brings years of experience in youth development and empowering women in all stages of life. 

At 14, Ortenburger’s parents divorced and the family was split up between Santa Cruz and St. Helena, California. It was a tough change, particularly during high school and the challenges that come with it. Fortunately, she had guidance from her track and cross country coaches there and through college, and eventually went on to earn a master’s degree at a top international business school in Spain.

I will continue to work hard and do everything I can so that we have a space and a place for every domestic violence victim in Southern Nevada.—Liz Ortenburger

This impressive MBA ultimately garnered her the attention of the YMCA of Metropolitan Los Angeles, and they hired the grad as their executive director of camping in 2008. She’d grown up attending YMCA summer camps as a kid, so it was a natural fit.

At her next post at the YMCA in Tacoma, Washington, she helped complete the fundraising to build a $4 million dining hall on the water thanks to strong relationships with large donors in the community. “It changes the camping dynamic for so many kids at that camp,” she says, acknowledging this as one of her biggest professional accomplishments.

Ortenburger spent most of the next 10 years working at the Girl Scouts council at Tres Condados in Santa Barbara, California ultimately finishing out as its Chief Operating Officer. Then in 2013, she found herself relocating to Las Vegas as CEO for Girl Scouts of Southern Nevada.

Photo by Krystal Ramirez

During her time as CEO, she came up with a way to modernize volunteerism with a concept called Super Troops. “As I was getting to re-enter Girl Scouts, my thought was, ‘There’s no way to be causally involved.’” The program allows parents to volunteer three to four times a year versus having to commit as a troop leader year-round, which creates entry points for every girl who wants to be a Girl Scout regardless of parent involvement.

Before landing at Safe Nest, Ortenburger had to be sure she could handle the transition emotionally. “I took some classes, I educated myself and along the way just sort of fell in love with the concept and what we’ve got to fight for,” she says. It was a unanimous decision by the board to hire her.

On March 1, Ortenburger succeeded Estelle Murphy, who spent nearly 40 years at Safe Nest making it her life’s work to help domestic violence victims escape abuse. Murphy built the organization from a few volunteers to an agency which services approximately 50,000 people annually and has a $5.5 million budget with a staff of about 90. Ortenburger is honored to continue her legacy and is grateful to have Murphy help her transition through the end of June into her new career in the crisis sector. Safe Nest goals include four areas of service: advocacy, counseling, prevention and shelter.

For her first 90 days, Ortenburger’s been learning the business and familiarizing herself with the board and staff. “I will continue to work hard and do everything I can so that we have a space and a place for every domestic violence victim in Southern Nevada,” she says