Betty Reynolds was born in 1948 into a family of 10. She attended Woodrow Wilson High School in Portland, Oregon, and then went on to attend Oregon State University where she majored in American Studies. As an undergraduate, she became active in the Inter-institutional Union of Students, which was a coalition of student activists from the seven colleges and universities making up the Oregon State System of Higher Education. She was also the first student in Oregon appointed by the Governor to a state board, the Oregon Educational Coordinating Commission. She was later selected as Executive Director of the Oregon Government Ethics Commission.
During her career, Reynolds held a number of executive positions, including Executive Director of the Arizona Board of Dentistry, Executive Director of the Oregon Board of Dentistry, and Deputy Real Estate Commissioner for Oregon. After retiring, she was elected to her local school board for two terms, served as President of the Oregon School Board Association, and was active with the National School Boards Action Center board and National School Board Association policy committee. She also served on a series of additional boards that helped set the legislative agenda for community colleges across the country.