New Year, New Leaders: Discussion with our First Year Chairs
With the 2021-2022 League year officially underway, we reached out to some of our first year Chairs to talk about their plans for the new year. While this will be their first time as Committee Chair with The Junior League of Tampa, each of these women brings a unique set of leadership experiences from their professional and other volunteer pursuits.
What are you most excited about for the upcoming year?
This year provides us a unique opportunity to return to our roots and the programs we do really well as a League while also taking the best of our learnings from our year away from in-person programming. Working with our Provisional Class is an exciting vantage point filled with dynamic new ideas, passion and a desire to make a lasting impact in our community. The Provisional Education Team is a diverse and eager group of women and I cannot wait to see how their passions are shared with the Provisional women. It is sure to be a year of growth for us all! – Lindsey Dewey, Provisional Education Chair
This is going to be an exciting year for Public Affairs. We have some important upcoming local elections this year. We also have many opportunities to inform our representatives at the local and state levels about what we are doing for our community and how they can help our representatives. I am excited to teach our members about ongoing legislation and how it affects our communities. – Carolyn Robinson, Public Affairs-State Chair
A new league year always offers a fresh start. I am excited to meet a new group of women and work together for another successful year for Ready to Achieve! It is almost time to get creative and come up with all new lesson plans. – Katie O’Brien, Ready to Achieve Chair
I am most excited to see everyone! I am so impressed with how the League has adjusted, pivoted, and provided creative ideas to continue, and in some cases improve, programs that will forever change the way we volunteer and contribute to the community. As a Co-Chair of Member Meetings & Events, we are excited to bring back some normalcy with in-person socials and meetings. – Whitney Gatz, Member Meetings & Events Co-Chair
I am thrilled to be serving as a Chair for one of our community impact projects, MILO. This year I am looking forward to collaborating with my committee, community partners, and volunteers to reach the common goal of “meeting children and families where they are” and enhancing literacy in our community. – Michele Davis, MILO Chair
Why did you decide to take on a leadership role with The Junior League of Tampa?
I decided to take on a leadership role with JLT to challenge myself but also to lead others. I feel that I now have my footing and have learned A TON through previous placements and committees. My time to give back to the League has given me so much and help other women realize their potential and unlimited opportunity for growth within the League. – Jessica Berroth, Transfer Chair
What is wonderful about JLT is the opportunity to choose your path each year. I have taken advantage of the predictable opportunities and challenged myself to refine and test my leadership skills by applying to be on a Committee every Active year. With my experience, I decided to step out of my comfort zone and take on a leadership role. I am nervous but very excited! – Whitney Gatz, Member Meetings & Events Co-Chair
I have been gradually progressing since being with JLT and decided to push myself to learn and grow even more. I am excited to use my 15+ years of experience in leadership to support the Mission of JLT. – Meaza Stewart-Morrison, Project Development and Evaluation (PDEC) Chair
I believe in the Mission of the League – the development of women is so important to our community. Training is one of the best ways to help our women in their development. By taking on a leadership role, I can give back in a very impactful way. – Stephanie Key Helter, Training Chair
What makes a ‘good’ leader?
A good leader can communicate effectively, listen more than they speak, lead by example, and most importantly, a leader that can follow the directions of others when necessary. – Janae Thomas, Public Affairs-Local Chair
Leadership is not defined by a job description or title. A good leader naturally encourages others and brings out the best in those around them. In teamwork settings, I believe a great leader operates with the end goal in mind, recognizes, and highlights the strengths of team members to reach that goal. In individual settings, a good leader will support others in reaching their personal goals. – Katie O’Brien, Ready to Achieve Chair
A good leader learns from those around them and each experience they encounter. They also help teach those around them and help in any way they can. They believe in collaboration and teamwork above all else. – Stephanie Key Helter, Training Chair
A good leader is an inclusive, approachable team player that leads by example. Leading is not about delegating tasks but creating a space where all team members can use their strengths to reach a common goal. – Meaza Stewart-Morrison, Project Development and Evaluation (PDEC) Chair
I think a good leader listens and is connected to and supportive of the people around her. You might not have all the answers as a “leader,” but if you believe in the people around you and earn their trust, confidence, and respect, then you can accomplish anything together. – Kara Schafer, Holiday Gift Market Co-Chair
Part of the League’s Mission is ‘Developing the Potential of Women’. What does this mean to you?
Developing the potential of women means helping women step outside of their comfort zone to reach their goals. – Brittany George, Toastmasters Chair
The Junior League provides amazing opportunities for women to grow, learn, and train. Although we have members who are experts in their careers, they have the chance with The Junior of League of Tampa to learn new things and new skills. These may be unrelated to their professions, help them in their professions or provide them with new aspirations and goals. – Carolyn Robinson, Public Affairs-State Chair
I love the League’s Mission because women hold such a strong role in the community now more than ever. Developing our potential in all ways personally and professionally is key and I am very happy I am part of an organization that prioritizes that. – Caroline Benson, Fundraising-Giving Chair
There are few places left where women can be vulnerable and learn gracefully. In our careers, our lives as partners, parents, children, and members of our community, we are often expected to have the answers and know our next steps without question. In The Junior League of Tampa, we are afforded the opportunity to pause, learn, grow and expand our horizons as part of teams to continually become better versions of ourselves. Being a member of The Junior League of Tampa allows us to serve as a link in the chain between what has been and what can be. I look forward to my personal growth this year and the members of our Provisional Education Team and our Provisional class. – Lindsey Dewey, Provisional Education Chair
What is one thing you hope to accomplish this year?
This year I hope to make my Chair-Elect confident in her role next year, get every member actively engaged and at least two to meet their first milestone. – Brittany George, Toastmasters Chair
I would like to see Public Affairs become a more central part of JLT because of the helpful and informative programming we offer. I would like more people to understand what the committee offers and engage with it more throughout the year. – Janae Thomas, Public Affairs-Local Chair
I hope that every woman who Transfers into the Junior League of Tampa this year is heard. I hope she ends her transfer placement by making long-lasting relationships while also learning more about the Tampa League and our events and finds her passion and place in our community. And OBVIOUSLY, we are striving to be 21-22 committee of the year! – Jessica Berroth, Transfer Chair
I hope to understand fundraising on a deeper level and continue to engage and promote the League’s Mission and why giving back is so important. – Caroline Benson, Fundraising-Giving Chair
This League year, I am eager to meet as many children and families in our community as possible. Through events with our partners, special events, and collaboration with the library, I am committed to extending our reach further to ensure more children can start their very own home library. – Michele Davis, MILO Chair
Bringing back an incredible in-person Holiday Gift Market is definitely a personal and committee goal of mine. HGM is our biggest fundraiser of the year, and it is more important than ever to get critical funds and resources for our community partners and projects. We have an amazing group of women on this year’s HGM Committee, and we are so excited to welcome back our members, shoppers, merchants, and partners for a great experience! – Kara Schafer, Holiday Gift Market Co-Chair
Responses have been edited for length and/or clarity.