Home Arts & Culture Women’s History Month 2024: 14 Inspiring Pensacola Women to Celebrate

Women’s History Month 2024: 14 Inspiring Pensacola Women to Celebrate

Women’s History Month 2024: 14 Inspiring Pensacola Women to Celebrate

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On this last day of Women’s History Month, meet the women in Pensacola and Perdido Key that we think one day will be referred to as iconic in the way they are breaking boundaries in normalizing female leadership, trailblazing in their impactful contributions to the quality of life in our community, and encouraging women around them to be courageous and to step up and join them.

Name: Sally Bergosh
Occupation: Executive Director at Health and Hope Clinic

Leadership Roles/Responsibilities: My leadership roles at the clinic are to oversee all aspects of the operation to ensure patient care is administered efficiently, identify, and assess community health needs, and identify resources for growth. I recruit and secure volunteers, funding, and material resources to operate efficiently to ensure optimal delivery of healthcare services. I maintain all partnerships and in-kind agreements and establish new relationships, support, and partnerships.

Sally Bergosh

Community involvement and philanthropic efforts: Board of Director at YMCA, Committee for MSABC (Making Strides Against Breast Cancer), Impact 100 Ambassador/Mentor for new members, Women’s Board for Baptist Health Care Foundation, Past President of ECCPTA, past Florida PTA Board of Directors, Women United Member.

Who are you a voice for? The hurting and underserved.

How do you stay motivated and inspired as a leader? My passion is helping others who often can’t help themselves. This might mean being a voice for a child, helping someone hurting to find resources, or becoming an advocate for the underserved.

What other women inspire you? Women that step up in leadership because it’s the right thing to do. There is no agenda or self-promotion, just good old “doing the right thing, even when no one is watching” servant leaders with the goal of being “Christ-like”.

Who was a mentor to you that you now credit with being a part of your success? Jennifer Daniel with First Baptist Church Pensacola helped start one of the first food bag programs for kids at C.A. Weis Elementary School. She led by example, and I used to tell her that I wanted to float into heaven one day holding on to one of her angel wings. She taught me about selfless- leadership. She taught me to pray, follow where you are being led, and have faith that He will provide the tools to get it done.  Debbie King Kenney, Director of Community Involvement for Escambia County School District, taught me about professionalism, how to put on big events with a shoestring budget, and that the devil is in the details.  Susan Jason, President of Nurse Spring, taught me about taking control of my destiny, negotiating, advocating for myself, and never settling for less than my worth – how to be a badass in a man’s world of business.

What advice would you give the next generation of female leaders? Find what you are passionate about and then figure out a way to make money doing it. That way, you never work a day in your life. You get to find ways to excel in something you believe in.

What is the best advice you have ever been given about leadership and by whom? Servant leadership is about serving and leading for the greater good of others. Finding your GRIT, getting it done each day, and leading with integrity were taught to me by John Maxwell, author & motivational speaker, and my childhood pastor in San Diego.

Favorite APP on my phone: Venmo. It makes paying or gifting people so easy!

Favorite indulgence that saves me time and/or money: Nothing Bundt Cakes – the bundtinis are $25 per dozen, small enough to be “guilt-free”, and can help you bring a little scrumptious JOY to 12 people! That’s a lot of bang for my buck!

www.healthandhopeclinic.org       Sbergosh@healthandhopeclinic.org 

 Name:  Nicole Webb Bodie

Occupation: Healthcare Consulting

Leadership Roles/Responsibilities: Partner at Healthcare Plus Solutions GroupOversee and manage all aspects of our company’s day-to-day operations. My role is multifaceted and involves coordinating functions to ensure the smooth and efficient running of the organization. Some key responsibilities include strategic planning, process optimization, team coordination, partner relations, resource management, compliance and quality assurance, and risk management. My role is crucial in maintaining the health and functionality of Healthcare Plus Solutions Group, allowing us to deliver exceptional consulting services to our partners while fostering a positive and efficient work environment for our team.

Nicole Webb Bodie

Community involvement and philanthropic efforts: My involvement in the community centers around supporting organizations that make a genuine impact. I’m engaged with the Studer Community Institute, working towards community development and education initiatives both with leaders and ensuring every child is ready for kindergarten. Transformation Church is another focus, where my husband and I recently led a marriage group and can give back to our community in various ways. Covenant Hospice holds a special place in my heart as they help people in their most vulnerable state and give so much love to those they serve. I’m part of Impact100 which is a great way for women to make a difference in our community.

Who are you a voice for? I advocate for well-being and work towards removing the stigma around mental health. By encouraging open conversations and understanding, we can create a supportive environment where seeking help for mental well-being is embraced rather than stigmatized. By being a voice for these principles, I encourage individuals to prioritize their well-being and contribute to a collective mindset shift towards a healthier lifestyle.

How do you stay motivated and inspired as a leader? The individuals I choose to surround myself with hold immense value. While leadership can be challenging, maintaining a learning mindset is crucial. Mike, my husband, is a key player in this, challenging my perspectives and offering different insights. Despite my being incredibly strong-minded, he provides the push for me to think differently. Being leaders for those we serve is a shared passion of ours. Having a partner with the same growth mindset, who also enjoys consuming similar content such as podcasts and leadership books keeps me motivated.

What other women inspire you? Many women inspire me, especially mothers. I find their ability to juggle multiple responsibilities and handle various challenges with grace truly remarkable. The dedication, resilience, and love they pour into their families while managing all other aspects of life, whether it is their careers, caregiving roles, community involvement, etc., is incredible.

Who was a mentor to you that you now credit with being a part of your success?I have been fortunate to be surrounded by many amazing people in my life. One of my secret weapons for success is my grandma, Mama Nellie!

Growing up, I spent a lot of time with her, and she was the master at teaching me about hard work, creativity, and the art of juggling a million things at once. She showed me how to prioritize like a pro, the value of good habits, and proved that you can have fun while working hard and making an impact. Thanks to her, I understand the importance of blending fun into reaching my goals, which makes the journey of life more enjoyable! She is still mentoring me today and is currently teaching me the ropes of real estate. Even at 84 yrs., she remains dedicated to having fun and achieving goals.

What advice would you give the next generation of female leaders? For the upcoming generation of female leaders, my advice is to intentionally weave healthy habits into your daily life. As women, we often juggle numerous responsibilities. Cultivating these habits not only prepares you for challenges but also enables you to make the most of your time with purpose and deliberation. It’s essential to strive for a sustainable blend between your personal and professional life, and practicing intentionality in every aspect will be the key to achieving this in each season of your life.

What is the best advice you have ever been given about leadership and by whom? Don’t be paralyzed by perfection and get into traffic. Early in my career, I strived for everything I worked on to be flawless before unveiling it. This approach led to late nights, sacrificing personal time, and the potential disappointment of not achieving the desired outcome. Quint Studer taught me value of getting into traffic, seeking feedback, and not allowing perfection to hinder progress. Another favorite of mine is the power of the pause—to respond rather than react.

Favorite app on your phone: I rely heavily on the Reminders and Calendar app. If a commitment isn’t on my calendar, it simply doesn’t happen.

Favorite indulgence that saves you time and/or money: I love the convenience of clothing subscriptions, such as Stitch Fix, and rentals like Nuuly. They save me the time and effort of shopping but also offer unique outfits that I may not have tried. It’s a fantastic way to stay stylish and on-trend while being mindful of both time and budget.

Instagram: Nicole_Webb_Bodie    LinkedIn  

Name: Rev. Ashlee Mosley Brown

Occupation: Reverend, United Methodist Church; appointed as Associate Pastor to Gulf Breeze United Methodist Church. Owner, Native Cafe

 Leadership Roles/Responsibilities: Youth & Missions Pastor at Gulf Breeze UMC; Owner, VP Development & Human Resources, Native Café; President, Board of Directors, United Ministries; Member, Board of Directors, Bright Bridge Ministries

Rev. Ashlee Mosely Brown

Community involvement and philanthropic efforts: Member, Pensacola Women’s Alliance; Member, Impact 100 Sustainer: Junior League of Pensacola, Alumni; Alpha Gamma Delta Theta Lambda Chapter

I am involved in programs that advance the role and development of women and impact the community positively through service work. I prioritize my efforts with non-profits that bring stability to home and health. Below are the ones I support:

Bright Bridge helps homeless men, recover from addiction and homelessness; United Ministries helps families avoid homelessness by providing rent/utility support; Family Promise helps homeless families move into housing with wraparound care; Gulf Coast Kid’s House & Santa Rosa Kid’s House help abused children move through legal, medical, and therapeutic aspects of recovery in a safe location; Embrace Florida Kids helps families avoid foster care, supports them through foster care if necessary, and provides group homes for students recovering from trafficking and those foster kids who’ve aged out and are now embracing higher education.

Who are you a voice for? Those who are not voiceless but not able to voice their needs at the table where decisions are made. I am a voice for women, children, veterans, the homeless, LGBTQIA youth and adults, and those struggling with mental illness.

How do you stay motivated and inspired as a leader? My responsibility as a Christian is to love my neighbors, to do unto others as the Lord has done for me, to bear the burdens of my neighbors, and to use my gifts to serve. I seek to “Do Good, Do No Harm, and Love God,” as Methodist founder John Wesley advocated.

Community work is hard and rewarding. It takes effort to be steady with my time/energy. Burnout is real. Self-care must be engaged so I can be a helper for the long haul. Lots of prayer, patience, and sometimes, saying “no” or “not right now” are essential to service work.

What other women inspire you? I am inspired by women who do less but with more impact because of the ministry of presence they bring to their involvement. It is a tendency of mine to be always on the go and I find inspiration from those who have found the sweet spot of serving and being still.

Who was a mentor to you that you now credit with being a part of your success?I credit two pastors from my youth for showing me that God could use me in leadership and ministry: Rev. Ruth Knights and Rev. June Jernigan.

I credit my favorite professor from the University of West Florida who taught religious studies, was a woman in ministry, and touched the hearts of her students: June Watkins. She showed me that the impact of seeing, hearing, & valuing those you interact with can make a difference.

I credit my mentor and Spiritual Director Annie Mazenko for teaching me the impact of holding space for others, and the rich reserves of Centering Prayer as essential for the work I’m doing.

 What advice would you give the next generation of female leaders? Surround yourself with people who believe in you and challenge you to grow. Then seek wisdom from these advisors as you cultivate your abilities for the benefit of the world. It is not about you, your gifts, your service. That candle will burn out quickly. It’s about recognizing God-given abilities in you, cultivating that through prayer, collaboration; and then serving others to glorify God. You do those things, and you will grow into the best leader and light-bringer you can be. Your impact will ripple beyond yourself to all those you have loved and those they love and serve, and so on.

What is the best advice you have ever been given about leadership and by whom? These are over-quoted because they are true and effective. They are: believe in yourself, fake it until you make it, and you can do it. So much of leadership is about getting started, knowing you don’t have all the skills, but with continued learning, you will develop them. Know that imposter syndrome is real, but the good news is everyone feels that way when they start something new.

Trust the growth that will come. And that you can do it, whatever “it” is. Your resilience as a human being is profound and your God-created-ness will equip you with what you need and who you need. Philippians 4:13 always serves as a great encourager: “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”

Favorite app on your phone: Facebook – I love connecting and being collaborative. The networking capabilities are huge when used for good. I also love animal videos!

Favorite indulgence that saves you time and/or money: I love InstaCart. I love supporting local gig economy workers while saving myself time.

Instagram:  @ashleemoselybrown      Instagram:  Native Cafe 

Name: Nannette Chandler

Occupation: Investor, Developer, Builder

Leadership Roles/Responsibilities: Owner of Chandler & Company, LLC, Owner of Chandler Property Management, LLC

Outside of the responsibilities of running profitable businesses, I hold myself responsible for the financial education of the women who work with me. I hold weekly meetings as a form of continuing education where we discuss all types of investing strategies that my team members can employ to reach their personal financial goals. With education comes accountability and ultimately, financial success.

Nanette Chandler

Community involvement and philanthropic efforts: I focus my efforts on the Eastside Neighborhood and the Old East Hill Historic District. I have found that what makes the biggest impact and is the most personally rewarding is to give my time and energy directly to the members of my community who are in need.

Who are you a voice for? I cannot profess to be a voice for anyone. Women have had people speaking for them for centuries, and while it’s important to have advocates to advance initiatives for equality, a figurehead alone doesn’t allow for individual growth in the same way as learning to speak for oneself. Finding one’s voice, and a level of comfort in taking up space, is necessary to build confidence and success for women of all walks of life. Each woman holds a fraction of the responsibility of solidifying the social and political change she wants to see in the world. My practice with my team is to encourage women to explore their thoughts and to create a space for them to find their voices through discussions about business, money, and philosophy.

How do you stay motivated and inspired as a leader? I’m most motivated by progress and positive change, within myself and my team members. I love seeing the joy on someone’s face when a concept they thought was too complex for them is understood and applied for the first time. There’s such power in that moment; it’s a heady feeling for me as well, and I look forward to the possibility of experiencing it each Monday morning at our meetings.

What other women inspire you? I have always been inspired by Angelina Jolie’s work to improve the plight of women and children all over the globe. Throughout her entire career, she has personally funded schools in areas where girls previously had no access to education or safety, and she continues this work today. I would love to use my skillsets to aid in this work and find opportunities to help educate and provide hope for women and girls who feel unseen in this country and beyond.

 Who was a mentor to you that you now credit with being a part of your success? I never had the benefit of a mentor, but I was gifted two people growing up that helped shape who I am today: my mother, who is a living example of hard work and diligence, and my grandmother, a fiery woman who worked in construction and believed in me when no one else did.

When you grow up in a hard-working family, you don’t obsess over how much work there is to do, you simply acknowledge that there is a list to be completed before the day ends, and that’s how I have continued to approach work my whole life. When I needed to learn a new skill, I volunteered with a construction crew and was mentored by the people who used that skill every day. When I needed to learn a new investing concept, I would read everything I could about the topic and study how other people put the theories to use. This has always served me well. As of late, Lisa Long Lyter has been my sounding board, and for her, I am very thankful.

What advice would you give the next generation of female leaders? I believe that to be truly successful, your business policies and structure must improve the lives of your team members equally as much as it improve your own. If that’s not the case, you may need to reconsider who is on your team (because they may not be interested in personal growth) or the way you have structured your business, as it may not allow for the kind of personal growth that it should, ethically speaking.

What is the best advice you have ever been given about leadership and by whom? I read the book Start with Why by Simon Sinek, and one of the questions it triggered in my mind was, with all the options available for a career path, “Why would someone CHOOSE to work for ME?” I answer this question constantly whether I’m simply planning a meeting agenda or deciding on a new direction for one of my businesses. It’s important to consider your team in your decision-making processes.

Favorite app on your phone: Pinterest for ideas or Woodoku for relaxation

Favorite indulgence that saves you time and/or money: I listen to the Headway app on my morning walk/run to get a quick 15-minute preview of a topic that interests me to help me decide if I want to buy and read the whole book. They are all educational and activate your mind for the day.

Instagram: @Olde2gold

Name:  Joni Claerbout

Occupation: President and Founder of Regal Media Team

Leadership Roles/Responsibilities: Digital and Advanced Media Agency owner, Vice President Of Sales Comcast: Sacramento and Fresno markets, Director of Sales: Charter, Time Warner, Bright House: Western 1/3 of the country and Alabama, Director of Sales Cox Media: Florida, Georgia & Alabama. I was responsible for driving sales, building strong, positive cultures, and improving efficiencies and profitability. We did that by focusing on caring for Sales and Operations as well as caring for our clients and advertisers. I was also responsible for leading our diversity and inclusion efforts throughout the Southeast Region which included supporting a nontraditional role for women program.

Joni Claerbout

Community involvement and philanthropic efforts: I’m a supporter of the Pensacola EggFest because it is such a positive community event, that brings everyone together. It has also generated more than $782,000 over the last 11 years for local charities like the Studer Community Institute, Rally Pensacola, and Manna Food Pantry.

My family and I are engaged with the Currie House, a local youth shelter for children who have been removed from unsafe environments. We focus on two primary needs: back to school and Christmas. We purchase (through donations and personal funds) undergarments, clothing, shoes, school supplies, nonperishable snacks, and backpacks for the children. We also partnered with our local beautician to provide them all with haircuts and styles before the first day of school. We recruited our optometrists to provide the children with glasses or contacts if needed. For Christmas, we provide the Curry House kids with undergarments, clothing, shoes, jackets, nonperishable snacks, candy, games, toys, books, duffle bags, and gift cards. We also cook breakfast for the children on Christmas Eve morning as a family. My granddaughters joined in on this commitment to give back to our community as a six-month-old and a newborn!

Who are you a voice for? I strive to be a voice for the Currie House children who are in terrible situations through no fault of their own. I also am a voice for women starting with my two daughters and two granddaughters. I do this in two ways. Through “straightening crowns” informally and formally through executive coaching and mentoring. So often, women struggle to find their place in the business world while striving to be excellent mothers, wives, sisters, and daughters. I found helping them navigate through their careers and family life very rewarding and extremely important work.

How do you stay motivated and inspired as a leader? My two daughters Samantha and Savannah have always been my greatest motivators. Being the best I can be every day as a female executive and leader afforded me the opportunity as a single mom to care for my daughters and my family well. My granddaughters also motivate and inspire me. I want to do everything I can to help them have positive, healthy lives.

What other women inspire you? I also get inspiration from my tribe of women I keep close to me – starting with Lisa Long Lyter, Jamie Lapointe, and Veronique Zayas. They give me positive energy, encouragement, accolades, feedback, and guidance that makes me want to maximize every opportunity to make our community of men and women better. They lead by example, blazing trails and loving others well, often making the nearly impossible seem easy!

Most importantly, my mother Katie Easley was my first motivator and a huge source of inspiration and confidence. She was only sixteen when I was born. At that tender age, she was an excellent mother. She loved me dearly and kindly and was always my biggest fan. She convinced me at an early age that I was in God’s favor and could do anything I wanted to do with His help and her support.

Who was a mentor to you that you now credit with being a part of your success? Filemon Lopez, Kim Woodworth, John Jerman, David Klein and Lisa Long Lyter have been my greatest mentors who have shaped me and are a huge part of my success.

They led by example, they communicated well, were kind, believed in me and they encouraged me to find an opportunity and go for it! I haven’t worked with Filemon, Kim, and John in more than 15 years, but they built my foundation. They shaped me. I recall our conversations often and fondly as I’m making business decisions today.

What advice would you give the next generation of female leaders? Fight for what is right and treat people with respect, regardless of the consequences. Courageous leaders are so needed and are becoming a lost art as executives worry more about what’s in it for them instead of how they can serve their people. Also, give grace and work hard. You truly are unstoppable if you set your mind to it!

 What is the best advice you have ever been given about leadership and by whom? Servant Leadership is where the magic happens and creates a winning culture. Always care about your people and clients first. Make decisions closest to them. Filemon Lopez was concerned about building a strong, energizing, and inspiring culture before it was cool back in 2000! One of his goals was for us to be featured in the Fast Company Magazine as the best place to work. He was very clear that not everybody would fit through the Comcast Media door. But if you possessed some of the skill sets, desire, and were coachable he would pull you through and provide you with the time of your life. He did just that for me and many other young executives.

Favorite app on your phone: YouTube Music

Favorite indulgence that saves you time and/or money: My housekeeper!

Regal Media Team      Joni Claerbout 

NameAngie Ishee

Occupation: Executive Director, Magdalene’s, Inc.

 Leadership Roles/Responsibilities: Before being named Executive Director of Magdalene’s, I served as the Executive Vice President of Waterfront Rescue Mission, where I oversaw public relations, development, volunteer program, and other business areas for 8 years.

Angie Ishee

Community Involvement and philanthropic efforts: Member of Circuit 1 Human Trafficking Task Force; previously served on the board of Housing First in Mobile, Ala., and member of Suburban West Rotary.

Who are you a voice for? Since I was a teenager, I’ve been impassioned to fight for those who find themselves entangled in life-dominating issues – whether addiction, homelessness, abuse, or trafficking – to break free and get on a path of healing and wholeness.  I love helping the marginalized realize that success is possible!

How do you stay motivated and inspired as a leader? I find that staying grounded and continually growing are key.  This involves reading the works of, listening to, and meeting with inspirational leaders, as well as identifying focused areas of growth and being intentional about my development.

What other women inspire you? Women who have overcome adversity with faith, vigor, and determination inspire me, such as Harriet Tubman, Beth Moore, and Carissa Phelps.  They have influenced countless others, because of their raw determination, trust in God, and selfless service.

Who was a mentor to you that you now credit with being a part of your success? Devin Simmons was key in pushing me to develop my innate talents to become a strong leader.  He was willing to say the hard and honest things and to provide time and resources to help me grow as a person and as a leader.

What advice would you give the next generation of female leaders? Envision who you can and want to become, and chase it with wild intentionality.  Surround yourself with people who push you to become your best; success doesn’t happen by accident.

What is the best advice you have ever been given about leadership and by whom? When you live each day with intentionality, there’s almost no limit to what you can do. You can transform yourself, your family, your community, and your nation. When enough people do that, they can change the world. John Maxwell, Intentional Living: Choosing a Life That Matters

Favorite app on your phone: YouVersion Bible

Favorite indulgence that saves you time and/or money: Hello Fresh meal delivery

Instagram:  @magdalenes.inc.          LinkedIn

Name: Kristin Longley

Occupation: Regional Director of Public Affairs for Cox Communications

Leadership Roles/Responsibilities: Over my thirty-year career I have had the opportunity to lead cross-functional teams in public affairs, marketing at Cox Communications, media consulting at Cox Enterprises, and promotions at KNSD-TV in San Diego.

Kristin Longley

Community Involvement and philanthropic efforts:  My current employer, Cox Communications, strongly supports their employees in giving back to the communities in which we provide service. This has provided me the opportunity to lead in a variety of ways.

The highlight of my community involvement has been as first the Publicity Chair and now President for the second year for IMPACT 100, the largest nonprofit organization in the Gulf Coast, and the largest IMPACT 100 organization in the world.  It is a labor of love to run the 29-member all-volunteer board of our organization with over 1,100 members. We have donated over $16,284,000 to nonprofit organizations in the last 20 years. I have served for 6 years and I will be a member for life. I am also a Board Member in the fundraising and building efforts of the downtown YMCA and the new Baptist Health Care campus.

Who are you a voice for? I am an advocate for other working parents and in particular moms in the workplace. I have provided help for new moms in balancing sleep deprivation to childcare issues.   When coworkers are up for a new opportunity, I help them role-play to ensure success during interviews and brand-building moments.  When working parents have struggled with work travel, I provide tips to help with the distance so the whole family stays connected.

As a military spouse, I support those on active duty.  Sometimes that is a supportive ear and often involves advocacy for in maintaining professional balance despite deployment challenges.

 How do you stay motivated and inspired as a leader?  I have surrounded myself with an empowering network of women and men who encourage me to do my best work.   When I get low on energy, I can call on them to help me keep things in perspective and get projects over the finish line!

What other women inspire you? Women who are brave and have vision are top of my list! I think about Debbie Ritchie and Belle Bear who have always asked the question of “how can I be a force for goodness in the community” and answered it with a resounding collaborative movement of giving to the area that they love.

Who was a mentor to you that you now credit with being a part of your success? Growing up, I had a neighbor/mentor who was a journalist for the Des Moines Register.   As an aspiring Barbara Walters at the time, she helped me with writing projects and shared a love of storytelling.

Years later, she wrote her first book about the development of her friendship with my mom, after my Mom passed away.  The gift book titled, “She Taught Me to Eat Artichokes,” created a metaphor between the awkward process of eating artichokes and the beginnings of lifelong friendships.   To get to the heart of the artichoke (or the heart of a friend), you must peel away the petals to find the true gift.  Years later, she was on her book tour, and I was thrilled to have her featured on the TV station where I worked.  It warmed my heart to witness that full circle moment, and I know my Mom was smiling down on us too.

I am so thankful for mentors like Mary Kay who have shared their gifts, their time, and hearts with each of us. Because of that, I feel called to give back as much as I can.  Currently, I am mentoring with Pensacola Young Professionals and UWF through the Business School Mentoring program.

What advice would you give the next generation of female leaders?  Know when to pivot and do so quickly.  I started my career by thinking I wanted to work in journalism but quickly realized when I was in college that I prefer solving business challenges and promotional work.   I stayed on course to graduate but knocked on the door of the promotion director of the TV station where I was doing my coursework. I offered to help her with any projects that she needed support.  Guess what? She assigned me projects that helped me gain experience which got me in the door of a top 25 market TV Station.

As companies evolve with changes in the marketplace, it is critical to know when those pivot points may be and how you can prepare for them.  The preparation is ensuring you have current skills, a strong brand and a willingness to work hard and learn as needed. Many fear change, but the more you can embrace it, the stronger you will be as a leader.

What is the best advice you have ever been given about leadership and by whom? Go the extra mile for your team and they will go the extra mile for you and your company.  Good leadership stems from following the Golden Rule, “do unto others as you would want to be treated by them.”  When you combine that with also understanding the factors that motivate them as an individual, then you can bring out their best.

Favorite app on your phone: GroupMe! Brilliant to combine your group texts into an all-inclusive app. I have groups for boards, groups to support those going through cancer treatments, groups for parents, ect. It’s so simple and helps manage my life conversations.

Favorite indulgence that saves you time and/or money:  Gametime App. It allowed me to find bargain-priced, same-day tickets for my son and me to see the U2 concert at the Sphere in Vegas.

Instagram: @kristin_longley         LinkedIn: Kristin (Fjelland) Longley

Name: Hong Potomski

Occupation: Market Leader with Florida Blue

Leadership Roles/Responsibilities: American College of Health Care Executives North Florida Chapter – Board Member, University of West Florida Foundation – Board Member, Covenant Care Foundation – Board Member, The Florida Bar Citizens Advisory Committee – Past Vice-Chair

Hong Potomski

Community involvement and philanthropic efforts: United Way of Emerald Coast – Board Member and Equity Committee Member, Big Brother Big Sisters of NWFL – Past Board Chair and Big Sister, Pensacola Young Professionals – Advisory Council Member and Mentor with Mentor Pensacola

Who are you a voice for? Healthcare is complex. I’ve experienced it as a patient and caregiver for my parents. If I can be part of the solution to help make it easier for our community to access great quality, affordable care, I’m all in!

How do you stay motivated and inspired as a leader? I always go back to my true north, my “why.” Whether it is in my career or in the community, I am committed to helping others achieve their best self. When others are counting on you, you have to step up!

What other women inspire you? My incredible, talented, and inspirational Lean In sisters – Julie Sheppard, Connie Bookman, Adrienne Maygarden, Megan Fry, Nicole Dixon, Beverly Zimmern, Jodi Bell, Christina Doss, Jill Thomas, and Meghan McCarthy. Over ten years of friendship, breaking bread, and talking all things – family, career, and northwest Florida.

Who was a mentor to you that you now credit with being a part of your success?My parents – their journey was not for the faint of heart. Escaping their home country, coming to America with literally nothing, and building a foundation for our family through resiliency and perseverance is humbling. I’m forever grateful.

What advice would you give the next generation of female leaders? Whether you are an intrapreneur or entrepreneur, leading is hard. Stay true to your values – lead with kindness, integrity, consistency, and the most important of all – make it fun!

What is the best advice you have ever been given about leadership and by whom? My great leader Darnell Smith. He continues to remind me, don’t forget where you came from as that makes you, you. And don’t forget to help others, because that is what real leaders do.

Favorite app on your phone: If you ask my husband, he would say Instagram or Facebook. 😊 But, for me, it’s the “Photos” app. I love going back and seeing pictures of family, friends, colleagues and all the great times we’ve had. Sometimes I get caught up in the day-to-day and being able to pause and reflect is a great reminder to count my blessings!

Favorite indulgence that saves you time and/or money: I don’t think this saves me time and/or money, but my favorite indulgence is candy – sour green belts, now&laters, airheads. All is good in moderation!

Instagram: @hong_potomski           LinkedIn 

Name: Cynthia ‘Cindy’ Rodriguez

Occupation: Entrepreneur, Spa Owner, Licensed Massage Therapist

Leadership Roles/Responsibilities: As the owner of Bodyworks of Perdido Key, a day spa, my leadership role requires a blend of vision, innovation, and developing and maintaining strong relationships within my team and my community.

My responsibilities involve a dynamic mix of strategic business planning and development. I create unique spa services and navigate market trends to keep the spa competitive and innovative to enhance the spa experience and streamline operations. My role as a leader inspires me to create a positive work environment and motivational work culture where my employees feel valued and empowered to contribute their best.

Cynthia ‘Cindy’ Rodriguez

Community involvement and philanthropic efforts: Giving back is not just an act of kindness but a responsibility as a community member and business owner to contribute to the community that has nurtured and supported me.

My involvement in community initiatives like Toys for Tots, Escambia County Animal Shelter, Sacred Heart NICU, Sacred Heart Cancer Center, and many other local causes stems from a deep-rooted desire to bring joy, support, and hope to those in need. I enjoy participating in several different charity and volunteer roles within the community to have a better knowledge of the needs within my community and surrounding areas. My involvement in these varied areas has always created a ripple of positivity, inspiring others to join in these efforts.  Every year I seek opportunities for not only myself but my team at Bodyworks of Perdido Key that allow us to continue making a meaningful difference in as many ways as we can.

We completed our first 2024 community event with Perdido Beach Resort Half Marathon, Fun Run, & 5K. This event benefited the Jennifer Claire Moore Foundation. The foundation strives to provide essential programs, services, and resources across Baldwin County, Alabama dedicated to enhancing the well-being of youth in our community. As a spa we promote balance for mind and body and believe mental wellbeing is foundational to living a balanced and fulfilling life. This event brought all those aspects together for a great cause, the mental health of our youth.

Who are you a voice for? I’m a voice for those who think they can’t create success on their own, who can’t build what they’ve dreamt of. Regardless of where you are in life, I believe if you work hard and follow your dreams you will get there. I’m a voice for the ambitious creators, the aspiring entrepreneurs, and the passionate healers.

How do you stay motivated and inspired as a leader? Knowing the positive impact Bodyworks of Perdido Key has with our healing services, creating more than just jobs but a place my team is proud to be and enjoys, offering their best to our community, knowing what we do together contributes to our area’s mental and physical well-being, and surrounding myself with a supportive and positive network of strong women with kind hearts.

What other women inspire you? I have so many women in my life who inspire me every day with their resilience, positivity, and big hearts. My Mom, my sisters, my nieces, my friends, and even though she’s only 13, my daughter Rylee. She is my biggest inspiration in life.

Rylee approaches life with such curiosity and an eagerness to learn. I see the incredible woman she’s becoming, and her growth inspires me to do better, be better, and she reminds me that inspiration isn’t just about the big achievement; it’s found in having the courage to try, having the ability to not take yourself so seriously at times, and to approach all situations with compassion, honesty, and an open heart.

 Who was a mentor to you that you now credit with being a part of your success? I’ve had many mentors in my lifetime but my mentor for life is and will always be my mom and dad. They have guided me through life’s many stages with patience, wisdom, and love. As I’ve grown and taken on my own entrepreneurial adventures and life, I often accredit my parents for showing and teaching me how to work hard, take care of my family, and have fun while doing it. They always provide me with unconditional love and support.

What advice would you give the next generation of female leaders? Never underestimate the power of empathy and kindness, and don’t forget your sense of humor!

Favorite app on your phone:  Instagram and Starbucks

Favorite indulgence that saves you time and/or money:  Is it really an indulgence if it saves me time and/or money?  LOL. Hiring our social media team, Red Iron Design has saved me a huge amount of time!!! As much as I loved doing all the social media, it really zapped my time and productivity. The internet has a funny way of stealing 3 hours from you in no time.

Instagram: @bodyworksofperdidokey 

Name: Dr Justine W Roper PT, DPT

Occupation: CEO & founder of InHer Physique Pelvic Floor Therapy & Wellness

Leadership Roles/Responsibilities: Board member of Pensacola Runners Association

Dr. Justine Roper

Community involvement and philanthropic efforts: The team at InHer Physique and myself are laser-focused on community efforts and have been since inception. Supporting human trafficking and sexual assault causes is one of my passions. Some of our partners include The Secret Place, Emerald Coast Victim Services, and Valerie’s Place.

Who are you a voice for? A voice for those who feel unseen…for those who are beginners afraid of taking a step towards better living….for those who have sustained trauma and desire to take steps towards freedom.

How do you stay motivated and inspired as a leader? I’m asked that question often….I also ask myself that question often. I believe that if I see a need and I ignore it I’m not fulfilling my purpose. Whether it be I see a need for improved strategy in my business and team or I see women suffering from various conditions, I must show up. I’m inspired by people and dedicated to using my skills to help others.

What other women inspire you? My mother, the first black female judge in Pensacola, my mentor, artists like Fantasia…women who have had many failures but have overcome.

*Editor’s Note:  Add Dr. Justine Roper’s mother to the list of future interviews!

Who was a mentor to you that you now credit with being a part of your success? Dr Jessica Griffen is my mentor. She pushes me to correct my mistakes while encouraging me and celebrating my successes.

What advice would you give the next generation of female leaders? Be patient and be gracious to yourself. The journey is worth paying attention to. Get in therapy or have a person that you can entrust your thoughts to. Leaders often have so many thoughts and feelings that get pushed to the side. Having a safe space to release them is important.

 What is the best advice you have ever been given about leadership and by whom? I can’t credit this to one person, but many told me to not let me work consume me. I am not my work.

Favorite app on your phone: Tik Tok

Favorite indulgence that saves you time and/or money: Instacart

Instagram: @doctorjus              Instagram: @inherphysiquept

Name: Michelle Salzman

 Occupation: Small Business Owner, Community Philanthropist, and current Florida House District One Representative

Leadership Roles/Responsibilities: State Representative, Florida – Chair of Healthcare Regulation Committee; Executive Board Member, Republican Party of Florida; Board of Directors, NW Florida Health Network; Board of Directors, ElderCARE! Florida; Board of Directors, Autism Pensacola; Board of Directors, Escambia County Public Schools Foundation Chair, A Foundation for Hope; Board Member, Crimestoppers, Escambia County Advisor, Take Stock In Children, Escambia

Michelle Salzman, Florida House District 1 Representative

Community involvement and philanthropic efforts: In addition to the leadership roles on the current boards, I also am involved in the following: Founder and leader of the Northwest Florida Mental Health Taskforce; Chair, Real Men Wear Pink, Making Strides, American Cancer Society, Pensacola; Auction Chair, Seville Rotary.  I am an active member of the following additional organizations: CivicCon, American Legion, AmVets Post 420, Krewe of Priscus, Krewe of Sirens, Sustainer, Junior League of Pensacola

Who are you a voice for? I advocate for those who typically cannot fight for themselves.  People like the elderly, children, those who are disabled, and the underserved.  For me, it’s about giving those without a voice the microphone.

How do you stay motivated and inspired as a leader? I’ve been through the hardest of times in my life.  From being sexually abused as a very young child to seeing a good friend murdered in front of me in high school.  Eating out of dumpsters with my biological father, having parents who were addicts to being homeless after serving in the military.  I’ve lived through so much.  Knowing what it’s like to not have a voice almost my entire life makes it easy for me to get up each morning and be the change.  I want to bring love and light into this world of so much darkness.

What other women inspire you?  Interesting question. I’m inspired by most women.  I try to find the good qualities in everyone I meet and bring those out.  I enjoy reminding them that they are inspiring, and I love taking their inspiration out into the world to share that with others as well.

Who was a mentor to you that you now credit with being a part of your success?  Malcolm Thomas and David Deliman. Those two met me in my early thirties (I’m almost 50 now) and propelled me forward.  They were patient and trusted my abilities to learn and to lead.  Both are starkly different people, but they impacted my life more than they could ever know.

What advice would you give the next generation of female leaders?  Stop being so competitive. Don’t be greedy. There is plenty of space in this community for more than one of whatever it is you do.  Be it professional or personal, embrace each other. It’s lonely at the mountaintop when you push everyone off the edge.  What good is leadership or being a leader if you’re standing alone? And why waste all your influence on only yourself?

 What is the best advice you have ever been given about leadership and by whom?  Quint Studer told me many years ago to trust and believe in myself.  Sounds so elementary until you consider the source.  Quint saw in me what I didn’t even see in myself.  It was exactly what I needed to hear when I needed to hear it.

Favorite app on your phone:  Maps!  I like to plug in the destination and enjoy the journey.

Favorite indulgence that saves you time and/or money:  I am a huge DIY fan!  Just last month I built a custom wall with crown molding and built-in cabinets.  I own laser engravers and tons of other random tools.  I enjoy the process of creating things myself and my bank account always wins!

Instagram: PensacolaMichelle                   Facebook: lookin4funfl

Name: Kerri Smayda

Occupation: Associate Executive Director, Manna Food Bank

Leadership Roles/Responsibilities: In my current role at Manna, I oversee all development efforts including food, funds, and volunteers. I have held leadership roles at the healthcare and educational institutions where I was previously employed and as Marketing Chair for a South Florida beach cleanup organization.

Kerri Smayda

Community Involvement and philanthropic efforts:  Since moving to Pensacola in 2017, I have volunteered with Cokesbury United Methodist Church, at NE Pensacola Sertoma’s Hogfest, with Pensacola Police Department, and I was a member of Brunch League. I’ve served as a United Way of West Florida Day of Caring committee member, as well as a Community Investment volunteer. I’m on the Pensacola EggFest Team (because *chef’s kiss*), and I’m a member of the Leadership Pensacola Class of 2020. I’m also a member of the inaugural class of Pensacola State College Foundation’s Nonprofit Center for Excellence certification program.

Who are you a voice for? I try to be a voice for the less fortunate, for those who need help through service or amplification, who’ve been neglected, or who are faced with injustice. It matters to me that people have access to healthy food and that animals are cared for. As a kidney donor, I hope to be a voice for those in need of organ donation, too.

How do you stay motivated and inspired as a leader? Women make up approximately 75% of jobs in the nonprofit sector, so I consider myself lucky to have examples of solid female leadership all around me. I’m inspired every day by rock-star women in this industry who love their work and love their people, who are givers and collaborators, and who find humor and softness in the tough stuff. I also try to ensure that my life has balance – drawing from experiences and opportunities other than my 9-5 keeps me going as a leader in the workplace.

What other women inspire you? I am fortunate to know many inspiring women – in my family, in my workplace, and my circle of friends. The women who’ve shaped and inspired me are kind and empathetic, honest and intelligent, encouraging and loving, focused and have purpose, and live their lives with humility and integrity.

Who was a mentor to you that you now credit with being a part of your success? Without question, any success I’ve had in my role at Manna is a result of the guidance and encouragement I’ve received from DeDe Flounlacker, Laura Mager, and Lisa Long Lyter. They are passionate about their work. They are committed to giving back. They lead by example. They are forces for good.

What advice would you give the next generation of female leaders?

  1. Don’t ever hold beliefs so tightly that you can’t see another’s humanity.
  2. Don’t wait for tomorrow to be happy.
  3. Care about your work, and do you work with care.

What is the best advice you have ever been given about leadership and by whom? Continually ask yourself, ‘What’s the right thing to do?’ – Manna champions DeDe Flounlacker and Cathy Sowell

Favorite app on your phone:  It’s a tie between FaceTime (I love seeing my far-away family and friends) and the Blink app (I spy on sweet pups, Pearl and Gracie).

Favorite indulgence that saves you time and/or money: Dry shampoo? *Makes a note to research time- and money-saving indulgences.*

Instagram: kerrismayda          Instagram: mannafoodpantries   

Name: Jessica Wolford

Occupation: CEO of WolfGang, LLC

*Editor’s Note:  Today is Jessica’s birthday.  Happy Birthday from the Local Pulse team, Jessica!  

Jessica Wolford

Community involvement and philanthropic efforts: Annual Pensacola Pawdi Gras that raises funds and awareness for a chosen animal rescue or shelter. Levin Fest where we help give away over 1,500 pounds of pet food to families in need, volunteer and fostering of pets in need,

Who are you a voice for? Pensacola dogs and their families

How do you stay motivated and inspired as a leader? I stay motivated by my 4 dogs and the need for more dog-friendly places in our city that are safe and put them as the guest of honor. I stay inspired to continue the philanthropy side of our business by the people who work for shelters and rescues and the numerous amount of animals in our area that need forever homes. We are advocates for stricter spay and neuter laws, so we can make Pensacola pet-friendly for everyone involved.

What other women inspire you? My late mother, Christine Charrier, my wife Kim, Megan Rapinoe, among others

 Who was a mentor to you that you now credit with being a part of your success? My mother, Christine Charrier

What advice would you give the next generation of female leaders? The world is leaning our way. Jump on the wave and ride it.

What is the best advice you have ever been given about leadership and by whom? Not everyone can be a leader because someone must sit back and support them as they go by. One of my former sports coaches taught me this.

Favorite app on your phone: Candy Crush

Favorite indulgence that saves you time and/or money: walking my dogs or sitting on the beach

Instagram @wolfgangpensacola

Name: Mindy von Ansbach Young 

Occupation: Colonel, Escambia County Sheriff’s Office.  Officer in charge of the Hostage Negotiations Team, Mental Health Wellness Unit, and Co-Responder Unit.

 I am currently licensed as a Registered Mental Health Counselor and provide counseling services at Faith and Hope Counseling.   

Colonel Mindy von Ansbach Young

Community involvement and philanthropic efforts: My husband and I have been foster parents for 10 years now. We have adopted one child and still actively foster another child as well. 

I have served on the board for the NISSI Project, participated as a model in the fashion show to raise money for the NISSI Project at Maserati Pensacola, as well as engaged in various other fundraising events for community organizations multiple times a year.

 I hold a seat on the Esca Rosa Suicide Prevention Coalition Board and have been nominated for a seat on the board for the Favor House.

 Who are you a voice for: I have always had a gravitated toward underprivileged families.  I see the importance in strengthening families, as that is basis for strong community ties. 

While working off-duty employment, I enjoy connecting with children of local housing areas by playing on the playground, bringing them candy, and sharing tips on respectfulness and manners. Being a foster care parent, or even counseling others in hopes of building a stronger family unit is a strong value of mine. I also love being the voice for those who are yet to have the strength to speak or haven’t found their own voice yet! 

How do you stay motivated and inspired as a leader: I believe in the saying “you can’t pour from an empty cup”.  I love my family, friends, job, community connections, and the ways I aspire to contribute to the next generation of community leaders. In addition, I know the importance of ensuring my own self-care.  Self-care is represented in my life by prioritizing prayer, exercise, rest, family time with my husband and 6 children, vacationing on a quick couples’ retreat, or taking a family vacation. Self-care is so important in ensuring I’m in the right frame of mind to help others, which has grown to be a real passion of mine.

What other women inspire you: I can say I have been extremely blessed by having MANY women who have inspired me since I was a child and throughout my career. I have been able to pull knowledge, expertise, and guidance from the best examples and God-loving people. So many of the women I have been able to surround myself with believe in encouraging and building up other women to be their most successful selves! I truly believe that is the magic potion! 

 Who was a mentor to you that you now credit with being a part of your success: I have two wonderful women who have been great friends and strong guiding mentors in my success. Tracy Yuhasz and Kara Cardona have always provided encouraging, stable, and graceful guidance over the years. Without a doubt, I absolutely credit those relationships as significant contributors to my success.  

What advice would you give to the next generation of female leaders: My advice would be to never sell yourself short! When you think you can’t do it, reword that thought to “how I can do it”!  

What is the best advice you have ever been given about leadership and by whom: “The higher you go in life, the further the fall, so always remember where you came from and never act like you are better than anyone else you passed on the journey up.”   

Favorite App on your phone: This is a hard one. Organization is important because I’m always running in multiple directions.  My Cozy Calendar is used to schedule my entire life! It is shared with my husband, teenage sons, and in-laws. A close second would be Amazon.

 Favorite indulgence that saves you time and/or money: When our family grew from 4 to 8 overnight, we had to use our date nights to go grocery shopping at Walmart. The creation of the online ordering and curbside grocery pickup option was the greatest invention of all time! I must also recognize Instacart as another time saver.