1.Can you shortly describe your professional background? Is there any achievement/lessons learned that you are most proud of or would like to share with us?
I started my career in neighborhood development with the Volunteers in Service to America program (VISTA), worked with women’s advocacy organizations for many years, returned to neighborhood economic development and then ran successfully for the Ohio House of Representatives. My path as an elected official included 12 years in the legislature, 5 on the Cuyahoga County Commission and a 4 year term as Mayor of Cleveland. After serving as Mayor, I started my own business doing economic development consulting including advising Goodyear in the financing of their new Headquarters in Akron, OH. I also served as a fellow at the JFK School of Government at Harvard University. The real estate crash sent me back into the public sector as Chief of Staff to Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-LA) and Staff Director for the Senate Small Business Committee. Now I lead the Washington office of the National Development Council (NDC), an extremely creative nonprofit dedicated to bringing capital into underserved communities to create jobs, build affordable housing and create communities. NDC provides small business lending especially to women and minorities in underserved areas.
In every position that I’ve had the opportunity to hold I worked to be sure that women were full participants, that low income and minority communities were well served and that public private partnerships between government, business, and local community leaders were key to the engagement.
The most important lesson I’ve learned is that collaboration is vital to success and that women are incredibly hard workers.
2. When did you hear about WIPP for the first time and what resonated with you the most?
I learned about WIPP when I was Sen. Mary Landrieu’s chief of staff. Sen. Landrieu chaired the Senate small business committee and we found WIPP to be one of the most effective coalitions on Capitol Hill. Later when I was the Staff Director of the Senate Small Business Committee under the leadership of Sen. Maria Cantwell I saw WIPP in action when several hundred women appeared to advocate for greater federal contracting opportunities.
3. What shaped your decision to become WIPP President?
The partnership that we are creating between the National Development Council(NDC) and WIPP is a new frontier of creative engagement. For over 40 years NDC worked to bring capital into underserved communities by providing training in economic development finance, technical assistance to communities and economic development entities, the creation of Public private partnerships and lending to small businesses – especially those businesses owned by women and minorities. Our work with WIPP will strengthen both organizations as we pursue access to capital for women entrepreneurs, creating the strongest voice for women whose businesses are creating jobs and futures for key populations.
I took the role as President of the WIPP coalition to strengthen this partnership and to provide the leadership needed for WIPP to move into the future while staying fully committed to my work as director of the NDC Washington office. Knowing that Roz Alford is there as Managing Director to lead the day to day work of the office allowed me to say yes.
4. Do you have any particular vision for WIPP?
Our Coalition of businesses and associations can emerge from its already strong position to be clearly the voice of women entrepreneurs. By building a strong national network of women in business and advocates for women in business the WIPP Coalition should be able to enhance opportunities by connecting policy makers and women business owners to craft meaningful policy that will enhance access to capital, improve contracting opportunities and create a fair tax code.
5. Do you have any message for WIPP members?
The strength of the WIPP Coalition is the active engagement of our members – please join in our work!