By Kaitlin Fleming
On September 22, The Gadsden/Etowah Chamber held the Advancing Women to the Top Seminar at Events on Court in Gadsden. The building was packed with powerful women from all over Alabama who came together to listen to wonderful speeches, network with new people and enjoy the company of like-minded women.
The event began with a buffet provided by Local Joe’s. After the women had gotten their plates, Peter Gregerson Sr. began his speech. Gregerson, along with being one of the only two men in attendance, has had over 60 years of experience in the grocery business. He is the founder and president of his own chain of supermarkets, Gregerson’s Foods, Inc.
Gregerson said how nervous he was to be standing in a room of beautiful and powerful minds. His speech was titled “Lemon-drop Tips for Leaders”. Gregerson shared with the group several quotes and phrases from successful leaders.
After Gregerson’s standing ovation, Julia Segars, the vice president of Alabama Power’s Eastern Division, was introduced. Segars is responsible for customer service operations and external affairs for 12 counties in eastern Alabama. Her speech was titled “It’s Okay to be a ‘B’…Bold, Brave and Brilliant!”
Segars shared a few personal stories and told the audience that her mother was her inspiration. She also shared her belief that women’s brain power must be harnessed. Segars told the group a saying one of her former female bosses told her, ‘Dogs don’t chase parked cars.’ Segars believes that when women or men succeed, people will try to stop the success.
“Success generates envy,” said Segars.
After a warm round of applause for Segars, Christine Smart was welcomed to the microphone. Smart was originally from New York City and was a drill sergeant for the U.S. military when she retired in 1995. She now works for Alabama Industrial Development Training (AIDT). AIDT provides workforce training to the state’s citizens.
Smart’s speech was titled “What I Would Tell Myself at 20.” Smart shared a heart-breaking story about the loss of two of her children and the effects it has had on her. She offered up three things she would share with her 20 year old self.
“First of all, no regrets. Then, I would tell my know-it-all self to listen to my mother. And lastly, I would tell myself to tell everyone in my circle how important they are to me.”
After a large round of applause and standing ovation for Smart, Tammy Jackson took to the microphone. Jackson is a pastor at Hewett Memorial United Methodist Church. She is a wife and mother of two boys. Her speech was titled “The Loneliness of Passion.”
The group applauded Jackson and welcomed Angie Stalnaker, a political consultant and lobbyist. She has worked on numerous statewide legislative and constitutional amendment races. Stalnaker’s speech was titled “The Body Language of Powerful Women.” She gave everyone advice and pointed out common mistakes that women make.
“Stop faking it,” said Stalnaker. “Stop pretending to be someone you aren’t. Be your authentic self.”
Following Stalnaker’s speech, Dr. Roberta Watts came to the microphone. Watts’ professional career includes being a nurse, professor of nursing and dean of the College of Nursing at Jacksonville State University. Watts and her husband established the first community health center in Gadsden. She gave an inspirational speech titled “How Women Self-Sabotage.”
After Dr. Watts’ speech, TV personality and comedian Eunice Elliot began her speech. Elliot joined WVTM 13 in 2013. She has worked at ESPN, Tennessee Titans Organization and the FedEx Orange Bowl committee. She performs regular stand-up comedy. Her speech was titled “No? Thank you!” Her speech was captivating and comical. She told the group the story of how she became the traffic reporter for WVTM 13.
“Sometimes a ‘no’ isn’t really a ‘no’,” said Elliot. “Sometimes it’s a ‘no not right now’ or ‘no I’m not sure’. Don’t be afraid to ask questions.”
After Elliot’s comical speech, Dr. Martha Lavender, Gadsden State Community College interim president, offered up some advice. Dr. Lavender has more than 35 years of clinical nursing experience.
Lavender’s speech was titled “Six Things Women Do Better.” She spoke on the wonderful things women can do.
“Of course there is more than six things we women do better,” said Lavender. “But I only have 10 minutes to speak, otherwise we’d be here for a very long time.”
The Chamber hopes to present a similar seminar in the future. The Chamber would like to thank the following sponsors: Alabama Power Company, Back Forty Beer Company, City of Champions Toastmasters, Devan Lowe Cadillac Buick GMC Lincoln, Etowah County Commission, Events on Court, Gadsden Mall, Jacksonville State University, King’s Olive Oil Company, Knowles and Sullivan LLC, McCleskey Brothers Inc., Merrill Lynch, Pierce, Fenner & Smith Inc., Personnel Staffing Inc. and WinSouth Financial Services, Inc.