Meet the Women Leaders of Huntsville’s City Hall

single-meta-cal May 12, 2017

(Left to Right) Kelly Schrimsher, Dr. Jennie Robinson, Dr. Karen Sheppard, Joy Mckee, Peggy Sargent, Michelle Jordan.  (Center) Kathy Martin

“We have a strong city,” says Mayor Tommy Battle, “and one of the reasons we have a strong city is that we have strong women in leadership roles.”

Six City of Huntsville departments are directed by women and the City Council president is a woman. There are countless others in leadership roles.

Meet the female leaders of City Hall:

— Michelle Jordan, Planning Director

— Kathy Martin, Director of Engineering

— Joy McKee, Landscape Management Director

— Dr. Jennie Robinson, President, Huntsville City Council

— Peggy Sargent, Director of Finance

— Kelly Schrimsher, Director of Communication

— Karen Sheppard, Animal Services Director

Digital Media Specialist Jessica Carlton and Senior Writer Mark McCarter recently interviewed them for this two-part series. Today, we’ll look at their role models and their motivation. In part two of this story, they’ll discuss the challenges of work-life balance.

It seems, appropriate with Mother’s Day approaching, that so many shared the same answer when we asked our first question.

Who is your role model?

Karen Sheppard: My mom (Patricia Hill Bartlett), of course. She was such a strong fixture in my life. She gave me my love of animals and talked to me about taking them to the vet back when a lot of people didn’t do that. She wanted me to be strong and independent, and she got more than she bargained for.

Kelly Schrimsher: My mother (Margaret Cooper) was amazing. She just did it all. Talk about a “Tiger Mom.” She supported us at school, she was chair of everything, she truly loved people. She just did everything for everybody all the time.

Michelle Jordan: My parents are my role models. They inspired me to be a public servant. My dad was a police officer and my mom was a very active community volunteer with a full-time job and two children.

Kathy Martin: My dad, with what he’s gone through, with his history and everything. (Son Vo was a South Vietnamese Naval Officer who became a POW, then at war’s end migrated to the U.S. and attended night school to earn his degree at Calhoun Community College.)

Joy McKee: Most definitely my sister (Jane Jones) was. She’s 14 years older than me, and she became the owner of the largest temporary health service in Tennessee. And definitely my mother (Ruby Hasty) was. She was the epitome of the Southern lady, so sweet and kind. She was full of life and she was a lot of fun. And then other people that shaped my life, like (former mayor) Loretta Spencer.

Jennie Robinson: Sandra Moon (the late former District 3 City Council representative) is my role model of a public servant, what every friend should be, and of a wonderful mother. She was my inspiration to run for office and my inspiration to serve. Her picture is in my office.

Peggy Sargent: In my personal life, it would be Mother Teresa for one, because instead of looking around to see who could do it, she rolled up her sleeves and did it herself, and she left behind a phenomenal group of women to carry on. I had the advantage of coming to the City from a wonderful organization (Teledyne Brown) with two very strong women at the top, Jan Hess and Debbie McGriff. Without those women in my life, I would not be where I am today.

What is your motivation?

Jennie Robinson: I like to solve problems. There are always problems to solve in the City. It’s challenging for me for somebody to come to me with a problem, and then I need to figure out which department head is the best person to work on this or how do we solve the problem. And a lot of it is looking forward and trying to address problems before they start.

Kelly Schrimsher: Doing my best and doing something that feels like I made a difference that day. I know that sounds cliché, but it’s true. There seems to be a drive to just do. I like to see things accomplished. I’m a bit of a dreamer, and I like to do things people don’t think are possible.

Kathy Martin: My children. They’re 17 and 13 and in that time in their lives where they try to make decisions for their future. Being there and being a good role model for them gets me motivated.

Michelle Jordan:  The people that I get to help at work and in the community and in my personal time. My daughter is a huge inspiration and my family and lot of people have supported me throughout my life and they’re kind of my inspiration as well.

Joy McKee: I actually motivate myself. I’m kind of self-driven in that I have in my mind what I want to do for a month, for a year, and I have very high expectations for myself. I do put that on everybody in the department, and it tends to be, once people are in our department, it catches on. It’s like a bug.

Peggy Sargent: Working for the City helps me stay motivated because we’re growing, and the potential and the opportunities are unstoppable. Knowing you can be a part of this is exciting.

Karen Sheppard: From the earliest memories I have, it was animals. I wanted that relationship and that connection. It shaped my whole life, and now making sure they’re safe is so inspiring and rewarding, and I’m passionate and maybe a bit obsessed about it.

Stay tuned for Part 2 of this story, focusing on work-life balance. Is it important? How do these individuals achieve it? More to come…