Our occasional feature, Top Women in Business, highlights some of the women around Kentucky who are making an impact in business, the professions, politics and economic development. The intent is to recognize not the household names, but those in key roles whose work ethic and body of work are making important contributions to commerce in the commonwealth.
The five women in this issue are among the many such women The Lane Report editorial board has identified. We welcome your suggestions for others around Kentucky who also are deserving of recognition for their efforts to boost Kentucky’s economy. Send your recommendations to [email protected].
Mary E. Lassiter
Title/Company: Secretary of the Governor’s Executive Cabinet
How long at company/position: Twenty-eight years in financial management and budgeting positions for state government. Secretary of the Executive Cabinet since September 2009.
Previous jobs/positions: State budget director, 2007-2012; acting state budget director 2003; deputy executive director, Governor’s Office for Policy Research
Top accomplishment: Inducted into the University of Kentucky Gatton School of Business and Economics Hall of Fame (2011)
Education: Bachelor’s and master’s degrees in business administration from the University of Kentucky (1982, 1983)
Person(s) who most influenced or mentored me: Gov. Steve Beshear; Gov. Paul Patton; Crit Luallen, former state auditor and former secretary of the Governor’s Executive Cabinet for Gov. Paul Patton; and Dr. James Ramsey, former state budget director and president of the University of Louisville. Because I’ve spent my entire career in state government, it makes sense that the people who have influenced me the most also have been in state government. Each of them exhibit, professionally and privately, the kind of leadership, drive and compassion that make their service effective to the people of Kentucky.
What inspires/drives me: Public service is very rewarding and helping others gives me great pride. Working in state government has given me the opportunity to help make our home a better place. The decisions we make in Frankfort – everything from balancing a budget to launching dental care programs for children to providing outstanding nursing home care for our veterans – affects real people in their hometowns.
Hobby/interests/volunteer work: I am a huge UK basketball fan. Most of my free time is spent with family and friends, often centered around UK sporting events. I was able to attend the Final Four in New Orleans in 2012 to see my beloved Wildcats win their eighth national title, and it was one of the greatest experiences of my life.
Currently reading and/or recent movie/play/concert attended: Dinner and live music in downtown Midway on Friday nights with friends is a lot of fun!
My advice to younger women in business: Be assertive, and don’t be afraid to ask questions. Be a sponge; identify leaders in your organization and learn everything you can from them. Be a good team player; working well with others is a necessary trait of success. Find a good balance with work, family and activities that sustain you outside those worlds. It is possible to have a successful career and a full family life, but there will be times one puts stress on the other. There is no secret formula; everyone must find their way.
Title/Company: State Representative, 94th District
How long at company/position: Six years
Previous job/positions: Chief financial officer at Pikeville College (Now UPIKE)
Education: Bachelors of Arts degree from Transylvania University
Person who most influenced me: Chuck Campbell taught me discipline and how to win. Bill Owens taught me about the importance of volunteerism.
What inspires me: The ability to accomplish something, particularly when it helps someone else’s life.
Hobby/interests/volunteer work: Golf; participating with any groups for which I can help their cause.
My advice to younger women in business: It might sound trite, but I truly believe you can make it happen because you are the only one that can be depended on 100 percent of the time.
Carole Douglas Christian
Title/Company: Partner and co-chair of the Health Care Service Team at Wyatt, Tarrant & Combs LLP in Louisville.
How long at company/position: Twenty-four years
Education: Bachelor of Arts in Communications from the University of Kentucky, Juris Doctor degree from University of Louisville School of Law (1988)
Person(s) who most influenced or mentored me: My parents, who taught me my work ethic and confidence to be my own person.
Hobby/interests/volunteer work: Tennis, travel and recreation at our home on Nolin Lake.
Currently reading and/or recent movie/play/concert attended: The most recent concert I attended was Jake Schimbamakura, the world’s best ukele player, who was amazing and jokes what it is to travel the world and play for audiences who have low expectations.
Advice to younger women in business: Step outside your comfort zone, be relentless in seeking solutions to problems. Also know that even in business, it is always OK to be yourself, to find humor in stressful situations and to follow your intuition.
Title/Company: Chief administrative officer, UK HealthCare Hospitals
How long at company/position: Thirty-five years at UK; nearly four years in this job
Previous jobs/positions: Medical technologist; administrative lab manager; director of diagnostic services; assistant hospital director; associate hospital director
Top accomplishment: Two lovely and intelligent daughters, a healthy marriage and a brand new, state-of-the-art hospital with which to care for the citizens of the commonwealth of Kentucky and beyond.
Education: Bachelor’s degree in health sciences (UK), certified as a medical technologist by the American Society of Clinical Pathologists Board of Registry, Master of Public Administration (UK).
Person(s) who most influenced or mentored me: To limit myself to just a couple, my dad, Ed Lewis, wielded great influence on my work ethic and focus. Admiring him as I always have, I modeled myself after him. My husband, Greg Smith, is my most relentless influencer who never fails to give me honest feedback and sound advice. His unflagging support and partnership has given me the opportunity of choices in life for which I will always be grateful.
What inspires/drives me: Making a difference drives me. The UK HealthCare team inspires me. The caring, concerned team that surrounds me every day makes me want to work harder and be better. Our team makes a difference in the lives of the ill and injured of Kentucky and their families.
Hobby/interests/volunteer work: I love to run! (I have completed two Bourbon Chases, five half marathons since 2010 and many 5Ks.) I am a huge UK sports fan. I enjoy cycling, hiking, horseback riding, canoeing, visiting state parks, knitting and anything that allows me to enjoy our state’s beauty, rich history and traditions. I serve on the boards for Women Leading Kentucky and the Lexington component of the American Heart Association.
Currently reading and/or recent movie/play/concert attended: I read a lot for work and recently reread “Chasing the Rabbit” by Steven Spear. My husband and I are major fans of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s “Phantom of the Opera” and got to see it in London at Her Majesty’s Theater.
My biggest challenge and how I overcame it: My biggest challenge has been continual worry about self-imposed limitations and social norms. The women I looked up to had little choice in socially acceptable careers and fierce pressure to conform to the “social norm.” I knew that would not work for me; I worried about it. Being different is hard, and I limited my choices. It took maturity and necessity to teach me you have to be who you are to be happy, satisfied and successful.
Advice to younger women in business: W.T. Young once gave the shortest graduation speech I ever heard at a Transylvania University commencement. His advice to the bright young audience was: “Never give up; never ever give up.” Identify your passion, have support in your personal life, have fun along the way and keep your sense of humor.
Title/Company: Director of development at The Council of State Governments, based in Lexington; Lancaster City Council member
How long at company/position: Two-plus years
Previous jobs/positions: Associate director of development at The Council of State Governments; development director at Lexington Children’s Theatre; campaign consultant for United Way of the Bluegrass; press secretary at the 2008 Republican National Convention; congressional aide for then-U.S. Rep. Jerry Moran of Kansas
Top accomplishment: At the age of 26, I was appointed to the Lancaster City Council. In 2010, I was elected to my second term, and I am currently the only woman on the council.
Education (other pertinent training/certification): Bachelor of Science in Journalism from the University of Kansas William Allen White School of Journalism and Mass Communications, and Bachelor of Arts in American studies (political science concentration) from KU’s College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. I studied at the Col·legi Major Sant Jordi de la Universitat de Barcelona in Barcelona, Spain.
Person(s) who most influenced or mentored me: My husband, Nathan Mick, has been a mentor and deeply influential. He has the highest standards of personal and professional integrity and always looks for avenues to help a person or situation. My civic-minded parents, Mike and Bev Morris, always encouraged me to give back to my community and seek out professional mentors.
What inspires/drives me: Being of help and useful to my family, friends and community. God blesses each of us with talents and skills; if you aren’t able to give back and be part of something larger than your own self-interest, then your life has not yet served its purpose.
Hobby/interests/volunteer work: I serve on the Living Arts & Science Board of Directors and the St. Joseph Women’s Hospital Council. I am a Lexington Junior League member, an ex-officio and founding board member of the Garrard County Arts Council and former board member of the historic Bodley-Bullock House in Lexington.
Currently reading and/or recent movie/play/concert attended: Currently reading “The Greater Journey: Americans in Paris” by David McCullough. I recently saw the musical “Wicked” at the Gershwin Theatre in New York City.
Biggest challenge and how I overcame it: In December 2009, at the height of the recession, I was appointed to a vacated Lancaster City Council seat. Facing ending the fiscal year in the red, the then-mayor and council voted the same evening I was appointed to reduce the police force almost 25 percent and change most of the water department office staff from full to part time. The meeting was fiery and tough, with citizens and employees voicing anger and concern. We since have pushed department heads to do more with less and have ended every fiscal year with a surplus.
Advice to younger women in business: As you grow professionally, never hesitate to be politely persistent. I encourage young women to be grateful, gracious and sincere when learning, growing and excelling in their careers. Keep your perspective, and remember there are billions of women in this world with larger tasks, heavier burdens and meaner bosses.