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]
Carmen A. Hickerson
Title/Company: Vice President, Corporate Communications & Public Affairs, Greater Louisville Inc.
How long at company/position: 10 years
Previous jobs/positions: Assistant Vice President, Marketing, Fifth Third Bank; Account Supervisor, Doe Anderson; Account Supervisor, Bandy Carroll Hellige; Marketing/Public Relations Director, Norton Healthcare; Account Manager, Guthrie/Mayes Public Relations; Assistant Vice President, Marketing, SunTrust Bank, Orlando, Fla.
Top accomplishment: The most important skill/gift I have is communications. I am able to write and speak well … and be persuasive. Articulating complex subjects clearly and in a way that helps people understand them has contributed to my success in every position I have held.
Being adaptable and willing to try new things has also been a hallmark of my career.
And I consider myself a collaborator. I value the importance of relationships and enjoy working with others to accomplish a goal. This is been particularly important in my role at GLI.
Education: Bachelor of Arts from Morehead State University
Person(s) who most influenced or mentored me: My parents encouraged me, reinforced that I could be anything I want and set an example for a strong work ethic, integrity and curiosity.
Charlotte Tharp, who I worked for at Norton Healthcare, shaped my views on media relations and crisis communications.
Joe Reagan, former president and CEO at Greater Louisville Inc., was a tremendous mentor who challenged and encouraged me to try new things.
What inspires me: Ideas and information. I love discovering and learning new things, skills, relationships and ways of looking at things.
Hobby/interests/volunteer work: Music, reading and cooking. For 17 years, my passion has been raising my son Noah (and attending soccer games the past 12 years). I’ve been a Kentucky Derby Festival board member for 12 years and served on the boards of Leadership Kentucky, the Tri-State Minority Supplier Diversity Council and Junior League.
Currently reading and/or recent movie/play/concert attended: I usually finish at least a book a week, one of the last being “Lean In” by Sheryl Sandberg, but I also love a good suspense story. Music is a passion – playing piano, listening to music and watching live music; my current favorites are Emeli Sande, Blake Shelton, Matt Kearney and Gavin DeGraw. I’m never without my Kindle and my iPhone, which also functions as my iPod.
My biggest challenge and how I overcame it: Balancing single motherhood with a career requires energy, organization, patience and a circle of supportive friends. I have been blessed to work for organizations that have allowed me the flexibility to do both.
My advice to younger women in business: Have integrity in everything you do and value relationships. Treat others right and don’t burn bridges because you will likely end up working with or for them at some point. Don’t limit yourself by your degree or job title – be willing to try new things and go in a different direction. Every experience adds to your value. Learn how to write. Everyone should be able to craft a letter or an email, and, yes, grammar still matters.
Lori Hudson Flanery
Title/Company: Secretary, Finance and Administration Cabinet
How long at company/position: Since 2011 (20 years in state government executive positions)
Previous jobs/positions: Deputy Secretary, Finance and Administration Cabinet (2007-11); Interim CIO, Commonwealth Office of Technology (2007-13); Deputy CEO and General Counsel, Kentucky Housing Corp. (2000-07); Attorney, Peck, Shaffer & Williams LLP (1999-2000); Commissioner, Department of Financial Incentives, Cabinet for Economic Development (1997-99); General Counsel, Cabinet for Economic Development (1995-97); General Counsel, Executive Branch Ethics Commission (1994-95); Attorney, Public Service Commission (1992-94); Attorney, Wyatt, Tarrant & Combs (1990-1992)
Education: Juris Doctor from the University of Kentucky; Bachelor of Arts in English from UK
Person(s) who most influenced me: My mother was a strong woman and a single mother who treated everyone honorably and instilled in me that everyone should be treated with fairness. Professionally, Lynn Luallen always encouraged me to keep looking forward, not just do the business at hand. Crit Luallen was the first woman to be secretary of both the Finance and Governor’s Executive Cabinets, charting the course for other women. Gov. Steve Beshear is a great leader who relies on women in key executive roles.
What inspires/drives me: I am inspired knowing the work I do can have a positive impact on individuals and businesses. I stayed in Kentucky because we have so much to offer the world. We have many opportunities to make our state even better; I feel fortunate to be part of those efforts.
Hobby/interests/volunteer work: With four children and a career, my volunteer opportunities were limited. However, over many years I have supported the Emerge Board, which is dedicated to helping more Democratic women run for office and get elected, and KYMCA to raise scholarships so disadvantaged youth can participate in the Kentucky Youth Assembly and the Kentucky United Nations Assembly.
Currently reading and/or recent movie/play/concert attended: On vacation I read “The End of Your Life Bookclub” by Will Schwalbe. This was a poignant story of a son celebrating his mother’s life as she went through chemotherapy; by sharing their love of books, they connect in ways maybe unattainable otherwise. I aim to read the books Will and his mother recommend.
My biggest challenge and how I overcame it: My biggest challenge was time management. I’ve lived by family first, career ready and housework is not important.
My advice to younger women in business: Treat others as you wish to be treated. We spend a majority of our time with people we work with, so make the most of it. Learn to respect all people. Be cognizant of differences, whether geographic, cultural, religious or ethnic – you’ll be amazed at each person’s story.
Title/Company: President & CEO, Greater Owensboro Chamber of Commerce
How long at company/position: 1 year
Previous jobs/positions: 13 years with the Farm Credit system, most recently with Farm Credit Mid-America based in Louisville, where I led the marketing, communications and public relations, as well as crop insurance division for the $19 billion lending institution.
Education: Bachelor of Science in Agriculture from Kansas State University
Person(s) who most influenced or mentored me: Bill Medley and Donnie Winters, previous mentors at Farm Credit Mid-America, who took a risk on a young farm girl from Kansas who lacked patience but has a passion for greatness.
What inspires me: My young daughter, who loves to learn and sees no boundaries in her life. I do my best to remove any barriers in her way and empower her with knowledge and confidence so that she may have a happy, fulfilling life whatever she may choose to do. And my husband, Chris, whose humor and patience keep me grounded and smiling every day.
Hobby/interests/volunteer work: I love Kansas State football and St. Louis Cardinals baseball. I serve on my parish council and core team leading our church’s five-year strategic planning process.
Currently reading and/or recent movie/play/concert attended: “Lean In.” I’m reading to my daughter the “Little House on the Prairie” book series, which were my favorite books as a child.
My advice to younger women in business: Pull your seat up to the table and don’t wait to be called on to speak or give your opinion. Boardrooms, meeting rooms and business leadership need us and our perspectives, and especially the emotional intelligence we bring to any challenge.
Holly Harris VonLuehrte
Title/Company: Chief of Staff/Acting Communications Director/Acting Personnel Director/Acting General Counsel for Agriculture Commissioner James Comer and the Kentucky Department of Agriculture
How long at company/position: Since January 2, 2012
Previous jobs/positions: General Counsel and Finance Chair for the Republican Party of Kentucky; Special Counsel to the Kentucky Senate; General Counsel to the Governor’s Office for Local Development; Staff Attorney to the Justice and Public Safety Cabinet
Top accomplishment: I am a single mother to a charming, spirited 2-year-old son while managing operations at the KDA. Promotion to chief of staff was a huge step after starting at the bottom in state government as a staff attorney. I shepherded our office through a difficult audit of the previous administration, restoring transparency and accountability to the KDA.
Education: Juris Doctor from the University of Kentucky College of Law; Bachelor of Arts in Journalism from UK.
Person(s) who most influenced me: My parents, Mike and Rose Harris, and Ellen Williams, former chair of the Republican Party of Kentucky.
What inspires me: My son was born just before I took on the job as chief of staff for Commissioner Comer. Because I want him to have access to great education and local job opportunities, I am that much more motivated to accomplish something rather than just toss out political rhetoric.
Hobby/interests/volunteer work: I am working on a Kentucky Proud charity dinner with my mother in my hometown to support local farmers and benefit CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocates) of the Heartland. It will take place Sept. 17 at Tony York’s on Main in Glendale. Attend or sponsor a Kentucky Proud dinner.
Currently reading and/or recent movie/play/concert attended: “The Cornbread Mafia” by Jim Higdon III, a member of our Kentucky Industrial Hemp Commission. His book tells the story of crime and outlaws in a rural county in Kentucky.
My biggest challenge and how I overcame it: I suffer from a serious lack of patience and a short temper. Motherhood has helped.
My advice to younger women in business: When you get your turn at the plate, swing for the fences!
Title/Company: Vice President of Communications, LG&E and KU Energy
How long at company/position: 18 years with LG&E/KU, one year as vice president
Previous jobs/positions: Manager of Internal Communications; LG&E and KU’s first ex-pat, serving 15 months in the U.K. as Manager of Brand and Internal Communications at Powergen; Group Head of Internal Communications at Powergen and E.ON AG; Manager of Strategic, International and External Communications; and Director of Communications
Top accomplishment: My overseas assignment had the greatest impact personally and professionally. I wasn’t a world traveler when the opportunity came about, and it took my career in a path I wouldn’t have anticipated.
Education: Bachelor of Arts in Journalism from the University of Kentucky.
Person(s) who most influenced me: My parents gave me the fundamentals to succeed, the encouragement to never settle and the push to be where I am today.
What inspires/drives me: I love a good challenge.
Hobby/interests/volunteer work: I’ve been involved with the Kentucky Derby Festival off and on for nearly 20 years and just completed a year as the chair. It has 70-plus events and nearly $127 million in economic impact. I’m a member of Fillies Inc., Utility Communicators International, the Louisville Communicators group and 2009 Bingham Fellows. My escape is riding my horses to be outside and relax.
Currently reading and/or recent movie/play/concert attended: I love most any type of live music. I recently saw Bruno Mars and will see Dave Matthews soon.
My biggest challenge and how I overcame it: Moving to England by myself for the ex-pat assignment was one of the most rewarding and beneficial choices I’ve made, but I was a little homesick at first.
My advice to younger women in business: Get as much experience as you can, as early as you can and work hard. For new hires or board members, I look for folks who are bright, but more importantly folks willing to roll up their sleeves and have a good attitude.