International Women’s Day/Women’s History Month

We are celebrating Women’s History Month by asking women in our local governments the following questions:

1 What is your career outside of local government? When you started your career, did you ever imagine that you would have a leadership role in the city?

2 Can you talk about your role in local government as a woman? This has historically been a male-dominated space.

3 Have you faced any significant challenges in your current role? 

4 What accomplishments are you most proud of?

5 In your experience, how have you witnessed your role inspire more women to step up? 

6 What do you think still needs to be done in terms of women serving in leadership roles, whether that be local/city government or elsewhere?

7 Do you have any specific female figures that have shaped you into the person you are today?

8 What would you tell younger women who are just starting to work and are eventually wanting to serve in a leadership role?

 

Dripping Springs 

April Harris Allison 

1. I am currently a stay at home mom who occasionally substitutes at DS Middle School. I have always been an advocate for giving back to one’s community; DS City Council is one way I’ve been able to achieve that goal, although prior to two years ago, I didn’t imagine myself in this leadership role.

2. I received a warm welcome from day one and have received great support from constituents and members of staff. Working with Mayor Foulds and Mayor Pro-tem Manassian is one of the true highlights of this role. They have been mentors and so kind with their time and guidance.

3. It has been challenging missing some of my children’s activities but I know that my three sons are proud that I am spending that time supporting our amazing town.

4. I am most proud that I have been able to work alongside such hardworking city staff. Dripping Springs is lucky to have such a thoughtful and bright staff working at city hall, many of whom are women. We all care so much about our community and I’m proud to have given my time to help make important decisions for our town.

8. I would tell younger women to find an area of their community that they are passionate about and jump right in. There is so much to learn and so many ways to help on boards and commissions. Getting involved helps build connections and a truer sense of community. 

 

Taline Manassian 

1. I work as a lawyer. I had no idea at all that I would ever serve in local government. If it even crossed my mind, I am pretty sure I would have thought, “I would never…” In fact, the first time someone suggested I run for office, I laughed.

2. This has historically been a male-dominated space, especially in smaller towns like Dripping Springs.  Interestingly, while our city council historically has been largely male, our city administrators have been women. We have two women (Michelle Fischer and Ginger Faught) who have done the work of leading this city for about twenty years. They have grown with this city, demonstrated that abilities, and been recognized as valuable employees by multiple different councils over the last two decades. Because of their work and willingness to teach me, I did not feel like I was entering a male-dominated space when I was elected in 2017. I should add that our mayor and council at the time I was elected also did not make an issue of me being a woman. It was a fact but not an issue for anyone.

3. I think my greatest challenge has been and continues to be effectively communicating with our residents. Whether we are talking about developments, roads, or our wastewater system, we try hard to actively communicate what we are doing and why. I have tried to make it known that I will gladly talk to anyone who has questions, but actually getting face-to-face with residents has been a challenge.

4. When I first ran for city council, the big issue was our wastewater discharge permit. I came in wanting to really understand what the city was doing and to be a voice of change if the city’s plan proved to be environmentally harmful or even questionable. It took months of meetings, asking questions, talking to experts, and gathering information, but I eventually understood the plan, the reasons for it, and the benefits to the community at large. Since coming to that understanding, I have tried to be an advocate for the city and to make myself available to anyone who has questions on this issue. It remains an important issue. I am proud of the city for continuing to do the right thing each step of the way, and I am proud of the work that I continue to do to help bring unity to the community on this issue.

5. One of my favorite things about my role is that I get to talk to young people, sometimes in schools and sometimes in community organizations. It is the most fun part of my job, and I find myself feeling deeply inspired by their questions and their ideas. I hope that the young people in our community continue to recognize the diversity on our council, on our boards, and within our staff, and are able to see themselves in our places and in places where we might never go.

6. I hope that women and a greater diversity of people will continue to run for local, state and national offices. We need to make sure that we are supporting those candidates who represent our community and our values. Support can mean a lot of things, including money, time and encouragement. I ran for office because someone suggested I should. That suggestion changed everything for me. We all need to look for qualified, good-hearted candidates from a wide-range of backgrounds and do what we can to help them become engaged in all levels of government.

7. I think about the people who encouraged me to try things and many of those are women. My mom never said no when I asked for a book. Mrs. Bonnie Boone taught middle school English, and she was constantly putting new and different books in front of me. Professor Christine Robinson at my boarding school encouraged me to write and to think about the more marginal voices in the stories we read. My roommates from boarding school, who are now amazing women and moms, continue to challenge me every day. One of my best childhood friends lives in Dripping Springs, and she constantly makes me both laugh and think. We are raised in community, and I have some pretty amazing women in mine.

8. I would tell them to try whatever speaks to them, especially those things that make them a little afraid or even a lot afraid.  

 

Sherrie Parks 

1. I am the administrator for our family business, P2 Programs – a software company that specializes in barcoding structural steel and inventory management.  As the administrator I handle customer service as well as account management for our business.  My original career was working for elected representatives.  I never imagined that I would become one myself.  

2. I think it is important that everyone step up to serve their community in some way.  Everyone has something to bring to the table.  Dripping Springs has always been a community of people who help and watch out for each other, and it brings a nice balance when all types of people step up to serve on boards, committees, and commissions in our town.

3. The greatest challenge for me right now is finding where I can be of the most help to people.  Voting on agenda items is important, but my passion is to be of direct help to the community and nonprofits of Dripping Springs. 

4. Personally, my four kids and my marriage of 37 years to my husband Paul.  

In my career – while working for the state legislature, I was able to help pass legislation that directed the Department of Family and Protective Services to make every effort to keep siblings in the foster care system together when looking for a permanent adoptive home for them and while working at the Dripping Springs Chamber of Commerce, I trademarked and had Dripping Springs recognized by the Texas Legislature as the Wedding Capital of Texas®.

5. Not that I know of but if I have, I am humbled.  While running for this elected position, I was blessed to have support from countless women in Dripping Springs who showed a passion for local politics and seeing women in positions of representation.  Being in such a visible role is a challenge for me as I am an introvert and I don’t like confrontation.  I remind myself often that my faith, experience and knowledge will give me what I need while serving in this role.

6. Inclusively, I think everyone in this community regardless of gender or age, needs to know that they are needed because they have gifts that need to be shared.  The term “leadership” can be intimidating but if you step up and share whatever gifts you have been given to help your neighbor, that is being a leader.  

7. The women of the Bible and my mom!  The women in the Bible all displayed a willingness to step up, even when it was hard, and the odds were against them. Such faith is so inspiring!  And my mom is my earthly example every day.  When I was growing up, she was always giving of her time to others and balancing both home and work.  Today she is still serving on her local Texas Retired Teachers Association board.  Still giving and serving.  She is amazing!

8. I would tell all young people that you are each unique and special.  You are needed because you have gifts to share.  You are good at something, even if it seems small to you – it can make all the difference to someone who needs that “something”.  

And I would tell them that while the idea of “leadership” can be intimidating, if you rise up and share whatever gifts you have been given to help your neighbor, that is being a leader – because you stepped up!  

 

Buda

 LaVonia Horne-Williams 

1. I serve as the Construction Contract and Procurement Services Manager for Austin ISD.

My career beginnings were humble and very family driven. When I began my career in state and local government, I did not imagine that I would have a leadership role in local government. I am humbled and honored to serve my community.

2. I see my role in local government as creating a space for diverse perspectives and decision making related to policies in housing, policing, transportation, and the economy. I also see my role as creating and fostering space for women’s equal participation and representation in local government.

3. I wouldn’t classify my current challenges as significant but challenges nonetheless. As a newly elected official, learning as much as possible as quickly as possible while still being accessible and engaging citizens in the community. 

4. I am most proud of being a mother, wife, grandmother, and a Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) Volunteer. Professionally, I am most proud of earning a Master’s Degree in Legal Studies from Texas State University and becoming a member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority Incorporated.

5. In my role as a newly elected Councilmember, I hope to inspire many other women to get involved and step up. In our current election cycle, I see numerous other women stepping up and running for office. I am both encouraged and proud.  

6. Women serving in leadership roles need to create an environment that supports, empowers, cultivates and produces the next generation of diverse women leaders. We as women leaders must leave a legacy of environments that foster promoting justice, impartiality and fairness within the procedures, processes, and distribution of resources.

7. Yes, I have two. My high school freshman English teacher, Mrs. Carolyn Junious. She awakened in me the power to be anything I put my mind to. She nourished the fire within me that set in motion my dream to attend college and knowing I was good enough to be successful. She cultivated, nurtured, and poured love and confidence into me which allowed me to be the best me I could be.

I had the honor of meeting Maya Angelou during my undergraduate time in college at a symposium. One of my favorite books by her was “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings.”

This book was written after the 1968 assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr. She was inspired to write this book as a way of dealing with the death of her friend and to draw attention to her own personal struggles with racism. This story is a celebration of black womanhood; a critique of racism; the importance of family; and the quest for independence, personal dignity, and self-definition.

8. First, I would share some amazing advice I received from Jackie Sargent, General Manager of Austin Energy. Your career is like a lattice not a ladder. A ladder only allows you go up or down. A lattice allows for greater flexibility. You can go up, down, or side-to-side. Sometimes you have to take a lateral move in order to get to that next higher level but the important point is to keep progressing.

Lastly, I would share that in order to build a better understanding about what good leadership is, read Stephen Covey’s 7 Habits of Effective Leadership. According to Covey, personal and professional success is going to be achieved by adopting these seven habits.

 

Monica Davidson 

1. Outside of my town on Buda City Council, I am a local business owner. I own Glow Laser and Beauty, a medical spa that offers many beauty and wellness treatments. This was an accidental business of sorts and I did not ever think I would run for council while building this company up.

I was approached a few times from local community members to serve on committees and boards and I was hesitant because of the time commitment. My children are 4th generation Buda and I eventually felt that urge and desire to give back to my community and have a deciding what to say in the future of my town. I get to do this now as a small business owner and a council member.

2. I have had a very refreshing experience in my role with local city government as a woman even though this is generally a male-dominated arena. I have always worked in roles with men in leadership and my ability to work well with others and confidence in my abilities helps me hold my own. I have not personally experienced any negativity or disrespect from anyone I work alongside. In fact, I am welcomed at the table. I understand this isn’t every woman’s experience and I hope that the male leaders I work with can be examples to others

3. The most significant challenge I have faced in my leadership role has been around being able to provide ALL the information I have to my community. My goal in running for council was to be transparent and share knowledge on how city government really operated. Because we cannot always divulge information that is deemed confidential, it can appear to our community that we are not being transparent. I always want our constituents to be aware of the on-goings of the local government and to ask questions rather than go to social media for answers. It is an ongoing education for myself and our community in how we can all work together to achieve the same goals of making Buda the best possible.

4. Being on council in of itself is a major accomplishment for me. However, I am also very proud of being able to represent other women, especially minority women, and my Hispanic community in this role. I hope it encourages other young ladies to get involved and not stay silent to their abilities to stand out and represent themselves. This is a high distinction for me to be voted in by my peers and I do not take that lightly.

5. I have many female friends who I know are proud of me and my role. They support me and reach out to me when they have questions about city agendas. This tells me they are listening and want to be involved. I have also had other women reach out and ask how to get involved with commissions and boards for the community.

6. My belief is that it is incumbent on current women in leadership to encourage other women to step up in roles of leadership. We are the example of how they can also be recognized and contribute to shaping the future of our local government or at higher levels even. When they see it can be done, then my prayer is they will feel compelled to try also.

7. My mother has been the biggest influencer in my life. She has always made me feel like I could do anything I ever wanted in life. I watched her strength and courage growing up and while she did not get to fulfill all of her dreams, she empowered me to do so. I have also had the benefit of some amazing boss ladies who have always supported me and been examples of how to be a female leader in business. Women like Rebecca Ojeda, owner of Salon One12 in Buda, Nelda Montemayor, owner of Buda’s Red Door Boutique; Susan Ramirez, CEO- Austin Angels nonprofit just to name a small few.

8. For any young lady considering a leadership role whether in community or in any other role, I would encourage surrounding themselves with other leaders that are in their circle of influence.

Listen, learn and observe what women in their field of interest are doing and ask if they can shadow them or interview them to learn more about what they do and how they have risen up.

My door is always open too!

Terry Cummings 

1. I have worked in healthcare for more than 40 years. Currently I work as a Registered Nurse Case Manager on the Trauma/Ortho floor at Ascension Seton Hays. But I’ve had ICU nurse, administrator, quality management, and department director roles in many areas of healthcare. At one point I did take graduate-level courses in Public Administration, when I was evaluating master-level management programs but veered back to healthcare management. It seems I gravitate to “service” roles in the work I do. My father was a judge and an elected official, and my mother was a nurse. Until I moved to Buda, I didn’t have the opportunity to work in nursing and serve on a city council. Here, I found a way to combine the elected leadership that I saw in my father with the healthcare service I learned from my mother. I view my position on city council as that of a community servant in a leadership role.

2. Voices on city council, voices in city management, voices on any city board or commission, and so many more, need the diversity of vision, experience, and priorities that reflect the community. Having women in positions of leadership bring that to the table. My start in Buda was as a member of the Historic Preservation Commission for Buda. One of the reasons I ran for city council was to expand the number of women on council. I am hopeful that seeing more women on council will encourage others to seek servant leadership roles in our community.

3. The only challenge I have is balancing my commitment to my work on council with my schedule at the hospital, which does not afford me much flexibility, and my volunteer work. I’m very much like so many women who have many irons in the fire!

4. I am honored to work to ensure my neighbors and community have the best of Buda so that our lives are happy, safe, and with a bright future. I hope the citizens of Buda know that I will stand up for us. That I have asked tough questions of developers and voted against developments when I thought we were not getting the best possible outcome. I’m also proud that I was outspoken about and supportive of our Resolution in Support of Equality and Justice because that is how I was raised, and everyone deserves that commitment to fairness.

5. I’ve only been on city council a little over 2 years so I can’t really say that I am aware of specific instances of being an inspiration to other women. What I can say is that I have had women reach out to me with questions about public service. I am hopeful that those seeds grow and bloom in a manner that those women find avenues to not only serve the community but enrich their own lives by community involvement.

6. As a woman and a nurse, working in healthcare, it still amazes me how many male nurses are the nurse executive at hospitals. Or the nurse managers of departments. I can’t help but wonder. Is there not a process to develop managers with the goal of having the executive and management team look more like the workforce as a whole?

Yes, I believe there is work to be done to have leadership roles that not only reflect the workforce but provide that image and example to employees who can then develop the leadership skills needed for advancement.

7. My mom was involved in many community organizations and ran for public office so, yes, she was absolutely a role model. But it was the women who I saw ahead of me in community leadership/volunteer work, at my healthcare jobs, who taught management, teams, and relationship skills just by being the great people they were who inspired me the most.

Seeing women in those roles is inspirational in a very subtle and deep way.

8. I tell young women to not be afraid getting involved in community work. Don’t be afraid to chair a committee at work. Asked to join the Junior Service League? Do it. Asked to chair a committee at the elementary school? Do it. Asked to be the President of Project Graduation? Do it. Asked to join the work committee to revise policies? Do it. Just don’t do it all at the same time! But those experiences will provide skills in working with teams or managing volunteers that will serve you well in your career and community work.

Kyle

Samantha Armbruster, Director of Communications

1. I worked in IT, nonprofit and social media marketing. I never saw local government as a career option before volunteering as a committee member.

2. I think women are uniquely qualified for roles in local government as most women I work with are naturally community minded. Working in municipal government is hard work and multi-faceted so it doesn’t surprise me to see more women taking on leadership roles and succeeding. 

3. As the saying goes, it is not the strongest that survive but the ones most adaptable to change and adapting to change has been necessary. I began my role as Director of Communications weeks before COVID changed the world. Navigating through unknown has been challenging but also very rewarding. I feel stronger and more confident as a woman and Director. In many ways, the challenges have brought me closer to my colleagues.

4. Being a part of events and initiatives that bring community together. From staff celebrating International Women’s Day to ribbon cutting events and Dialogues for Peace and Progress, I am so proud to be a part of bring people together and spreading joy.

5. I love supporting women and girls the way I have felt supported in my life. I’ve watched as interns and mentees have flourished in their careers and lives and while I’m not sure I’ve been an inspiration, it definitely brings me joy and fulfillment.

6. More exposure to grade school and college-aged women about local government as a career. So many are looking for work that matters and working for your city can absolutely provide that. 

7. I’ve had women mentors throughout my career – too many to count but all have helped make me the leader I am today.

8. Show up and speak up. This can be as a volunteer, board member, staff or elected official.

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