Announcing the Finalists for the 2019 League of Women in Government Leadership Trailblazer Award

The League of Women in Government and the National Research Center, Inc. jointly announced the finalists for the 2019 Leadership Trailblazer Award.

Announcing the winners, League President, Ashley Jacobs added, “Of the amazing nominees from across the country, the judges felt these ten finalists best captured the spirit of the award. We can’t wait to recognize all of the nominees and the 2019 winner at the annual symposium on October 19th in Nashville. It will be a wonderful tribute to these remarkable leaders.”

Nominations for the Leadership Trailblazer Award were submitted primarily by local government professionals who wanted to see a dedicated colleague recognized on a national scale. A panel of judges from the League and NRC reviewed each nomination and selected the top ten finalists. The winner will be announced at the League’s 4th Annual Symposium on October 19th in conjunction with the ICMA Conference in Nashville, TN. This year’s award recipient will join Opal Mauldin-Jones, the 2018 winner, and be inducted into the League of Women in Government Hall of Fame.

Shanna Sims-Bradish, Assistant City Manager, Richardson, TX

Shanna has contributed immeasurably to the advancement of women in the municipal government management profession, both through industry leadership and through her daily mentoring and counseling efforts at work. Among her many leadership roles and responsibilities in the city management profession, she serves as the president of the North Texas Chapter of Women Leading Government, along with several other volunteer positions. As president of this important group, Shanna uses her position to educate, mentor and encourage women to succeed in public service by enhancing career-building models that develop leadership skills and networking opportunities for professional women in government. She is a tremendous guiding force and compassionate listener to countless women in the workplace.  – Don Magner, Deputy City Manager, Richardson, TX

Jane Brautigam, City Manager, Boulder, CO

Jane has demonstrated throughout her esteemed career that she is a trailblazer! Not only is Jane a trailblazer in the profession, she also is a trailblazer on behalf of the local communities she has served and especially within the Boulder city organization. As a leader, she has championed progressive workplace policies to support all employees. From Boulder’s robust well-being program, to infants and dogs at work policies, to generous and flexible family and parental leave options, to a strong emphasis on a broad range of training and development opportunities, Jane has helped to ensure that dedicated employees are supported to grow and evolve both personally and professionally. In fact, she has stated that it is her responsibility to ensure there are more women in leadership positions in the future and specifically with the title City Manager. Jane is a champion for Equity, Inclusion and Diversity and views this as a moral imperative of the profession and our communities. – Pamela Davis, Senior Management Analyst, Boulder, CO

Gretchen DiFante, City Manager, Pelham, AL

Gretchen DiFante is a change agent within an organization where change is difficult. On a good day, under ideal conditions, Gretchen’s job is difficult. On a bad day, under less than ideal conditions (internal and external opposition, push-back and reach in), her job is nearly impossible. Yet, she is fearless, committed and determined. Given that less than 20 percent of municipalities in the State of Alabama are managed by City Managers and an infinitesimally smaller number are managed by women, Gretchen has become the woman to watch in Alabama. In the short time Gretchen has been with Pelham, Gretchen has brought the Women Leading Government State Chapter to Pelham in conference. Her willingness to take a bold and leading role in the management and change of a municipality once known as a male-dominated bastion sets an inspirational example for all women to emulate. She has also pounded the Pelham gender employment playing field flat! – Mayor Gary Walters, Pelham, AL

Marchelle Franklin, Director of Human Services, Phoenix, AZ

Marchelle serves as a formal and informal mentor to so many individuals in the community, especially women. Several of the women she mentored, shared the following thoughts. Marchelle ascends above the rest through her consistent mentorship, leadership and kindness that helped me heal, transition, and regain passion in serving others. Marchelle is not just a mentor. She is a teacher that helps her students seek out knowledge, a coach that is not afraid to get tough when a person wants to give up, an advisor when life has taken a person down an unfamiliar path, but most importantly she is a friend to all within her glance. Marchelle is an inspiration, she is the energy behind her mentees to help lead them to become the champions they are today. My advancement as a public administration professional is greatly in part attributed to Marchelle’s guidance and support. – Tamra Ingersoll, Public Information Officer, Phoenix, AZ

Julie Jacobson, Town Manager, Auburn, MA

Julie has served as the first town manager in Auburn, MA since 2011. Julie has chaired our Women Leading Government Committee since it formed in January 2018. Way before Julie became chair of our WLG committee, she has been encouraging women in our association, with support during difficult times and helping people achieve their next career goal. Now that she is more visible, she is sought out by the women who attend our WLG events: department heads, mid-managers and others who call on her for advice and she meets with anyone who asks for her time. Julie works in a part of the state where she is surrounded by men in most of the management positions so she always sets an example for other women by taking the high road and making sure she is doing her job to the best of her ability. As stated above, she meets with younger members of the association on a regular basis to offer guidance and support. She makes herself available at every meeting by being open and welcoming to people, so they feel comfortable speaking with her. – Denise Baker, Senior Member Services Coordinator, Massachusetts Municipal League

Julie Robinson, City Administrator, Spring Valley Village, TX

Julie Robinson has served in four different Texas cities during her career in local government. She has been the first female manager in all of the communities she has served. Julie is a leader in Texas Women Leading Government and in our field of City Management as a mentor and role model to other women. She always makes time for women early in their careers or later when they are looking to reinvent themselves. She shares her experiences, both personally and professionally with women to inspire and encourage them.  Julie is credited with helping so many women find their way in local government. Julie was recognized by the Texas City Management Association with the Outstanding Mentor Award and her tireless efforts to always welcome area managers into the profession and the professional association and to especially support female city managers. – Lee Woodward, City Secretary, Laporte, TX and Paula Ryan, Assistant City Manager, Bellaire, TX

Lori Sassoon, Deputy City Manager, Rancho Cucamonga, CA

A dedicated, authentic leader, Lori has the innate heart that has led to a career of supporting and encouraging Women in Government to grow, learn and excel! She has devoted herself to fostering a love of government in all that are near her and her influence creates an environment of innovation and joy in good governance. Lori is and has been a strong advocate for women in government, encouraging younger staff, advocating older staff to engage, being an inspiration for women of all ages to choose local gov as a career. She currently serves as the President of Women Leading Government in California. Lori launched the “Take Your Co-Worker to Work Day” job role/shadowing initiative in her city which allowed women to experience non-traditional roles to expand their potential career goals. Always available for advice, mentoring and a shoulder to lean on, Lori has been instrumental to women in local government across the state of California. – Francie Palmer, Communications Manager (Retired), Rancho Cucamonga, CA 

Susan Sherman, Assistant City Manager, Olathe, KS

I have yet to meet someone in this profession as dedicated to mentoring the next generation of local government leaders as Susan Sherman. Susan has also mentored many women who have not been interns in Olathe – she makes it a regular practice to invite employees at all levels of her organization out to lunch or to help with special projects. There are also women in other organizations who Susan makes time to call or meet with to help with preparing for upcoming interviews or to just help solve issues they may be experiencing. Most recently, when the City of Olathe found out that the annual Inspiring Women in Public Administration conference was cancelled for 2019, the City of Olathe, under Susan’s leadership, partnered with Johnson County Government to put on a Women in Government event to invite women in government throughout the KC metro to get together for an afternoon mini-conference. Susan is what we should all strive to be – a woman who supports other women and dedicates a great deal of time to helping other women succeed in this profession. – Jamie Robichaud, Deputy City Administrator, Prairie Village, KS

Jerene Watson, City Manager, Douglas, AZ

Pathfinder is a term often used to describe Jerene. Jerene Watson has been an inspiration to others, leading with humility and a quiet self confidence that empowers others to rise to their own leadership abilities. She has a keen ability to generate trust and professionalism in her work environments. Her passion for service to others, demonstrated over a long career by the honors and recognition she has received, is summed up well by the term “Servant Leader.” She knows how to build coalitions and partnerships individually and for key stakeholders in communities where she has lived and worked. While she does not gravitate to the limelight, her tireless work is noticed because she makes a difference in the lives of others. Jerene was instrumental in starting the ‘chicks in charge’ networking group of women leaders in municipalities in the West Valley of Maricopa County, Arizona, in 2004, which later became part of the Women Leading Government network that is active across Arizona today. – Mayor Robert Uribe, Douglas, AZ

Shana Yelverton, City Manager, Southlake, TX

Shana truly has a passion for mentoring and developing next generation leaders, for creating opportunities for current leaders to grow and also for promoting the city management profession. Her willingness to mentor young professionals helps build a bridge to the next generation and her dedication to developing the skills of current managers creates an organization where mentoring is a part of the organizational culture. More specifically Shana has established a well respected leadership team of directors – half of which are female executives. Also on Shana’s “city management tree” are several women who owe their breaks in city management to the mentoring Shana gave them. From the perspective of honoring a profession embodied in public service, wanting to make a good impact on communities, and not seeking self-aggrandizement Shana has quietly given back to the city management profession and impacted many women (and men) in local government. – Ben Thatcher, Assistant City Manager, Southlake, TX

To see a full list of all the nominees, CLICK HERE.