Women’s Work

Frederick County's Powerful Women Have it All, a Day at a Time

By Kate Poindexter | Photography by Turner Photography Studio | Posted on 03.05.14 – Feature

Catherine Moreland
Dr. Katherine Conway-Turner
Dr. Theresa Alban
Latrice Lewis
Julie Donat
Denise Pouget
Elizabeth Y. Day
Elizabeth Chung
Kelly Russel
Dr. Barbara Brookmyer
Judge Theresa M. Adams

Though often labeled as a place where the good ol’ boy network still controls the political, economic and social engines, Frederick County has come a long way since the days of our founding fathers. In fact, many of the people currently reshaping the business climate and overall culture are women.

A woman’s place in modern Frederick County, it seems, is in the classroom, courtroom, boardroom and beyond. Whether they are homegrown, lifelong residents or recent imports, many women share a drive for success and strive to keep their personal and professional lives in sync.

Here is what some influential women in the arts, business, education, nonprofit organizations and public service had to say about their careers and balancing life with work in 2014.

Catherine Moreland

Executive Director of The Delaplaine Visual Arts Education Center

Moreland oversees the day-to-day operations of the Delaplaine, one of the county’s top arts destinations, attracting about 80,000 visitors a year. Included in her duties are managing staff, financial reporting and many other tasks for an organization that includes gallery space/exhibits, classes, meeting space rentals and a gift shop.

“When my children were little my mother asked me what I wanted to do when I returned to work and I described this job. Of course, this particular job did not exist then, but I knew I wanted to work at an arts center in visual arts with classes and exhibits.”

Moreland appreciates her role as a woman in power, especially at this time in history. “I’ve been watching Mad Men and I know how far we’ve come. I remember when my parents and their friends were in that world and I’m proud of our country because of how far we’ve come. I don’t think it’s a question any more of a qualified woman gaining a successful career, but a qualified person. At least [it is] in my profession, in the arts.”

She combats work stress with relaxation at home. “Funding is always a stressor, but we have had such generous support from the Delaplaine family and donors. Throughout the recession we kept our doors open and had no layoffs. I’m happy that I get to work in Downtown Frederick and that I get to go completely away when I go home to Wolfsville.”

Dr. Katherine Conway-Turner

Provost and V.P. of Academic Affairs, Hood College

Conway-Turner serves as Hood’s official host for college events and activities, meeting with faculty, students and interacting with guest speakers. But much of her job focuses on academic policies, budgets and personnel.

“Being influential is risk-taking,” she says. “Women who cannot withstand the blow of people saying, ‘No,’ just can’t be powerful. Part of balance, of course, is staying centered. I know who I am and have a sense of stillness inside. I recognized early on that I was a community builder on campus. I discovered that I could help people and move them forward. Watching the blooming of others is so fulfilling.”

Conway-Turner’s pet project is H.O.P.E for Haiti. She serves as a board member of this nonprofit, volunteer organization assisting the people of Borgne, Haiti. As the director of education programs for the organization, she directs efforts that include support of existing schools/educational efforts, teacher training and a mobile teacher program. She and other volunteers, including Hood students, are preparing for a trip this spring to Haiti. “When you go to a place where they have so little and need so much, you get a sense of perspective,” she says.

Dr. Theresa Alban

Superintendent of Frederick County Public Schools

Though commonly viewed as an educational leader, overseeing the academic achievement of more than 40,500 students Alban is also a business leader; with approximately 5,650 employees, FCPS is the largest employer in Frederick County.

“There is a dilemma for women. A delicate balance of time and energy. Being successful and influential means having a passion for what you do and being willing to put the work in to do it in an excellent manner,” Alban says.

She says technology in the classroom can assist with balance and access; it can help bring new experiences to both students and teachers, facilitating greater learning opportunities. “Technology is going to transform us and allow us to rethink the way we use valuable resources. It’s incredibly exciting. We have some teachers who Skype with teachers in other countries and bring foreign language students face to face with each other.”

While many things make her laugh, including The Big Bang Theory—the television series, not the actual theory—she also admits that at times she becomes frustrated. A particular source of concern: “Unreasonable mandates from politicians who do not truly understand public education and yet believe they have all the answers.”

For students she has four pieces of advice. “One, hard work is essential to success. Two, be a good team player. Three, have confidence and be willing to take a risk. Four, your education is never complete, so keep learning. And congratulations for choosing to work and live in Frederick County.”

Latrice Lewis

Business Employment Consultant, Frederick County Workforce Services

Lewis is on the front lines of the county’s economic recovery. Her duties include consulting in business development, sales performance and career counseling. She is also a certified facilitator in leadership, customer service, communication, and management and supervision skills.

“I’ve learned that it’s OK to be out of balance sometimes. As women, do we try to do too much? Of course we do. It’s our nature. But, it is also OK to take care of ourselves,” she says. “The meaning of power is being accomplished but not pretentious. God and family come first. A strong spiritual life helps keep me in perspective at all times.”

It also helps that she has a job with many rewards. “The biggest thing is, I’m able to help people every single day — helping them re-establish confidence after a job loss and contribute to the local economy. I hope I have made a difference in someone’s life at the end of the day.” The feedback she hears on the job and as the voice of WFMD’s Monday Morning Job Hunt is positive. “Things are looking better. Not as fast as those who are unemployed would like, but jobs are being developed.”

According to Lewis, job seekers need to be flexible, helpful, adaptable and good listeners. “Today’s economy can be unforgiving to those who are unprepared,” she says. “Develop financial security for the immediate family, but down the road, too. Prepare the next generation. Young folks, while you’re still in high school, do a career assessment. It’s OK if you’re not going to college. You can still continue learning after high school. Believe in yourself. Follow your dreams. Unplug. Talk to those who are older and wiser. Everything you need is not found on a smart phone or on the Internet. Learn to surround yourself with those who encourage you. Get rid of negative people.”

Julie Donat

Market Manager, PNC Mortgage

Donat works in sales and service for PNC, covering a territory that includes Montgomery and Frederick counties and Western Maryland.

“I think women must gain respect in any environment to succeed. In my mind, when I look at other women [who] I consider powerful or influential they are ethical, hard working and consistent. They consistently work to accomplish a goal, reaching out to other people at times and work together well with many people. My parents were instrumental in providing me with the ‘can do’ attitude and allowing me to do anything and everything. I tried ballet, bowling, art classes, swimming, piano … you name it, and I had a chance to do it. They instilled self confidence in me and that has carried me through my professional career.”

How does she balance work, family and social life? “I have a very supportive wife who is always very eager and willing to participate in both my work-related and community-related events without hesitation. I have no children, so that certainly frees up time that other working professionals don’t have. My golden retriever would like a little more time dedicated to walks and exercise. [My wife] Patricia and I have the best friends in the whole world. We are blessed with a diverse group of friends that enrich our lives every day and support all that we do. There is no replacement for friends.”

Denise Pouget

Chief, Frederick County Department of Fire and Rescue Services

Chief Pouget came to Frederick County from Alexandria, Va. in 2013 with the task of uniting 26 independent volunteer corporations and career firefighters throughout the county. She is charged with planning, coordinating, supervising and evaluating fire and EMS operations that include a staff of 300 full-time, paid personnel who operate alongside 1,600 volunteers associated with various individual fire companies. She is the first person to hold the newly created job and says that selecting her was a bold move for the county.

“For me, this is about making time for those I love. I am very fortunate to be in a 19-year committed and supportive relationship. I am also a new grandma; my grandson was a little over one month old when I was appointed chief. Yes, [the job] has taken a lot of time away from the grandma role, but I am doing my best to spend as much time with him as I can. My son and daughter have followed in my footsteps and are in the fire service as well. We talk often and they look to me for advice and guidance all the time. They understand how demanding and time consuming this job is, and I am very fortunate to have understanding and supportive children. I am very close to my older sister and make the effort to talk with her frequently. I consider myself to be very lucky to be surrounded by a wonderful family who is very understanding of the challenges I face in having to balance work and family and it doesn’t hurt that we all have a fantastic sense of humor, which keeps us going.”

Her advice to those seeking to follow her footsteps? “Aim high. There is plenty of opportunity for young people to expand their horizons in Frederick County. Public safety is a great career choice and we would welcome them as volunteers or career firefighters and paramedics. There will always be a need for those in public service and we would love an opportunity to coach or mentor them. Even if they decide to volunteer and then move on to other career opportunities; many who are now doctors and nurse practitioners started as volunteer EMTs and paramedics. Follow your dreams and the sky is the limit.”

Betsy Y. Day

President, The Community Foundation of Frederick County

Day’s nonprofit organization is one of the most significant players in the county’s charitable giving apparatus. Each year the Community Foundation distributes millions of dollars from various funds it oversees on behalf of individuals and organizations.

Her duties as president include overseeing day-to-day operations, working with the foundation’s board of trustees, providing professional support for all board activities, and supervising a staff of 10.

“Our mission is to connect people who care with the causes that matter. It’s an exceptional, excellent day when I get to see firsthand the joy on our donors’ faces and the joy in the grant recipients’ eyes when people are served. We’re busier as a society, but people continue to step up. I realized a long time ago there is no such thing as balance. If it’s worth doing, do it. People sometimes say, ‘Somebody should do something about this,’ and they don’t realize that they might be the right somebody to do it.”

Elizabeth Chung

Executive Director, Asian American Center of Frederick

At the forefront of Frederick County’s changing demographics is Chung. Her minority-led organization focuses on community development, improving access to health care, and increasing language access.

In a changing Frederick County, Chung sees both challenge and opportunity. “Both old and new Fredericktonians must accept, affirm, appreciate, accommodate and advocate for mindful integration,” she says.

Her advice for young people: “Because of our uniqueness in growth and development of our public, private and community entities, this is a very exciting time to let our young people be a part of the action for change, for building a better Frederick County. As part of the grown up world, we have a lot of work to do.”

Kelly Russell

Alderwoman, City of Frederick

There are few part-time jobs busier than serving on the City of Frederick Board of Aldermen. Even many full-time jobs require less time. Russell is president pro tem of the city’s legislative branch of government and also serves on the Planning Commission, Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Committee, Green Initiatives Team, Taxicab Commission, Frederick Area Committee for Transportation and Transportation Services Council.

“Sometimes issues that I deal with are complex and controversial. Decisions that arise out of these kinds of issues can be difficult to explain when others feel they have been wronged. When such a person gives me the opportunity to discuss why I have made a certain decision, to talk to them about other sides of the question, then that is a good day. When I am able to help them understand and actually ease their angst or fear, then that is an exceptional day.”

How does she balance work with life outside of City Hall? “Living in Frederick provides so many opportunities for dining, entertainment, theater, art, fitness activities and lots of other fun. I am really fortunate to live in a city that has all of these amenities within walking/cycling distance for me. I am happily independent, so I have plenty of time for work and play. I most admire people who are able to balance multiple responsibilities; children and all their extra-curricular activities, multiple jobs, volunteer work, and other life activities. Life as an alderwoman has really given me more opportunities than challenges with my time.”

Dr. Barbara Brookmyer

Health Officer, Frederick County Health Department

You might imagine the plate is rather full for the county’s top doctor. You would be right. Brookmyer stands at the head of an agency that covers the gamut of public health matters, including immunizations, the Women, Infants and Children program, cancer prevention, emergency preparedness planning, dental services, well and septic inspections, substance abuse and mental health counseling, school health services, and programs for developmentally disabled children and adults.

“It can be challenging to find the balance and to keep the work life balance healthy,” she says, even in a job that has many rewards. “Frederick County leads as a community of health and wellness and when I learn of examples of how the efforts of my staff and I have led to positive and sustained improvements in the lives of individuals, families, communities and the county, I know we are doing our job.”

That’s not to say it’s without challenges.

“The most frustrating aspect of serving in a local public health and leadership capacity is knowing that there are evidence-based interventions available to promote health and well-being, prevent disease and disability, and protect the public’s health, yet we can’t do it all with the available resources. Instead we focus on the priorities.”

Judge Theresa M. Adams

Associate Judge, Frederick County Circuit Court

Most people think of judges hearing cases in a courtroom, but the job is much more than that. There is legal research, issuing warrants, fielding calls from colleagues on the bench, participating in statewide judicial committees and testifying before Maryland General Assembly committees about legislation that affects the legal community.

Adams’ pet project is presiding over the foster care system. “I am the judge assigned to see the foster care cases—to ensure that children have a voice. The best days, bar none, are when I can facilitate children being adopted and placed in a loving and permanent home. I feel like I have changed the world, one child at a time.”

How does she balance all her duties, not to mention her life outside her job? You might say by having realistic expectations. “You can have it all. You just can’t have it all … in one day,” she says.

Adams applauds a legal system with greater access than in the past, but sees pitfalls, too. “We have become less intimidated and that’s a great thing. We have really encouraged access to the justice system. The problem is, more and more people are coming in without lawyers and trying to do it on their own. I have to hold them to the same standard, pursuant to the rules. The rules of evidence haven’t changed. I have been known to say often in court, ‘This is not TV!’”

She adds, “This is a serious job, but what makes me really laugh is some people who are in the wrong are so honest and have said things like: ‘I think you ought to give me a year in jail.’ Sometimes, I do.”