Leading Ladies

10 inspiring and powerful women offer advice on how to take charge and make a difference

Top Women Leaders of Hampton Roads

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The hardest part of putting together the following list of Leading Ladies for our Women’s Issue was narrowing the group to just 10 honorees. The great number of deserving and wonderful women we considered is a testament to the fact that we have some very strong female role models in our region. Though reality TV celebutants and attention-hungry pop princesses seem to rule media headlines much of the time, the following women are the ones we should be encouraging the young women—and men—of Hampton Roads to look up to and learn from. Their accomplishments are vast, and their advice is worth reading, enacting and passing along. Thank you, ladies, for inspiring us.

City of Hampton Molly Joseph WardMolly Joseph Ward

Occupation: Mayor; City of Hampton

What makes her inspirational: Molly Ward’s first term as mayor of Hampton began in July 2008—a rocky time for anyone in government. She took over just as the housing collapse and economic recession were in full swing. Cities around the country were claiming bankruptcy, yet while she was in office, Hampton grew prosperous. The dilapidated Coliseum Mall transformed into the majestic Peninsula Town Center, and Fort Monroe went from a military installation to a protected national treasure, which will have a lasting economic impact as it supports the needs of the entire region.

A key component to Mayor Ward’s success is the way she’s able to bring together coalitions whose members have widely divergent views and broker deals that satisfy everyone, such as her facilitation of a conservation easement at Buckroe Beach.

But it is her community involvement and outreach that make her so beloved. By launching a Mayor’s Book Club, she is getting books to at-risk preschoolers, giving them better hope of success at grade level and the chance for a brighter future.

Her leadership and foresight were steadfast throughout her first term, and she was elected to a second term in 2012.

What do you feel has been the key to your success? “I have had the good fortune of working with smart, fun, wonderful people.”

What has been your proudest moment? “Nov. 1, 2011 when President Obama signed the executive order creating Fort Monroe National Monument in front of a bipartisan Virginia delegation.”

What’s the best advice you can offer young women? “No one ever looks back and wishes they had spent less time with their children and loved ones. There are times to go full throttle and times you should take your kids to the beach.”

—Bill Glose

Governor's School of the Arts Director Dr. Andrea WarrenDr. Andrea Warren

Occupation: Executive Director; Governor’s School for the Arts (GSA)

What makes her inspirational: Dr. Warren has challenged herself throughout her career in education, going from gym teacher and coach to Ph.D. student and high school principal—and onto executive director of the Governor’s School for the Arts, which provides arts education to area high school students in addition to their academic courses. As executive director, Dr. Warren has led the school’s effort to consolidate classes in one central location.

What do you feel has been the key to your success? “My faith and family who support everything I do; long hours; hard work; willingness to laugh at myself; understanding my strengths and weaknesses; willingness to take risks and to learn new skills (I love being a student); surrounding myself with people who are smarter than I am (LOL); finally, loving to help others find success.”

What has been your proudest moment? “I have had several proud moments: The first was sitting in a superintendents and regional board meeting when they gave me permission to work with the City of Norfolk to renovate the Monroe Building for GSA. Having all students in one central location has been the school’s desire for the past 25 years. A couple of directors have tried to accomplish this goal and have been unsuccessful. I am blessed to serve as director at a time when a couple of cities saw the value of this amazing program and are willing to assist us with creating a home for my students— being in the right place at the right time. However, my most recent proud moment was in the spring at the end of our 25th anniversary show that we called ZO. This was the first time all departments worked collaboratively on a project that involved the interaction of performers and video/3D mapping.”

What’s the best advice you can offer young women? “Be willing to make the tough decisions, not the popular one. Listen to the arguments, but base your final decision on what’s best for the organization’s mission. If you keep the mission first, or in my case, keep students first, it will always turn out to be the best decision you can make. Lastly, never be influenced by your emotions when making decisions. Emotions bring about bias, which will cause conflict/discourse within the organization.”

—Kristen De Deyn Kirk

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