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Leadership panel highlights five local women

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“Leadership seems to run hand in hand with excellence.”

Those were the words of Patrick Wolf, Homestead Funding branch manager and loan originator who moderated the Tri-County Chapter of the Women’s Council of Realtors’ annual “Got Leadership?” panel Tuesday at the Italian-American Civic Association, Bellew Avenue. Leadership has led all five panel members to excellence in their own careers and community activism.

“I’m always looking for a challenge to prove myself,” said Sharon A. Addison, panel member and city manager. “I knew I was a leader; I was the oldest of six children.”

Being a catalyst of change is “one of the most rewarding things,” she said, and achieving excellence in leadership roles outside of her professional career is something she also has her sights set on.

Other panelists were Watertown Police Department Capt. Cheryl A. Clark, 2013 Athena Award recipient Margaret B. “Peggy” Coe, Brig. Gen. Miyako Schanely, deputy commander of 412th Theater Engineer Command, headquartered in Vicksburg, Miss., and family law attorney and Brownville town Justice Kathy L. Quencer.

While Mrs. Coe’s post-secondary education led her to become a physicist, she said most of her time was spent as a homemaker, with a few jobs in between. She has become well known in the Watertown community throughout the past four decades for her many roles with local nonprofit agencies.

“Seeing a need and tackling it is leadership,” she said.

That’s exactly what she did in the 1970s when she co-founded the Women’s Center of Jefferson County, which is now known as the Victims Assistance Center of Jefferson County.

The most important skill that helped her evolve into helping scores of people throughout the north country, she said, was simply listening to what other people had to say.

“Communication is key,” she said. “Be honest. If something is not going right, you have to acknowledge it. You have to exercise your leadership to make sure people are being honest.”

Other panelists agreed, and Gen. Schanely, who also is the executive director of the SUNY North Country Consortium, said another important skill she strives to provide is the vision to help people understand where an organization is headed.

As panelists reflected on their years of service and dedication to their communities, most said they would not change anything about the paths that got them to where they are today.

“Where I am today is because of what I went through,” Capt. Clark said.

She has been a Watertown police officer since July 1986. In 2004, she became the first woman to reach the rank of lieutenant on the force, and in 2012 she was promoted to captain.

Mrs. Quencer, meanwhile, said the only thing she would change is taking some risks when she had the opportunity. That’s not to say she hasn’t taken any at all, as her career continues to evolve. She began her career as a teacher, and then she became an attorney and a town justice and now is running for Jefferson County Family Court judge.

When Mr. Wolf asked panelists if leaders are born or raised, Gen. Schanely said she believes they are raised. That’s how it went for her, she said, as she was taught how to be a Girl Scout in her youth, joined school clubs and began exploring leadership more when she attended the U.S. Military Academy West Point. She said she’s not done learning.

“I’m still a student of leadership,” she said. “I’m learning every day.”

The council’s first male president, Charles F. Ruggiero Jr., said he hoped the event would help participants realize their potential and become empowered.


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