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A Look At The Women In Power In Palm Beach County

by Amy Woods Feb 2018 Also on Digital Edition

Women in power in Palm Beach County is off the charts, says Lisa De La Rionda, director of the county’s public-affairs department. De La Rionda, points to a Palm Beach County Board of County Commissioners Organizational Structure document, on which nearly half the leadership is female. “We’re talking one dozen out of 33 names in a box,” De La Rionda says. “The women in those boxes are running our services and departments, and those are big jobs.” Palm Beach County made hiring women a priority last year after conducting an affirmative-action study that found men historically held most of the county’s jobs. In West Palm Beach, a disparity study has been conducted to explore the use of women-owned businesses for city procurements. “It’s more than just a trend,” says Kathleen Walter, the city’s director of communications. “People are recognizing the benefit of a woman in a leadership position. Most importantly, more women are aspiring to leadership roles. More women in leadership roles means there are more role models inspiring other women to pursue positions of leadership.”

1. DIANA MATTY WEST PALM BEACH FIRE RESCUE CHIEF

“Make no excuses. Do weight training for your upper body to include grip strength. I think the popularity of cross-training and boot-camp workouts is developing some very strong women these days. Strength used to be a limiting factor for women, but I do not see that as a true obstacle anymore.”

2. JERI MUOIO WEST PALM BEACH MAYOR

“While I never in my wildest dreams thought I would ever be a mayor, let alone the mayor of a city in Florida, I was elected in 2011 and reelected in 2015. In West Palm Beach, we have a strong mayor form of government, which means I am the CEO of the city. I run a very large operation with 1,600 employees and a $175 million operating budget.”

3. SARAH MOONEY WEST PALM BEACH POLICE CHIEF

“The only limitation to being successful in this field is yourself. You have to be open to exposing yourself to new things and not be afraid to showcase your strengths. By nature, police work is a little competitive. Men and women bring different yet equally necessary strengths to the job. You have to stay focused on the big picture.”

4. DOROTHY JACKS PALM BEACH COUNTY PROPERTY APPRAISER

“I did not plan to become a property appraiser but started in the office when I was young and really enjoyed the work and the profession. When I started, it was a very male-dominated profession (probably 80 percent to 20 percent). It was hard to move ahead as a woman, but with time that improved, and the split is probably 60 percent to 40 percent now.”

5. CAREY HAUGHWOUT PUBLIC DEFENDER

“Early in my career, the legal profession did not have many women trial lawyers. I was told by a judge that women belong in the home, not the courtroom. But I didn’t view this as a setback—I viewed it as a challenge, and I believe it made me a better lawyer. It is always rewarding to get good results for my clients.”

6. SHARON BOCK COUNTY CLERK & COMPTROLLER

“Today, women have an enormous array of career options. My advice is to try several of them. It’s written by career advisers to follow your passion. But that’s not always possible, especially when just entering the workforce. As you go through your work life, reflect on what you are becoming with each experience and credential that you achieve.”

7. ANNE GANNON CONSTITUTIONAL TAX COLLECTOR

“Regardless of the field a woman wants to work in, I always recommend she focuses on what she wants to do. What is your passion? Identify the steps you must accomplish in order to reach the position you aspire to. And finally, I would remind women that politics is a rough-and-tumble business. Don’t take anything personally.”

8. DENISE MARIE NIEMAN COUNTY ATTORNEY

“I’ve wanted to be a lawyer for as long as I can remember. Then I graduated with lots of student loans, so I accepted a position with the county attorney’s office in 1986 with the intention to find a real job real quick in the private sector. By the end of my first week with the county, I realized that the work I was doing was as real as it gets.”

9. MARY LOU BERGER PALM BEACH COUNTY COMMISSIONER

“Whether male or female is irrelevant, anyone working in government should have the knowledge, skills and ability to get the job done. What I find wonderful, particularly about local government, is that so much of what we do affects our constituents in their everyday lives. I often reference the quote, ‘Government is the enemy until you need a friend.’”

10. PAULETTE BURDICK PALM BEACH COUNTY COMMISSIONER

“I think women are more suited for public office. We manage and juggle our kids, our personal life, our home finances. We listen and learn from others. I think in campaigning, you cannot replace the old-fashioned handshake and an open mind.”

11. VERDENIA BAKER COUNTY ADMINISTRATOR

“I chose this career after acquiring a degree in rehabilitative services and deciding that I wanted to do something different that would affect the lives of people in the community. The most rewarding aspect of my job is to identify an issue negatively affecting our community and collaborating with others to develop and implement solutions.”

12. MELISSA MCKINLAY PALM BEACH COUNTY MAYOR

“For those women with children, our kids need quality time. Motherhood doesn’t have to be about quantity, so try to avoid mommy-guilting yourself to death. Our kids just need to know we love them and do our best. Reading to them for 30 minutes at the end of a busy day and kissing them good night is often better than 12 hours at Disney World.”

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