The SPP Spotlight: Stephanie Hemphill, From Cheerleader to Community Leader

 

SPP Spotlight Stephanie Hemphill

This is The SPP Spotlight, a new feature on our blog that spotlights women who have become leaders in the community, made a positive impact on people’s lives, or is a great role model for women in some way.  Our guest is Stephanie Hemphill, Executive Director of Lacey South Sound Chamber of Commerce.  Stephanie is finishing her first year as Executive Director. Her previous work includes the state Council of the Presidents and as a professional cheerleader with the Seattle Seahawks’ SeaGals for 4 years.

SPP Spotlight: Stephanie, thank you for being with us. It is such a pleasure to have you.

Stephanie: Thank you. I’m happy to be here.

For those who might’ve heard of it, but may not know, what is a chamber and what does it do for the business community?

                A chamber serves so many functions, so I don’t think there’s one right answer to ‘What is a Chamber’.  I think it’s up to the chamber to decide what kind of a role they want to play in the community. Our chamber is very community-focused, so we support our community by putting on events like the BBQ Festival and we support the Lacey Spring Fun Fair and different community events throughout Lacey and the South Sound area. We also help to foster economic growth within the Lacey city limits, as well as outside the city limits – hence our new name, Lacey South Sound Chamber of Commerce.  We’re just there to help businesses network, grow, and be an advocate for businesses if something is happening in the city. A lot of chambers will do advocacy on a state-level, but we stick mostly to the city-level.

What does it mean to consumers when they see a business belongs to the chamber?

                That they know that that business supports other businesses in their community and supports their community.  We like to ‘Think Chamber First’ in the Lacey South Sound Chamber.  So when I go out – if I wasn’t a part of the chamber – I could say, ‘Look at that! This business supports their business community by supporting an organization that supports economic growth. So, I can be proud to shop here, eat here, whatever it is, because they also support their community & businesses and want everyone to be successful and grow.’

Well, also – and correct me if I’m wrong – it adds a certain level of credibility to that business, doesn’t it?

                Absolutely. Yeah, you know the business community is backing them as a member of the Lacey South Sound Chamber of Commerce, saying I’m going to put their logo on our business and the chamber is going to put their stamp on us, absolutely! We’re not like a Better Business Bureau where we obtain accreditation or anything like that. But, yeah, we’re not going to let someone in the chamber if someone is doing back-door deals out of their…

Out of their van.

                Yeah, there’s a certain level of credibility that comes with being a chamber member.

What did you notice needed the most improvement when you came into your role in the chamber and how have things changed so far?

                Well, like I said, it’s up to each chamber to be what they’re going to be and with that each Executive Director projects what they want to project within the chamber. I am the third Executive Director in a two-year time span, so things have changed a lot in the chamber. What’s great about when I came in is the Board took a chance on me. I mean, I was the Event Coordinator before this and I didn’t have any Executive Director experience, but what they saw in me was that I like to have fun, I like to create a fun environment, a welcoming environment, and I just want our chamber to feel like a family. I’m a daughter of a locally-owned business. I’m a cousin of a locally-owned business. So, I know what it’s like to have a business.  I want to feel inclusive.  I think that was, not necessarily a change, but getting back to the roots of what the Lacey Chamber does, which is fostering those business connections, having fun, and being a family while promoting your business.

You mentioned your Chamber recently underwent a name-change to the lengthier Lacey South Sound Chamber of Commerce. What prompted this change?

                What prompted the change was our Board of Directors looking at who we are and what we serve. Not only do we serve businesses in Lacey, but also the Lacey area. Also, our neighbors in DuPont, our neighbors in Olympia, our neighbors in Tumwater, our neighbors in Yelm.  You know, if anyone is familiar with the map of this area it’s hard to tell where one city ends and another begins. So, we want to do business with anyone who does business in Lacey or the surrounding area.

In addition to these things, what would you like to see happen with the Chamber in 2015?

                Oh… that’s a good question. Right now, I’m trying to undertake what’s happening with [our] name change and all those sorts of things.  I hope we grow more. When I started in January, we had myself as the one full-time employee and one other employee.  I’ve since then hired a new Event Coordinator – the staff is completely different since I started – a new Event Coordinator, we were able to hire a new bookkeeper, a new person in Member Services. As we’re growing our needs are growing, too. So, I’d love to see our staff grow more. We have a brand new Board.  I mean, our Board has had one of the biggest change-overs in a long time with five new board members.  And that’s great, because they’re bringing new great ideas.  We’re adding a new event called Celebrate Lacey, in which we’re partnering with the City of Lacey.  So that’s going to be a big undertaking for us.  It’s a whole week of events.  We already support the city and the community with the 3rd of July fireworks and raise all the money for that.  So we raised about $26,000 to get that event on.  And then we do the BBQ Festival, which is always the Saturday after Independence Day. Well, this year it falls on the 11th of July, so we noticed we have a 3rd of July event and an 11th of July event.  So, how can we do something really fun in-between to promote our city?  What do we already do that’s great?  Maybe we can have a restaurant week in there. We’re still developing all of this.  So, how do we feature our great parks?  How do we feature our schools?  All sorts of things.

So a lot of things are percolating. That’s very exciting.

                Yeah, and we’ve also added a Young Professionals Group, which I’m excited about, because, being a young professional, I want our young professionals in the chamber to know they also have a voice.  And that if there’s something they want to learn, if they want to grow as business owners, things they should know that they don’t know.  How do we educate our young professionals so that their business is steadfast and they become a MATURE professional. [laughs] I don’t like to use the word ‘old’. But so they can look back and say, ‘Wow, I’ve been in business for 20 years and the Young Professionals Group helped me do that’.

So, in addition to running the Chamber, you’re incredibly involved in the community.  You’re also a part of a number of committees and organizations, is that correct?

Yes, that is correct. Do you want to know which ones? [laughs]

Yes. That’d be great.

I sit on the South Puget Sound Community College Foundation Board, which is really great, because South Puget Sound Community College is creating a whole new campus in Lacey on 6th Avenue. I’m very happy that the college asked me to be on that board and they wanted that to keep that connection with the Chamber of Commerce.  It’s under construction right now.  They actually have a program running there right now; I can’t remember the name of the program.  The City of Lacey recently opened their Veterans Center over there on 6th Avenue.  That opened in November.  I believe the college is slated to open next year about this time. The Hawks Prairie campus will be closed and they’re moving and expanding.  It’s a huge campus, for a satellite campus, it’s giant. It’s a really really great opportunity for our community, too, to have those students there.  I’m also in the Miss Thurston County Board of Directors, along with you. [Note: Jeff is on the Board of Directors for the Miss Thurston County Scholarship Program and Shanna Paxton Photography does the program’s photography work.]  I am a member of the Lodging Tax Advisory Committee for the City of Lacey, which means that I help to dole out lodging tax funds. Our hotels pay a lodging tax and those tax dollars go to help foster tourism. So, what we do is the Chamber of Commerce applies for those funds through our BBQ Festival Committee.  The Barbeque Festival brought tourism to the area, so then those dollars go back to us to help promote tourism.  So does the Visitor’s Center, because we’re the Visitor’s Center at the Lacey Chamber.  We get some funding through the lodging tax dollars for that.  […] So, that’s that committee.  And then I recently served on the sign ordinance committee.  The City of Lacey just went under a sign ordinance re-organization.

What came from that?

                Really great forward-thinking from our city allowing digital signage came from that.  Well, it’s not quite there, yet. The Planning Commission just made the recommendation to the city to vote on.  So, hopefully, it passes vote on the City Council. But from that there’s a lot of cleaning up on the city ordinance.  So, a lot more different types of signage – opening up that conversation so that there’s not so much a ‘NO’. The old ordinance was very much a ‘NO’.  There’s a lot more opportunities now for businesses to have different signage and better signage.  One great thing that came out of the conversation of that is we’re going to create a Best Practices brochure that the sign companies and the chamber will be responsible – with the city – for handing out.  There are things that people don’t understand that are scientifically proven that certain speeds you can only read a certain amount of characters in a certain font.  People try to put too much on their sign and it’s not effective and then they blame the city for not allowing them to change their signage, when maybe they didn’t make the best sign in the first place. I think that’s going to be a great thing, because a lot of people waste money on sandwich boards or banners and those things are expensive for small businesses. They really are wasting their money, because maybe they’re putting too much verbiage on a sandwich board and I’m not going to see it driving by at forty miles per hour.  So, that was a really great thing that came out of that conversation.

And that’s all really interesting, because you don’t necessarily think about that.

Yeah!

And, also you mentioned the Miss Thurston County Scholarship Program, which our readers can find the current Miss Thurston County was the SPP Spotlight subject last month.  So they can read more about that program there.

Of course, what we haven’t talked about yet is your involvement with the Seattle Sea Gals.  You were a part of the team for four years, so dating back to around 2010.

Makes me sound old, ‘dating back’. [laughs]

I know making a young professional sound old is never a good thing. [laughs]  But you were still going to college at the University of Washington majoring in political science at the time.  What first got you interested in being a Sea Gal and how did that come about?

Well, I have danced my entire life, so I started dancing when I was three years old. I’ve been trained in tap, ballet, jazz, hip-hop, pretty much every type of dance you can name.  But I was never good at acro; I was never a flipper. But I started doing that when I was three and I started at Debbi’s Dance when I was six years old –

Which is a dance studio –

Here in Lacey. And one of my dance teachers was a Sea Gal. I looked up to her so much; I wanted to be just like her when I was older.  She was one of the nicest people; she’d always bring us posters and autograph them.  I just know how that made me feel, it was something that I always looked up [to], I wanted to be just like her.  So, I became older and a Seahawks fan and still continued to dance.  With the world of dance, once you turn 18 and you graduate high school there’s not a lot of opportunities to continue dancing.  Studios basically say, ‘Well, now that you’re an adult, we don’t have any classes for you.’  Most adult classes are for adult beginners, not adult experts.  So, I would take workshops here and there.  The hip-hop teacher I had when I was younger was teaching hip-hop at a gym I would go to, so I would take classes like that.  I still had this desire to do something more and Sea Gals was always something I wanted to do since I was younger.  I thought, ‘As soon as I turn 18, I’m going to try out for the Sea Gals.’  Well, when you’re a dancer your whole life and you do that all the time and you turn 18, as women your body changes.  My body changed and I didn’t feel like I was physically fit enough to go audition and at 24 I was a senior in college and I thought, if I don’t do it now I’m never going to do it.  So I just had to change my diet and eating healthy, started exercising right and retraining in dance to get my levels back.  I auditioned and made it the first time, which was shocking.  I showed up in auditions and got in line and there was my dance teacher, Shannon, who was still involved in the Sea Gals.  I showed her my ID to prove that, yes, I was 18 or over, because you have to be 18 in order to audition for the Sea Gals.  And she looked at my ID and looked at me and said, ‘Oh my gosh, you’re an adult now!’  So, it was great, because I got to spend the next four years with her. We went to the Super Bowl, her and I carpooled to the airport, because she still lives in Tumwater.  I have a little video of us.  It was her first time going to the Super Bowl, too; she didn’t get to go in 2005, because she had a newborn at home.  So, we got to experience that together, which was really fun.  It was always something I wanted to do, so I did it.  And then I thought I was going to only do it for one year, but I just kept trying out. [laughs]

What was it like being on the field for the first time, looking up at all the fans and realizing the Seahawks were just feet away?

                Yeah, I am a huge Seahawks fan. When we lost the Super Bowl in 2005… first of all, I went into my parents’ bedroom at halftime and had to watch the second half by myself, because I couldn’t stand being around other people. You know, you always have a Super Bowl party […] so I cried. I’m physically and emotionally affected by the Seahawks.  It was so exciting for me. The first time, going to practice and being at VMAC and being at the practice facility and being on the field for practice and seeing it painted […], seeing all the colors and thinking there’s going to be all these people in the stands… The first time I stood in the tunnel waiting to come out, I’ve never been so nervous in my life.  I’ve never seen my hands uncontrollably shaking.  We stand with our hands on our hips when we’re waiting and my wrists were just buckling –

Well, it’s perfect for poms, you’re just shaking the poms –

                Oh my gosh, and I was looking at my squad leader, who was standing in front of me. I said, ‘I am SO nervous. Are you nervous?’ She said, ‘No, I’m not nervous.’ I said, ‘Oh my gosh, I’ve never been so nervous in my life, look at my wrists.’ She goes, ‘Now you’re making me nervous. I think after a while you’ll get used to it.’ And it’s true, after a while you do get used to it; you feed off of the energy of the crowd instead of being nervous about the energy of the crowd. The first time you go out there and perform you don’t know what the reactions are going to be from the crowd, because you’ve never experienced it before.  But when the performance is over and people start clapping, you’re like, ‘Oh my gosh, this is great! I want to do it again!’  So then you’re excited rather than nervous to stand in the tunnel.  Midway through my first season I got used to it and all those nervous butterflies got replaced with butterflies of excitement. Then by your fourth year, you’re still excited, but there’s no butterflies, because you’re more confident. ‘Yeah, I’m going to rock this thing! I just killed that routine!’

I was wondering if you could help us get an insight into what it’s really like being a professional cheerleader.  It was revealed in the press earlier this year that most professional cheer teams either aren’t paid at all or are paid very little.  So is it actually a lot like volunteering for an organization? All of your peers have careers and lives outside of being a Sea Gal.  Nobody is making a living off being a professional cheerleader, despite all the traveling, right?

Well, I can’t speak to any other organization, because every cheer organization is different. Some of them are not a part of their team; they’re sub-contracted out.  Some of them are a part of their team; the Sea Gals are employees of the Seattle Seahawks.  So, the only team I can really speak to is the Seahawks.  We don’t get to know any of the other cheer squads that well.  We did get to meet Denver when we did the Super Bowl with them.  And there are some girls who have been on other teams.  Krystal-Lynn, who is on our team, was a Broncos cheerleader and a Falcons cheerleader before being a Sea Gal, so she could speak a little bit to it.  I know that the Seattle Sea Gals are treated really well by the Seahawks. And you’re right; it really is a part-time job, so it’s not going to be anyone’s career.  But it’s really great for someone while they’re in college; it’s a perfect job while in college. We do practices in the evening and any other appearances you can sign up to do in the middle of the day when you don’t have classes. Yeah, we start at minimum wage and get a fifty cent raise every year you’re on the squad.  And then you’re paid a minimum for going somewhere. So, if you work for one hour, you’re paid for a minimum of four hours.  So you make four times minimum wage.  I know that the Seahawks respect the cheerleaders, I never felt disrespected.  I couldn’t speak to anything else that’s happening in the press and those other teams.  I don’t know how they run their organizations.  I think that every team should run their organization like the Sea Gals do, because I felt well-respected and treated like a co-worker and not like I was something else.  So, I think that the Seahawks are a model for what everyone should do.

That’s actually a perfect segue, because when people see professional cheerleaders at the games with their little outfits or look at the website, there’s a lot of sex appeal.  So, a lot of people wonder if there is more to being a professional cheerleader than having a great body.  How much of that sex appeal do you feel is what makes the job?

Uh, like none of it. [laughs] You know, I think that as any athlete… is going to have a perfect body, right?  You look at things like the ESPN Body Issue that they put out where they have a nude Marshawn Lynch or you’ve got swimmers or gymnasts and all sorts of things.  An athlete’s body is what everyone strives to be, right?  We all want to be healthy and fit.  I will tell you the Sea Gals were not told to be scrawny or fit into a certain role [rather] what’s best for our body and how we look as athletes. We’re told to make sure we’re eating correctly, that our lifestyle was fit and healthy.  Yeah, part of being fit and healthy is you’re in shape.  People work hard for that.  I don’t think it’s anything that should be looked at as a bad thing, I guess.  Yeah, we do have a swimsuit calendar and our uniforms are small, but when it’s cold outside we put more clothes on.  That’s why I was saying I don’t think it’s at the forefront of the job.  Your functional job is to be a cheerleader, a dancer, an athlete and have fun, adding value to the game experience.

So, empowering women is something that we’re passionate about at Shanna Paxton Photography.  You obviously have to have a certain amount of self-confidence to be a Sea Gal.  In what other ways do you feel being a Sea Gal empowered you and made you a great role model for young women?

                I think that the organization will only take well-rounded women.  So, that was a boost to my confidence that, when I went through the interview process, they still wanted to pick me. When I danced they still wanted to choose me.  When I met with executives, they still took me back on the team – you have to try out every year to be on the team.  So, when you come back for a second time, you know you’re being trusted to be an ambassador of a multi-million dollar company.  You’re sent out to do the Grand Opening of something or to Alaska with executives of the Seahawks to visit fans.  I think that’s a great role model for women, because I looked up to Shannon so much as my dance instructor.  As I grew up, I thought about that. She was always so nice, she always had time for anybody, she was beautiful and fit and had a great personality and was what you should be as a positive role model for young girls. So, I felt that the job of being a Sea Gal is who you’re talking to, how you’re talking to them, when you’re talking to them and being able to be trusted to do that and be welcome back on the team.  I think everyone should strive to be well-rounded, well-spoken and be able to hold your own in situations. You know, maybe there’re situations you’re not comfortable with, but you can get out of that situation with ease and grace.  I think it’s exactly who you should be.

You mentioned as a Sea Gal you got to travel all around the world.  What was one of the best or most eye-opening experiences for you?

                It’s funny, because when I went on tour we went to the Middle East.  At the end we went to Paris and I often forget that we went to Paris, because the rest of the trip trumps Paris.  As a young woman, that’s the dream, right?  To go to the Eiffel Tower.  In fact, I was on the top of the Eiffel Tower on Valentine’s Day enjoying some champagne.  That’s the dream come true, right?  It wasn’t with my husband; it was with my good friends.  But you know, it was still fun.  But often I’ll forget, because on that tour we went to Bahrain, Djibouti, and Kosovo and those are three places that I never thought in the world I would go to. They were all three very different culturally, economically… visiting the soldiers over there is what we were doing, bringing a smile to the military’s faces, bringing a piece of home to the men and women who are away from home.  I was just so impressed with the military over there.  You walk in two feet of snow in Kosovo and there’s still smiles on people’s faces and they’re so happy to see you and treat you with so much respect.  Our theaters were packed, because people wanted to come see our show.  It was so much fun.  But, yeah, going to places like Kosovo and Djibouti and seeing the way people live there, the sacrifices our military are making to be there… You know, we lived in metal boxes while we were there.  They’re called ‘cans’ in Kosovo and ‘CLUS’ in Djibouti.  It’s a big metal box you stay in negative fourteen degrees in Kosovo. If you think the NFL cheerleaders are living a life of luxury when they go on tour, they definitely are not!  I’m proud I was living in the exact same conditions as the soldiers; they aren’t making any special conditions for us. So, I had a newfound respect for people who are deployed, because after three nights I was like, [sobs] ‘I can’t take this!’ [laughs]

That is a fascinating point, because you’d think anybody who’s going on a tour that’s a celebrity guest or personality, you’d expect that they would get all the heaters in their tent or something.

                Yeah, mm-mm.  I mean, I don’t know what it was like for Tim McGraw or somebody who was there; he’s probably a bigger celebrity than the Sea Gals, so maybe they keep him off post. But we’re staying on post, having all our meals in the mess hall with the soldiers, dragging our suitcases in two feet of snow. Our Director constantly tells us to ‘Man Up’. If a soldier offers to carry your suitcase, tell them you can handle it. If they insist, you don’t want to be rude, but don’t be a princess.

You ended your professional cheerleading career with going to the Super Bowl.  What was that like?

                That was crazy.  Sometimes I go back and watch the game and think, ‘Oh my gosh, I was there!  I was at the Super Bowl!  When the Seahawks won their first Super Bowl!  It was a whirlwind experience. We worked the whole time.  My family was there and I got to see them a total of two hours the whole trip. It was exhausting, but fun.  I’d never been to New York, so that was really fun, seeing Times Square. Being in Times Square and seeing highlights of Seahawks… I think it was perfect going to New York for the Super Bowl.  I wouldn’t want to go to any other city, because it was so big and fun.  We got to go on Good Morning, America and the Today Show and Fox & Friends, The Crowd Goes Wild, and Fox Sports. That was really fun.  I met a ton of celebrities. Every day you’re just going, ‘Guess who I met!’ sending pictures to my family of me and Roger Staubach.  Then by the time you get to the Super Bowl, you’re going, ‘Whoa, I have done SO MUCH already and we still haven’t even done the Super Bowl, yet!’  It’s funny, because you get there so early.  We had to get there six hours before kick-off.  They shut you in your locker and are like, ‘Okay, you’ve got six hours, have fun!’ There’s just so much security and so much shuffling of people going on, it’s all timed out.  You’ve got all this stuff happening they have to keep you on a good, tight schedule.  We were like one of the first ones to arrive and we sat in our locker room a long time.  Still even talking about it’s weird, it’s crazy. The only time you travel with the team to an away-game is to the Super Bowl. You don’t travel to any other game. The only reason I got to travel is I was on Showgirls.  And we did the Chinese New Year Parade in Hong Kong, so I got to do that, too.  So, that was the first time the team traveled, being in an away-game at another stadium and when I would [be asked] in 2010, ‘What’s it like traveling with the team?’ [I would say] ‘Oh, we don’t travel unless we go to the Super Bowl’ and people would literally laugh in my face. ‘Stephanie, they’ve been a team since 1976 and they’ve made it one time, so GOOD LUCK WITH THAT!’ And then four years later, here I am at the Super Bowl.  It was insane.  When Richard Sherman took that pass in the Endzone, I looked at my friend Carli and I screamed, ‘We’re going to the Super Bowl!’ A strong breeze could’ve knocked me over. Looking up at the crowd and seeing their faces, how excited they were to know their team was going to the Super Bowl.  And then we had a really good chance of winning, everyone felt so confident with our #1 defense going in.  Then they played [humming ‘New York, New York’] throughout the stadium and the players were carrying around the 12th Man flag.  Our team loves our fans so much… I wish I had a Go-Pro on at that time, so I could just go back and re-live that moment.  Seeing Michael Straehan and Russell Wilson holding the Lombardi Trophy, I was bawling, I just lost it. We got to go to the Super Bowl After Party and Paul Allen’s band performed and Macklemore performed.

Yeah, that’s an unforgettable experience, for sure. Was it tough hanging up your poms or was it a decision that was a long time coming?

                Well, like I said, I had thought I was going to only do it for one year, then four years later, here I am.  I wanted to leave when I wanted to leave. I had to audition every year and I was four for four.  I thought, ‘Can it get any better than this? Can it get any better than traveling all over the world, performing for the military, and winning the Super Bowl?’  I just really had to weigh what was going on in my personal life, with my professional career.  I wouldn’t have enough time to dedicate to being a Sea Gal.  So, either I was going to be a bad Sea Gal or a bad Executive Director and I didn’t want to be bad at either one.  I thought that’s kind of selfish on my part to try to do both and not do them very well.  So, I decided that I should just work my professional career and focus on being the Executive Director of the Chamber, so I could do that as well as I could and devote as much time as I can to that.  Then you add in being a wife in there. I would’ve been a REALLY bad wife if I tried to do all three of them.  I would’ve been a bad Sea Gal, bad Executive Director, and a REALLY bad wife.  We were already two passing ships.  So it was a choice.

But you haven’t said goodbye to the Seahawks forever. You still have a relationship with the organization and, in fact, have a radio show where you talk about the Hawks, right?

                I do, yeah. I’m not so associated with the Seahawks.  I made some friends through the organization like Tony Ventrella and I work together a lot.  I’m still a season ticket holder, so that’s kinda fun.  You see familiar faces when you go back to visit and that’s kinda nice.  But, yeah, I have thirty minutes every Thursday where I talk about the Seahawks.  That’s really fun.  I give my input and my “expert advice”, I don’t know that it’s really expert advice or whatever, but it’s fun, because I get to talk about my favorite team.

Your mom is a former business owner and founded an organization called Homeless Backpacks that works to provide food for underprivileged or homeless teens, so I’m sure she’s been a great role model in terms of being a community leader.  What other women have been great role models for you over the years?

                Well, I think I define ‘role model’ a couple different ways.  Definitely my mom has been a great role model.  No one gets paid to do anything in Homeless Backpacks.  They started this organization out of the kindness of their hearts and they all work really, really hard, because they serve over 300 students every week and it’s a huge undertaking.  I see my mom work really hard at that.  Shannon, my dance teacher, was definitely a role model for me on how to be a nice, positive impact on young ladies.  As young kids, we look up so much to the adults in your life and you want to be just like them.  Even teenagers, I talked to the North Thurston High School Dance Team about how even they’re role models as teenagers.  I remember being a little kid looking up to the high school cheerleaders thinking I wanted to do that one day. So they have a responsibility to be a good role model. It’s so tough these days with Facebook, everyone has to watch what they say.  So, I just talk to them about that.  My grandma, my mom’s mom, was a single woman who didn’t ask anything from anybody.  She’d do it herself. I think that’s something I really admire.  I have a husband and I love that I can ask him to hang a picture for me, but I know if it came down to it, I can do it myself.  I try to do it myself first, you know, maybe the picture is too heavy and I can’t.  But I think that’s really important.  My grandma lived alone and she just rocked it, she was completely self-sufficient.  I think since I’ve been working with the Chamber, Madelin White, she was on the SPP Spotlight; she’s a huge role model for what it is to be a strong woman in the community.  I am more conscious of that the more I work with the Chamber.  I love that we are an all-female staff.  I love that our President and Past President are women. I love that our Board is becoming more equal.  If you really look at it, I’m a young woman professional.  There’s only one other Executive who is a young woman professional, Megan Sullivan at TOGETHER!, that I can even think of in this area.  It’s still kind of a ‘Good Ole Boy’s Club’ and so breaking the barriers of that is kind of important.  I think Madelin is a great example of someone breaking those barriers.  She has some great stories of being the first woman to work out of some of the organizations she worked with.  I would say those four women are really important to me at different stages of my life and have taught me different lessons in my life.

Yeah, interviewing Madelin a couple months ago was really fascinating. I got a greater appreciation because of getting to know her. She’s definitely a great role model, so I could see how she’d be in your list, too.  So, you’ve spent your twenties building a career as a strong leader in the business community and role model.  You just turned 30 recently –

Don’t remind me. [laughs]

How do you see yourself spending your thirties?  What does the next 10 years look like?

                Well, I hope to start my family. That’s important to me in the next ten years.  You know, I don’t know.  I like to set goals, but I’m not a ‘In ten years, I’d like to be President of the United States’, you know, not those kinds of goals.  I never thought I’d be the Executive Director of a Chamber.  When I applied for the job as an Event Coordinator it was more like a part-time job.  I had quit my job at [my parents’] spa and looking for employment.  I was teaching dance part-time and then the Sea Gals, so I had two part-time jobs, but I was looking for something full-time.  I had my degree in political science. I was looking for something where I could be an advocate, something political.  I thought, ‘Oh, okay, the Chamber of Commerce.  That could be a step in the right direction.’  All of a sudden, here I am, the Executive Director.  So, I love that I didn’t know what that was going to get me into and I love that right now I don’t know what Executive Director of the Chamber looks like in ten years.  If you ask my husband, he’ll say I’ll be President.  NO WAY will I be President.  That will not happen; I do not have skin thick enough for that.  But, yeah, I just love the thought of, ‘I don’t know’.  Right now we’re in the middle of remodeling our house and I’d like to start a family.  So ten years from now, I hope my house is done being remodeled and I have a family. [laughs] So there you go!

Stephanie, I want to thank you for being with us today.

Thanks, it was fun!

Stephanie Hemphill is the Executive Director of the Lacey South Sound Chamber of Commerce.  You can find her online at laceychamber.com or on Twitter at StephanieLCED.  You can also listen to her show Hawk Talk Thursday mornings at 8:35a on KGY 95.3 FM.  This is the SPP Spotlight. I’m Jeff Gibson.

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