As I noted in last year’s Wonder Women of the Triad edition, I owe everything to the first two women I ever met. The first was Dr. Mary Griffith. In the 1950s, Dr. Griffith supervised medical students at Baptist Hospital in Winston-Salem and was one of the first women to be named to the medical school faculty. She also brought me into the world, with help of course, from the very next Wonder Woman I was introduced to, my mom, Charlotte. Of those two women, the former spanked me once, and the latter spanked me as needed. Born Martha Charlotte Lee Arnold, mom graduated Gray High School in 1941, where she was a stand-out basketball player and had a flair for creative writing. After marrying my dad, mom was a tireless volunteer for the cancer society and a long-time Sunday school teacher. Since meeting Mary and Mom in March of 1954, I have crossed paths with thousands of Wonder Women, many of whom I interviewed on my Triad Today television program. Here are just a few of those remarkable women that I met over the past year.
Kathy Manning, Rhonda Foxx and Laura Pichardo comprised an elite group of Wonder Women who threw their hats into the ring to run for Congress in the newly formed 6th district. Foxx, a Democrat, and Pichardo, a Republican, were underdogs in their respective primaries, yet they had the conviction of their beliefs and the courage to subject themselves to scrutiny, just for the opportunity to go to Washington and fight for the folks back home. Foxx, a former Congressional Chief of Staff, is passionate about reforming the criminal justice system and making it work equally for everyone. Pichardo, an accounts analyst and the daughter of Mexican immigrants, wants to reduce the federal deficit, and move the nation toward renewable energy. Unlike political newcomers Foxx and Pichardo, Manning has been to the Congressional rodeo once before when she tried to unseat Ted Budd two years ago. This time around, Kathy began her 2020 campaign as the odds-on-favorite to win the Democratic nomination. Yes, she had the money to buy lots of TV ads, but over the past 30 years, she has mainly spent her time and money in helping to bring jobs to the area and create school readiness programs for disadvantaged kids. Most recently, she spearheaded the effort to build the new Tanger Center for the Performing Arts. If elected to Congress, Kathy will fight for all Americans to have access to health care, and the ability to buy prescription medicines without going broke in the process. Regardless of their political ambitions, the future is bright for Foxx, Manning and Pichardo, and we are all better off for having them make their mark here in the Triad.
Sharon Joyner-Payne is Vice President of Corporate Communications for Inmar, and a tireless advocate for encouraging girls and young women to learn about and pursue a career in the fields of science, technology, engineering, and math. As a STEM mentor, Sharon is involved with Inmar’s all girl’s robotics team, oversees Inmar’s robotics summer camp for girls, and hosts an annual “Empowering Girls Day” in which area high school girls shadow women executives.
As president of the Winston-Salem based Action4Equity, Kellie Easton is an advocate for equal educational opportunities, especially for minorities and disadvantaged kids. In order to advance her cause, Kellie and her team work to identify areas for improvement in the public school system then make recommendations that can facilitate those improvements. Kellie also monitors civil rights violations in local schools and academies.
As executive director of Girl Scouts Carolinas Peaks to Piedmont, Lane Cook
oversees programs and activities in a 40 county area, serving over 12,000 girls throughout Central and Western North Carolina, and enlisting the help of over 6,000 volunteers. At a time when the beleaguered Boy Scouts of America have tried to shore up their numbers and improve public relations by recruiting girls into their fold, Cook has been steadfast in reminding parents that their daughters are best served by the empowering leadership skills they obtain through a girl-centric environment.
In the two and a half years since being named Winston-Salem Police Chief Catrina Thompson has worked with residents, businesses, and local agencies to improve public safety and strengthen relationships among and between various groups in the community. Before ascending to the top spot, Thompson served for 26 years in the department, including as assistant chief in charge of detectives and school resource officers. She now leads a department of 570 officers, 173 support staff, and oversees an annual budget of $ 75 million dollars.
For NFL fans outside of North Carolina, Kelly Proehl may be best known as the wife of Super Bowl champion receiver Ricky Proehl, but around the Triad, she is increasingly becoming known for her work with the POWER of Play Foundation, which she co-founded with her husband. Last summer, Kelly presided over the opening of Guilford County’s first all-inclusive playground, which will accommodate all kids, including those with physical and mental disabilities.
Finally, a shout out to my favorite Wonder Woman, Pam Cook, my wife of 16 years, who, as president of her own public relations firm, helps area nonprofits and others promote and advance their vital missions. I love and admire her dearly, even though she says that Dr. Griffith didn’t slap me hard enough 66 years ago.
Jim Longworth is the host of Triad Today, airing on Saturdays at 7:30 a.m. on ABC45 (cable channel 7) and Sundays at 11 a.m. on WMYV (cable channel 15).