Happy New Year and Cheers to our 2019 Women of the Year!!!

Posted on: January 3rd, 2019

Cheers. And More Cheers!

Brave. Bold. Dynamic. Daring. Leader. Believer. Open. Honest. Risk-taker. Rule-breaker. That pretty much sums up our Women of the Year. They are all accomplished, articulate and passionate. It was a pleasure to chat with each of them – and I learned a lot.

And you might wonder why we make our selections in the January/February issue instead of the year-end issue. Well, we are forward thinkers, so we choose women who not only have past accomplishments but those who will be achieving much more in the future. It’s not a nomination process or voting competition that steers us. Rather it’s a continual observation of dedicated women in the community who may or may not be household or boldface names (although they are all bolded here). We have intersected with all of them and found them to be very worthy of recognition.

I probably met Sandy Hostetter 20 years ago. Yet I did not meet her through business connections – it was through nonprofit events. I would see her at each and every one – always with a welcoming smile on her face and a willingness to help in any way she could. We could not possibly list all of her board positions and volunteer activities. And while she was being a good citizen, she was raising two children and building an impressive banking career.

Joanie Holzer Schirm made her way in the male-dominated engineering industry, opening her own company here. However, her ability to get things done encouraged her on a tedious and exciting journey to bring World Cup soccer to Orlando. She continued to make big things happen and then found herself detouring down a very personal road of discovering family secrets. The story of her father’s — and others’ — experience of escape and survival from the Nazis has become two books.

I only recently met Tiffany Moore Russell when we photographed her for the 2018 Women’s Resource Center Summit Awards. ­She was confident, kind, and possessed a self-assuredness that radiated. Little did I know then that she had overcome many bumps in her life’s road. Her passion for making the judicial system easier to navigate has no doubt helped many in the community – especially victims of domestic violence.

Over the past few years I have run into Amy Lockhart, primarily in Seminole County, and was impressed with her demeanor and dedication to public service. She is genuinely connected to her community and open to meeting with and hearing from them. Last fall she successfully made her transition from the Seminole County School Board to the Board of County Commissioners with a promise to be a collaborator.

For at least 20 years I have been able to work with Sharon Line Clary in her marketing roles with Florida Hospital – now Advent Health. It’s been a big job, especially with a huge rebranding in process. However, she always finds time and energy for other outlets. She and her husband chair the Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts Circle – a group of citizens engaged to spread the mission of the center – and she is on the board of Florida Citrus Sports and Friends of The Mennello Museum of American Art.

Elisha Gonzalez Bonnewitz came to our attention a few years ago as she was spearheading Valencia College’s mentoring and scholarship program for underserved youth. Her mother, Linda Landman Gonzalez, has been a face of the community for decades, but Elisha has paved her own path. In addition to serving on five boards now, she is a Heart of Florida United Way board director and campaign chair charged with keeping the organization relevant for future generations.

While these women are shining stars, they represent hundreds more. So, when the news seems bleak and troubling, know there are plenty of uplifting stories that may not get the big headline.

Happy New Year!

Christi Ashby, Editor and Publisher