January 14, 2016 05:36PM
By NANCY BURNS-FUSARO
Sun Staff Writer
WESTERLY — The Greater Westerly-Pawcatuck area Chamber of Commerce will hold its annual Athena Awards Banquet on Thursday night at Lake of Isles Golf Club in North Stonington. Seven local women have been nominated for the award, which recognizes outstanding business and professional women in the community. Choosing a winner has always been a challenge, said Lisa Konicki, the chamber’s executive director who serves on the selection committee, but this year even more so.
“It is one tough job, this year especially when we had the largest group of nominees ever,” Konicki said. “It was definitely not easy.”
Those nominated are Alexis Ann, publisher of the Resident newspaper; Margaret Austin, vice president of clinical services/chief nursing officer at The Westerly Hospital; Karin Barth-Leader of the music group the Cartells; Diana Serra, president of the Westerly Town Council; Rita Casady, the retired circulation marketing manager for Providence Journal’s South County section; Rosemarie S. Kingsbury, an administrative professional; and Lydia Teixeira, vice president of Hi-Tech Profiles Inc. and co-owner of the Hopkinton Industrial Park.
“It’s a darn good group of women,” Konicki said. “Just making it through the vetting process and getting endorsed is a tough enough hurdle.”
Women and men are eligible to be nominated for the Athena Award, which was inspired by the goddess Athena, known in Greek mythology for her strength, courage, wisdom and enlightenment.
In order to qualify for nomination, a candidate must “actively assist women in realizing their full leadership potential,” Konicki said. “This can be in the form of mentoring, providing employment or education opportunities, or any other demonstration of investment in the welfare, professional or otherwise, of women.”
The nominee must also demonstrate excellence, creativity and initiative in their business or profession; provide valuable service by contributing time and energy to improve the quality of life for others in the community; and must work and/or live in Westerly, Charlestown, Richmond, Hopkinton, Wyoming, Wood River Junction or Pawcatuck.
A summary of the nominees:
Ann served in the Army National Guard and was the first woman to receive a Direct Commission as a Second Lieutenant in Montana. She received an Army Commendation Medal and Meritorious Service Medal while serving in the 103rd Public Affairs Detachment. In 1984 she retired as Public Affairs Officer from the 43d Military Police Brigade, Rhode Island Army National Guard with the rank of captain. She has served on the boards of the Mystic Chamber of Commerce, Big Brothers/Big Sisters, Family Services and the Mystic Community Center. She is also a member of the Women’s Network of Southeastern Connecticut. She served as a member of the Timber Spears Memorial Fund Committee and on the board of directors for the Pawcatuck Neighborhood Center. Currently, she serves on the board for Natchaug Hospital.
Austin has 36 years of leadership and administrative experience in the hospital setting. Despite the changes at Westerly Hospital, her focus remained on patient care and on the people who manage and provide that care. As the senior leadership ranks were reduced, she remained the “go to” person for almost everyone, and turned away no one who needed to talk and vent or seek guidance. She is a member of the American organization of Nurses Executives, the RI Hospital Association and is affiliated with the American Heart Association. She has served on the Board of Directors of the Ocean Community YMCA, is a past president of the International Lions Club and a board member of the Westerly Lions, she is a committee member and past leader of the Boy Scouts of America.
Barth-Leader, the band leader of the Cartells for the last 27 years, was a featured vocalist with the renowned “Eight to the Bar.” She donates her band and time to many local charities, most recently to produce the song “Misquamicut Love,” which will be sold to benefit restoration of Misquamicut Beach. Before her life as an entrepreneur and musician, she was a Connecticut State Trooper who worked to dispel stereotypes and inspire other women to pursue careers in law enforcement. She has also served as a bodyguard for female politicians and is a founding member of the Groton Animal Foundation.
Serra, was the owner, director and head teacher of the Westerly Preschool, where she taught Westerly children for more than 30 years. She was the second female in Westerly history to be voted as president of the Westerly Town Council, served for 10 years on the Westerly School Committee and has served on numerous boards and committees including at the Westerly Senior Center, the Westerly Airport Corporation, Westerly Hospital Community Committee and Chamber of Commerce. Once a week, for more than a year, Diana participated in the North End Crime Watch reading program. She volunteered to serve on the Jump Start Small Business Grant Recovery Program to evaluate the applications from businesses affected by hurricane Sandy and make determinations about how much each business should get in fundraising support. She has been an active supporter of the Adult Day Services of Westerly and the Westerly Public Library.
Casady managed the largest internal non union department at the Providence Journal which had the highest diversity rate long before diversity was an issue. As her responsibilities increased, she readily promoted women, and she established many recognition programs with her department. While involved in Little League, she was one of two women who had their own teams, and she actively recruited young girls to participate. As a 12-year member of the Rotary Club of Chariho, she worked hard to recruit female members and served on numerous committees and chaired events. She has served on the board of directors of the Ocean Community YMCA-Arcadia from 2010, and was been vice chair in 2012 “Reach Out to Youth Division Chair 2009- 2013 and has served on the Fund Development Committee, Board Development Committee,” Membership And Program Committee. She has been active in the Exeter-West Greenwich Girls Softball, Exeter-West Greenwich Little League, and RI Blood Center. She is a past Board member of the Greater Westerly-Pawcatuck Area Chamber of Commerce, was a Democracy Compact Fellow 2000 working to increase voter participation in the State of Rhode Island and won Rotary District 7950 Significant Achievement Award for Club-2008, Rotarian of the Year 2002, YWCA Outstanding Woman 1986 and 2004, and is a Paul Harris Fellow, the Rotary’s highest award.
Rosemarie S. Kingsbury
Kingsbury, an employee of Hoyt, Filippeti & Malaghan, LLC, served in the United States Army from 1977 to 1980. As one of the last members of the Women’s Armed Corp (WACS), she was one of the first women to train with the men at Ft. Jackson, S.C. Professionally she is active in the International Association of Administrative Professionals and has earned many awards for her work with the organization including the IAAP Member of Excellence. She has presented many seminars to IAAP members in an effort to help members excel and advance in their careers. She is a recipient of their 2011 Northeast District Shining Star Award and has been the owner of an online store, Kingsbury’d Treasures, since 2005.
Teixeira co-owns several businesses that are housed in the Hopkinton Industrial Park, and The Pavilion Restaurant, which together employ 160 people. She has been a driving force for job creation and helps mentor and coach the women of Hi-Tech. She volunteers as a presenter at Career Day at the Stonington High School and provides guidance and exploration in career development. She served on the Board of The Westerly-Pawcatuck Chamber of Commerce, has supported the Ashaway Volunteer Fire Association, Make A Wish program and the West Vine Community Learning Sensory Learning Space. She was active with the Pawcatuck Neighborhood center for years and was the recipient of the 2010 Good Neighbor Award by the Pawcatuck Neighborhood Center.
The Athena Awards Banquet takes place on Thursday at 6 p.m. at the Lake of Isles, 1 Clubhouse Dr., North Stonington. The keynote speaker for this year’s event is Faye Parenteau, a custom publications editor for The Day Publishing Company. Three scholarships will also be awarded as part of the evening’s celebration. Tickets are $45. The event is open to the public. For more information, call Lisa Konicki at 401-5967761 or visit westerlychamber.org.