Sterlings 2020 stir our world

Stanfill pic 2 (2)
Wanda Stanfill

Tennessee’s daughter, Dolly Parton said it best, “If you don’t like the road you’re walking, start paving another one.” That’s exactly what Sterling Award recipients do. They see a need, they act. They have an idea, they build it.  They want change; they make change happen.

Representing education, healthcare, industry, government, small business, nonprofit, and legal, Sterling Award recipients make their cities and communities a better place to live and thrive. They are creating change in real time while paving the road for future generations.

Sterling Award recipients reflect the strength and tenacity of women who came before them and uphold the promise to our children to make the world better. These remarkable women lead by example and inspire. Children will witness how change is accomplished, and they too will move communities forward using the knowledge they learned from the women honored with the Sterling Awards.

Ten years ago, members of the Jackson Area Business and Professional Women created the Sterling Awards to honor women in West Tennessee who make a strong social difference in their communities and achieve excellence in their careers.  Since 2010, 20 of the Most Influential Women of West Tennessee have been honored each year. Four years ago, the Sue Shelton White Award and the Outstanding Woman Military Veteran Award were added to this prestigious event.

The Outstanding Woman Military Veteran Award honors women who have served our country.  This year’s recipient is Lenore Ventimiglia who volunteered for duty as a woman Marine in the United States Marine Corps during the Vietnam war. She now volunteers to mentor and improve the lives of veterans and active service members, especially the Forgotten Warriors, female active duty service members and female veterans.

The Sue Shelton White Award is presented to an outstanding female attorney for their work as a community activist who creates or changes legislation to improve the lives of women and children in Tennessee. Judge Christy Little will be honored with the 2020 Sue Shelton White Award for her work to create change and advocacy for children, especially children in need.

Sterling Award recipients are chosen by a Board of Selectors who review more than 80 nominations annually submitted from the community.  The final decision on 20 recipients each year is never easy.  The judges read hundreds of pages of applications, resumes, and referral letters citing leadership, awards, and volunteerism.  Thank you to the community for submitting nominations so we may recognize outstanding women in West Tennessee.

The Sterling Awards ceremony is held every year on Equal Pay Day, the day that symbolizes how far into the 2020 women must work to earn what men earned in 2019. Equal Pay Day was originated by the National Committee on Pay Equity (NCPE) in 1996 as a public awareness event to illustrate the gap between men’s and women’s wages. Unfortunately, the Sterling Awards ceremony was postponed this year due to the coronavirus outbreak, but the names of the recipients were announced on March 31, Equal Pay Day, in keeping with tradition.

The Jackson Area Business and Professional Women publishes a Sterling Awards Magazine so you can read about each of the recipients.  As you read about the Most Influential Women in the Sterling Awards Magazine, you will discover they are also outstanding in their personal life. We have singers and musicians, poets, writers, and artists. You will read about a marathon runner whose goal is to compete in triathlon and about a connoisseur of homemade rolls. Our Sterling recipients like to hike, fly fish, shoot rifles, drive large truck and off-road ATVs.  They studied abroad, hitchhiked across Europe and traveled across the United States. You will learn about their families and pets and the communities they love.

Since 1919, the Jackson Area Business and Professional Women organization helps women achieve equality in the workforce through legislative advocacy, education and information. The organization continues to uphold its mission through support of our members, friends, and community partners.

Congratulations to our 2020 Sterling Award recipients, Outstanding Woman Military Veteran and Sue Shelton White Award winners!

Wanda Stanfill is the Director of the Sterling Awards for Jackson Area Business and Professional Women. Wanda works for Tennessee Donor Services as a hospital services coordinator.  She is also a sculptor, portrait artist, and graphic designer.


STERLING AWARD WINNERS 2019. Outstanding Woman Military Veteran. Sue Shelton White Award.


STERLING AWARD WINNERS 2018. Outstanding Woman Military Veteran. Sue Shelton White Award.

  1. Dr. Belinda Anderson. Principal, Chester County Junior High. Henderson. FHU. U of Memphis.
  2. LaToshia Chism. Kindergarten-Second Grade Inclusion Teacher. JMCSS. Jackson. Lane College, FHU, TN State U.
  3. Nancy Choate. Attorney-at-Law, Jackson. Vanderbilt University School of Law.
  4. Dr. Kelli Deere. Director, UT Martin Parsons Center. Lexington. Union University.
  5. Cynthia Early. Nurse-Midwife. Owner, CEO, Agape Family Healthcare Clinic, Jackson. Phillips County CC, Union U., UT Memphis, Vanderbilt.
  6. Shirley Jones. Retiring Feb. 28 as Senior Vice-President, Jackson Chamber. Memphis State University. Jackson.
  7. Sharron Murden, Branch Sales Manager, Asst. VP. CB&S Bank, Bolivar. Jackson State CC, A.S.; Union, B.S. Saulsbury.
  8. Pam Nash. President, CEO, Carl Perkins Center. Chester Co. H.S., A.S., B.S., FHU; M.S. U of Memphis. Jackson.
  9. Cassandra Owens. Chair, Dept. of Religion, Asst. Prof., Lane College. Clark College; Masters of Divinity, ITS, Atlanta, Ga.; Ed.D., Union U., Jackson.
  10. Karen Freeman, Business Development Manager, Leaders Credit Union. UT Martin.
  11. Danielle Hardee. Law Clerk, U.S. District Court. Jackson. Jackson Central-Merry H.S.; Bachelor’s, UT Chattanooga; Washington U. School of Law, St. Louis.
  12. Shannon Haynes. Director of Client Development, Emmaus Consulting. Bachelor’s, Christian Brothers University; MBA, Union University. Alamo.
  13. Kerrie Heckethorn. Senior VP, Human Resources Officer, First Citizens National Bank. Dyersburg. Bachelor’s, MTSU; Certifications, SHRM.
  14. Emily Johnson. Director, Henderson/Chester Co. Chamber of Commerce. Henderson. Lipscomb Academy, Nashville; B.A., FHU.en



  1. Lt. Danielle Jones. Lieutenant, Jackson Police Dept. Jackson. North Side H.S.; B.S., Lane College; M.S., Bethel University.
  2. Michelle Reddick. Director of Career and Learning Services, U of Memphis Lambuth. Jackson. Valdosta State U.; University of Tennessee.
  3. Kandy Shackelford. Director, Hardeman Co. Chamber of Commerce. Bolivar. B.A., FHU.
  4. Dr. Ann Singleton. University Professor of Special Education and Associate Provost, Dean of Instructions, Union University. Jackson. B.S., Union University.; M.Ed., U of Memphis; Ed.D. U of Memphis.
  5. Sherry Tignor. Executive Director, Center for Academic Success, Union University. Jackson. B.S., Union University; Masters, Memphis State University; postgraduate, U of Memphis.
  6. Brenda Whalley. Vice-President, Whalley Enterprises DBA Morton Moving & Storage. B.A., Lambuth. Jackson.

Outstanding Woman Military Veteran: Judy Bivens, Veterans Service Officer, McNairy County. Selmer. Served in USAF 26 years. Retired as Chief Master Sergeant. Chairman of the Board, Air Force Public Alumni Association. B.A., Wayland Baptist University; Master’s, University of the Incarnate Word, San Antonio, Texas. Habitat for Humanity board; American Cancer Society’s Voices of Hope 2018.

Sue Shelton White Award winner: Mary Jo Middlebrooks. Attorney-at-Law, Middlebrooks and Gray, P.A. Founding Member, Tennessee Lawyers Association for Women; founder, Anne Schneider Chapter, Lawyers Association for Women. Specially trained mediator for domestic violence victims. Has lobbied for women’s issues for 40 years in Washington, D.C. and in Nashville.




  1. Arlisa Armstrong, Brownsville. Area Director, USDA Rural Development.
  2. Carolyn Blakney, Savannah. Vice-president, branch manager of 3 branches, CB&S Bank.
  3. Elaine Christian, Jackson. Past president, Jackson-Madison County Library Foundation Board.
  4. Kasey Culbreath, Atoka. Attorney-at-Law, Kasey A. Culbreath P.C.
  5. Amy Dietrich, Jackson. Retired Associate Professor, University of Memphis.
  6. Kathleen Huneycutt, Jackson. Director, Health, Sanitation, Animal Control, City of Jackson.
  7. Jenny Kirkland, Union City. Board chair of Robert E. and Jenny D. Kirkland Foundation. The Promethean Foundation.
  8. Abby Lackey, Jackson. Associate Professor at Jackson State CC. Founder, Heaven’s Cradle
  9. Judy Long, Dyersburg. President and Chief Operating Officer of First Citizens National Bank
  10. Tawanika McKinney, Jackson. State of TN Fiscal Director, Henning TN.
  11. Teri Maddox, Jackson. Vice-President for Dyersburg State CC.
  12. LaShell Moore, Selmer. Pre-Kindergarten Teacher, McNairy Co. Schools.
  13. Susan Oliver, Jackson. First Lady, Union University. Ambassador for United Way. Board member, Hands Up Preschool.
  14. Debra Owen, Jackson. Attorney, Jackson Shields, Yeiser and Holt. Counsels district and school administrative leaders on legal issues.
  15. Helen Owens, Jackson. Assistant Professor, Lane College. Sigma Gamma Rho Sorority (National President).
  16. Renee Phelps, Henderson. Customer Service Representative, 27 years at Clayton Bank & Trust Co.
  17. Darlette Samuels, Jackson. Chief of Staff, Lane College.
  18. Sandy Stanfill, Lexington. Lead Off-Campus Director at Jackson State CC, Lexington Center.
  19. Ginger Terry, Lexington. Farmspace Systems. Public Relations Director.
  20. Laura Williams, Jackson. Rainey, Kizer, Reviere & Bell, PLC. Served 3 terms on E.C. of Jackson Chamber of Commerce. Board of Regents, Union, U., and University School of Jackson.

Outstanding Woman Military Veteran: Dr. Linda Brice, Jackson. Clinical Associate Professor, Pre-Nursing Advisor, University of Memphis, Lambuth Campus.

Officer, USAF, 1973-1985, Executive Support Officer, B-52 Bomber Training Base; Squadron Section commander, Civil Engineering Squadron at Offutt AFB. Went to Guam for Project New Life to assist over 100,000 Vietnamese refugees displaced during “Fall of Saigon.” Assisted refugees to find new homes and lives in the U.S. Developed the first Foreign Liaison Office in USAF Strategic Air Command.

Sue Shelton White Award: Beth Bates, Jackson. Managing Attorney, Benefits Unit West Tennessee Legal Services, Inc. Bates testified before the Social Security Subcommittee of the Ways and Means Committee of the United States House of Representatives on November 19, 2009 on behalf of the Consortium for Citizens with Disabilities.  The subject of the testimony was the need for increased funding for the Social Security Offices of Disability Adjudication and Review. Since then, she has joined with other public service attorneys who advocate for improved service from the agency with then-Acting Commissioner Carolyn Colvin and two Tennessee Disability Determination directors.  She writes a monthly column on Social Security issues for The Jackson Sun.  She is a Board Certified Social Security Disability specialist and has represented approximately 2000 citizens before the agency during her 33 years as an attorney.



  1. Tammy Buchanan, Jackson. Public Liaison and Farmers Market Director.
  2. Cathy Clayton, Jackson. Executive Director, West Tennessee Legal Services.
  3. Linda Cox, Jackson. CEO/Owner, Exotic Hair Care Center & VViolet Hair Products.
  4. Amy Crenshaw, Jackson. Founder, ComeUnity Café.
  5. Cheryl Crider, Humboldt. Founder, Executive Director, TLC Riding Academy, Inc.
  6. Maleia Evans, Friendship. Director, TN Small Business Development Center of Dyersburg State CC.
  7. Ginger French, Jackson. Architect, Partner, TLM Associates.
  8. Brandon O. Gibson, Jackson. Judge, Tennessee Court of Appeals.
  9. Gail Gustafson, Milan. Executive Director, The Dream Center of Jackson.
  10. Delita Johnson, Jackson. Assistant Coordinator, City of Jackson Criminal Investigation Division.
  11. Mary Marvin, Friendship. Chair, Crockett County NOAH.
  12. Shirley Nanney, McKenzie. Editor, News Leader.
  13. Rebecca Rose, Savannah. Retired Educator. President, Big Ivy Community Center Association.
  14. Opal Shaw, Bolivar. Co-owner, Shaw Broadcasting.
  15. Dixie Spencer, Bolivar. REDI College Access Mentor, Southwest TN Development District.
  16. Kayla Taylor, Jackson. Marketing Services Manager, Younger Associates.
  17. Deann Thelen, Jackson. Vice-President, Hospital Services, West Tennessee Healthcare.
  18. Lisa Tillman, Executive Director, Regional Interfaith Association.
  19. Kathleen Walker, Brownsville. President, Tennessee Pewter Co. of Somerville.
  20. Pam Wright, Jackson. Owner, The Wright Law Firm PLLC.