Virtual Panel Discussion
March 31, 2021 | The Women’s Initiative of the Historical Society of Palm Beach County celebrates Women’s History Month each March. This year, a calendar full of events culminated with A Portrait of Leadership, a Virtual Panel Discussion with four local women who make history in leadership roles as professionals and in their communities.
Evening Anchor Tiffany Kenney of WPBF 25 News moderated the event as the women addressed challenges they have overcome and how gender has shaped their careers.
The four panelists are all History Makers. In each of their business roles, they have power and control over issues that affect our entire county and often well beyond. This is an opportunity to hear how they reached this point, what they think on matters beyond their realms, and how they would advise those who will follow in their footsteps.
As our County Administrator, Verdenia Baker is often the voice and face of the government of Palm Beach County, one of the largest counties in Florida by any measure. She is responsible for implementing the policies of the Board of County Commissioners while overseeing nearly 7,000 employees and a $5.4 billion budget. Verdenia holds a master’s of science degree in Public Administration from Florida State University and a Certified Government Financial Manager designation. She began her career as a budget analyst in 1987, and when she was appointed County Administrator in 2015, she was the first African American and the first woman to have done so.
Pamela Rauch is vice president of External Affairs and Economic Development for Florida Power & Light Company, one of the nation’s largest energy companies. She graduated from Florida State University College of Law and University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Her law career began with Gunster and Jones Foster, then she joined the City of West Palm Beach in 1994. As assistant and then deputy city attorney, Pam helped lead the downtown renaissance. She served on the Northern Palm Beach County Improvement District during the development resulting from the sale of John D. MacArthur’s land. In 1999 she joined FPL as a senior attorney, overseeing real estate and environmental matters. Development of new power sources is also in her realm, as well as showcasing FPL’s commitment to the communities that it serves. In Palm Beach County, the state, and the nation, Pam handles government relations, community engagement, and economic development.
Kelly Smallridge, a native of Palm Beach County, is president and CEO of its Business Development Board. A graduate of the University of Florida, she has served the BDB since 1988. In 2004 she became the first female president of an economic development board in South Florida. Today Kelly is Florida’s longest-serving economic development president of either gender. As her father was with Pratt & Whitney, a major local employer since 1958, she has probably always known the effect of big business on our economy. Pratt is on a list of big firms that Kelly has convinced to expand or relocate to Palm Beach County, which also includes Scripps Florida and the Max Planck Society. In just five years, the assistance of the BDB resulted in nearly $800 million in capital investment.
In addition to filling important leadership positions, all these women have served the community on boards, which they often chair. In doing so, they influence many arenas, both related to their employment and not. They also find time to help the next generation find their way to making their own history.
The Historical Society, whose mission is to collect, preserve, and share the rich history and cultural diversity of Palm Beach County and Florida, recognizes that each of the many cultural groups in our population has its own history as well as a shared history. Through the Women’s History Initiative, we facilitate a growing group of both women and men that support activities to recognize and empower the strength of women in our community, past and present.
Thank you to The Ben Hotel for hosting this filming. (https://www.thebenwestpalm.com)
Sponsors of the month of events include both individuals and businesses:
- Presenting Sponsors – Loreen Beisswenger Farish Charitable Foundation, Mary Alice Fortin Foundation, Pat Moran Family Foundation
- Champion Corporate Sponsors – FPL, Leeds Custom Design, Scaife Family Foundation
- Visionary Corporate Sponsors – Christian Angle Real Estate, Kirchhoff & Associates Architects, Nievera Williams Design, PNC Bank, Sciame Homes, Searcy Denney Scarola Barnhart & Shipley, Sugar Cane Growers Cooperative of Florida, West Palm Beach Downtown Development Authority
- Victor Sponsors – John Archer, Abby Beebe, Alexandra and Joe Chase, Susan and Christopher Cowie, Frances Fisher, Mary and Mark Freitas, Garden of Life, Sunni Johnson, Colleen Orrico, Pioneer Linens, Kelly Rooney, Tracy Smith, Samantha Storkerson, Rachel Tessoff, Dinyar Wadia
- Advocate Sponsors – Brenda Bailey, Laurel Baker (in honor of Rebel Cook); Nancy Brinker, Mark Elhilow, Dorothy Jacks, Lynn and Russell Kelley, Marti LaTour and George Elmore, Gary S. Lesser, Kristy and Grier Pressly, Alice and Cater Randolph
- Suffragist Sponsor – Katherine Dickenson, Lisa McDermott-Perez