Schuylkill Women Leading by Example Schuylkill Women Leading by Example and Succeeding in their Communities Christine Toretti, Chairman and CEO of S.W. Jack Drilling Company and Pennsylvania National Republican Committeewoman, always wanted to empower women to become leaders in business, government, politics, and in their communities. The question though, was how to accomplish that goal. She took matters into her own hands, and after much thought and planning, the Anne B. Anstine Excellence in Public Service Series was born. The program was named after a dear friend of Torretti’s, the first female leader of the Pennsylvania Republican Party and someone who was committed to see more women in leadership positions. Toretti is quick to point to how the program has changed the status quo. “By giving women all of the tools needed to be effective in the political process, I believe that we have forever changed the landscape of public service in Pennsylvania,” Toretti says. Since its inception in 2003, this prestigious institution has helped mobilize, organize and connect women throughout Pennsylvania and teach them about government, politics, and most importantly, leadership. Each year, only 15 to 20 candidates are selected throughout the Commonwealth to participate. The candidates have a goal of increasing their level of involvement in public life as elected or appointed officials, political leaders,
Pictured left to right: Gretchen-Sterns, Dr. Pam Hadley, Donetta D’Innocenzo 10
grassroots activists, business professionals and community leaders. The yearlong journey includes rigorous monthly training sessions with an amazing network of advisors, mentors, and alumni to help the class members along the way. “Politics as usual” and “the old boys’ network” are not in the lexicon of these amazing women. Now in its eighth year, the program boasts 123 graduates and has encouraged the campaigns of 44 candidates with 39 victories, including races for state senator, state representative, county commissioner, municipal and school board member and numerous political party positions. Collectively, the Anstine alumnae have raised and donated thousands of dollars and volunteered many hours on campaigns in support of qualified candidates, including many of their classmates. Not only have the Anstine Program graduates demonstrated election success, but they have excelled in their careers and private lives. They have started businesses, moved to the top of their professions and served as community leaders. What unites them is the confidence the program has instilled in them, and even beyond the year of training, a network of colleagues always ready to provide support to members of the Anstine family. The program continues to grow in success and clout, with the class of 2010 being one of the most competitive years for potential applicants. Simply put, if there was ever a glass ceiling for women in politics, Torretti and her Anstine program have shattered it with a beautiful mosaic of diverse woman who have something salient in common beyond their political philosophy—their desire to succeed. Schuylkill County has been fortunate to have six women accepted in the Anstine Program, more than most counties in Pennsylvania. Each has unique accounts of their experience, and all are shining
examples of leadership in action. This is their story. Gretchen Sterns Gretchen Sterns, formerly Gretchen Coles, enrolled in the Anne Anstine Excellence in Public Service Series because of her passion for public service and a desire to learn from leading women in business and government. “The Anstine Program gave me the confidence to take my legal practice to the next level. I became friends with many highly accomplished women of diverse backgrounds who’ve been an invaluable resource for me to exchange ideas about my career and provide a boost of confidence when things get overwhelming.” After completion of the Anstine Program, Sterns joined the law firm of Gillespie, Miscavige, Ferdinand and Baranko, LLC, as an associate attorney who manages their Pottsville office. She has twice been named “Rising Star Super Lawyer” by Philadelphia Magazine, a distinction given to the top 2.5% of lawyers under 40. Sterns focuses her practice on real estate, business and municipal law - areas primarily male dominated. However, she has succeeded in acquiring a myriad of business and real estate clients and has been appointed solicitor for West Penn Township, the Porter-Tower Joint Municipal Authority, and Upper Bern Township (Berks County). Sterns remains one of only a handful of female municipal lawyers in Schuylkill County. “While the bar is set higher for women, we can achieve our life’s dreams through perseverance and equipping ourselves with the tools necessary for success.” Michele Rudloff (Pictured above, right) Public service isn’t just a career for Michele Rudloff, it’s in her DNA. Although she has been involved in community organizations for most of her
life, it wasn’t until she helped her father run for elected office that she found her true calling. “I don’t remember anyone ever telling me to get involved, but being in public service is where I belong. Something amazing happens when you serve your community, I always get more out of it than I could ever give back.” Following the example set by her family, Rudloff is making a difference in Schuylkill County and beyond. In 2005, she was elected to Orwigsburg Borough Council where she currently serves as Vice Chairman. Additionally, she assists constituents with complex state issues as a member of House Republican Leader Sam Smith’s legislative staff. She is the first Schuylkill County resident to complete the Anne Anstine Excellence in Public Service Series, and now serves on the Advisory Board and actively recruits others who share her passion for public service. Rudloff is quick to credit her family for giving her the strength and ability to pursue her dream. After all, it was Rudloff’s grandfather who gave her the best advice when he told her to always remember where she came from and to live life with integrity. “Without my family, I would be nothing. It’s important to be able to look in the mirror at the end of the day and respect the person you are.” Donetta D’Innocenzo How does a wife and mother of four juggle demands of family with a professional career in public service? According to Donetta D’Innocenzo, it is by maintaining a healthy perspective. “My career is an important part of my life, but my family’s well being is my first priority. After all, part of my public service must include sending independent responsible children into the same world I am trying to improve.” D’Innocenzo learned how to balance career and family from her mother who worked second shift so one parent would always be home. She fondly remembers washing dinner dishes with
her father, discussing local and state issues, which led to her career in public service. After serving in key positions for the Pennsylvania Senate and Governor Ridge’s administration, a desire to spend more time with her family led to her current position, owner of NetGain, a company founded to assist entrepreneurs in government contracting. Business ownership has shown D’Innocenzo the value of a solid network of support. When selected to the Anstine Program, she found a network of women interested in improving their communities by involvement in public service. “We’re there for each other to make sure each of us has the best chance for success.” Through D’Innocenzo’s public and community service, her children have learned the importance of giving back, something that could be her greatest accomplishment, rearing the next generation of future leaders. Christine Verdier For Christine Verdier, politics wasn’t commonplace in her household; in fact, when she was growing up it was rarely discussed. So it came as a major surprise to those who knew her, particularly her family, when she pursued political science as a major in College. Throughout her studies, Verdier was afforded opportunities to volunteer on political campaigns and got a taste for public service, which eventually led to an internship with the Pennsylvania House of Representatives. “Through my experiences, I learned to jump in and how to be an asset to
a team, we all have different skills, the key is finding what you are best at and working hard. It was during these initial years that I learned how teamwork and networking could bring opportunities.” Verdier has been blessed to have many great experiences, including her current role as Chief of Staff to State Senator Dave Argall. She credits the Anstine Program with helping to give her the confidence she needs to be an effective leader. She also uses these leadership skills in numerous organizations and community groups that she is a part of. “Leading a diverse staff is not always easy but I know that the Anstine network, including my classmates, alumni and mentors, are willing and able to provide sound guidance to help me achieve my goals.” Maria Montero Hoppes (Pictured to the left with Rep. Jerry Knowles) When Maria Montero Hoppes’ young son showed an interest in team sports, she had no idea of where that “yes” to being a volunteer would lead. Ten years later, saying yes to volunteer positions has become her mantra. “I love helping out my community with my time and talents. A simple yes to God’s plans always opens the doors of opportunity.” Maria became a basketball coach with the Eastern Schuylkill Recreation Commission and with St. Jerome Regional School’s C.Y.O. program, where she was named Secretary and then President because of her leadership in the organization. As a coach in the Tamaqua Area Baseball Association, Hoppes, with the support of her coaching staff and players, became the first female head coach to win the Tamaqua 9-10 Year Old League title. She currently coaches for Marian Catholic High School’s girls’ mid-distance track team and the Mock Trial team. Hoppes tends to the needy of Schuylkill County through Catholic Charities, Schuylkill Community Action, the American Cancer Society, and St. Joseph’s Center for Special Learning as a volunteer board member. In addition to her dedication to helping her community, Hoppes works full time as a territory manager for Abbott Laboratories and was recently elected the Chairman of the Schuylkill Young Republicans.
“Service has brought me much joy. Motivating me at the heart of this service, is the dignity of the human person, and that we as a community may come together to promote individuals’ self-reliance and self-sufficiency. I have learned the greatest gift in life is to serve selflessly. The Anstine program has broadened my horizons of service, especially in the sense of uniting with these women to improve government by helping elect individuals that hold in practice the people’s interest.” Katie Hetherington (Pictured below) Katie Hetherington has been active in public policy and lobbying since she was able to walk. She is the eighth generation to live on the family’s ancestral farm and she has gladly stepped up to lobby for agriculture and small businesses along side her father, Boots. “My family’s motto is, ‘Make your voice heard, because no one else will say it for you.’ If your elected officials don’t know who you are and what issues affect you because you didn’t take the time tell them, you are at the mercy of those making that effort.” Having worked at all levels of government, Hetherington has always been compelled to public service for agriculture. She is currently working for
Pictured left to right: Christine Toretti & Christine Verdier
or the USDA’s Farm Service Agency in the Farm Loan Program, helping farmers ride out this difficult economic time and helping start the next generation. “It is important to protect and invigorate our agricultural sector because we have the safest, most abundant, and most diverse food supply of any nation in the world. Agriculture is Pennsylvania’s #1 economy and when the farm economy prospers, we all benefit.” Hetherington is enrolled in the current Anstine class and she is energized by this year’s election in Pennsylvania and believes we may see changes the political landscape. As a result, Hetherington and her family will continue advocating for agriculture in Pennsylvania, after all current and future leaders must understand the importance of agriculture if they are to develop effective policy that will benefit the industry for generations to come. Christine Toretti’s goal has been reached: female leaders across Schuylkill County and Pennsylvania are stepping up and leading by example, helping to make our communities a better place to live. If you are interested in learning more about the Anne B. Anstine Excellence in Public Service Series, please visit www.pagop4women.org/anstine.