My first 18 years were fairly uneventful with only an occasional beach or family reunion taking me beyond my hometown of Kingsport, Tennessee.
But venturing into college began a different path. Less than a year into college life, disregarding the advice of many, I married the first person who proposed. Three years later, I escaped the confinement typically orchestrated by an abusive husband and began taking night classes and writing press releases for the local Republican Party.
Spring 1970 launched a highly competitive political cycle in Tennessee. I must have been a pretty good writer as my volunteer work led to two field representatives arriving at my parents' house and asking me to travel to Nashville for an interview with Ken Rietz, manager for Congressman Brock's campaign for the United States Senate. It was only my second trip to Nashville, I was the second staffer hired for the campaign and wIthin a week, I left Kingsport and moved into a furnished garage apartment on Nashville's outskirts to begin work as the campaign's scheduler and press assistant. It was a hard fought campaign, with me working many 100 hour weeks, not only handling the candidate's schedule, but also compiling any day's talking points into a press release which I also printed on a hand-cranked press, distributed to the media, and with the rare benefit of volunteer assistance, 200 copies were folded, stuffed into hand-stamped envelopes, and taken to the post office to find their way into the homes and offices of supporters throughout the state.
Brock's campaign became a pivotal, nationally-scrutinized effort. Weeks before election day, I was recruited to assist the White House Advance team in preparation for President Nixon's campaign stop in Johnson City.
We defeated Al Gore, Sr., an 18-year-veteran of the U.S. Senate, and I was excited to join Senator Brock's staff in Washington. Working on Capitol Hill was a privilege, but my tenure as the Senator's scheduler was short-lived. I couldn't refuse an offer to join The White House Advance Team. After all, the President was the center of America's evolving history.
But within two years, Tennessee called. Senator Howard Baker's campaign manager convinced me to return to my home state in 1972. My campaign responsibilities included coordinating Entertainers for Baker and for the President. I was on the phone with the Committee to Re-Elect the President when a colleague ran through the office yelling, "there's been a break-in at Democratic headquarters!" I asked my phone contact what happened and he responded, "Oh, it's just a bunch of teen-agers getting into trouble."
After Baker's successful re-election, I immediately assumed a two-year campaign coordinator position working for Nat Winston, whose subsequent heart-breaking loss to Lamar Alexander, forced me to find work in the private sector. I worked as Assistant Manager of a Hyatt Regency then entered the advertising/public relations industry as an account executive and copywriter. My greatest regret in this phase of my career is not grabbing my own copy of the two-volume book I was commissioned to write for HCA: "How to Run a Hospital" -- 700 pages printed on gold-leafed paper presented to the King of Saudi Arabia, the cloth-bound cover in his favorite shade of green.
In 1979, I ran for Metro-Council-at-Large, My key precinct flooded with water levels so high that my voters could not even open their car doors and I lost by what would have been their 300 votes. Shortly thereafter, Governor Lamar Alexander appointed me to serve on his policy staff as Deputy Legislative Liaison. As soon as the legislative session concluded, he enlisted me to serve as Executive Director of the Commission on the Status of Women with the assignment of writing a plan for its survival and an alternative plan for its dissolution by Tennessee's very conservative legislature. The Commission's dissolution was already evident in the hallways of the capitol.
The governor called me to his office on a day I expected to discuss plans for my departure from state government. But surprisingly, he asked me if I would be willing to serve as the state's first film commissioner. My response, "Sir, I respectfully decline. I don't want to go to Hollywood. " Governor Alexander patiently listened to my reasoning, then proceeded to convince me to enter into a trial effort to see if I might change my mind. As the first Executive Director of the Tennessee Film, Entertainment and Music Commission I worked with a great team to expand the state's film industry ranking to 4th in the nation. In only four years, we recruited more than 35 major film/television projects to the state .
Working with numerous award-winning professionals including Tony Scott, Gil Cates, and Mark Rydell inspired me to establish my own company in 1984. I worked as a consultant and in crew positions on "Starman", "Round Midnight", "Sweet Dreams", "Marie", "Burning Rage", "Where the Sidewalk Ends", "Johnny Cash Christmas Special", and "The Last Days of Frank and Jesse James". After completing "A Tennessee Homecoming" a TV special featuring 50 Tennessee stars, I was compelled to seek another project -- one which would be just as fulfilling. With the endorsement of the Secretary General of the United Nations, I traveled to 17 countries and enlisted 11 partners including Russia, China, and Israel for a live television broadcast of "Peace On Earth" . This production was headed for success until a greedy and ambitious New York partner began undermining my efforts to the point that I had to abandon the multi-country production and take another direction.
"Another direction" brought the greatest event of my life. November, 1987 marked the arrival of my daughter, Ali. At first I thought I could put her in a papoose and carry her around the world as I continued my adventurous career. But thanks to my greedy partner, I found myself grounded -- no option but to "work" from home with no income. That was a year that required innovation. My journey around the world had left me with huge debt. Bill collectors called almost daily. I sold most of my furniture in order to survive. But material possessions were not important -- as I had each day to enjoy the Lord's greatest gift -- my daughter. "I got rhythm, I got music, I got good times, who could ask for anything more" became my mantra, the upbeat song I sang to my daughter to erase the chill of the creditors' threats.
Working from home also gave me time to reflect and pursue another mission. Determined to expose Nashville as home to more than country-music, I partnered with a British company to produce "Live on Stage", a 29-show rock music series which was syndicated nationally and internationally, leaving me with great musical memories and very little cash.
In 1989, good fortune came my way in the form of a well-paying job as a shopping center marketing director, a job I held until I was appointed Tennessee Tourism's Deputy Commissioner, a position which apparently threatened the ego of the department's commissioner who "didn't need a deputy". The next many tumultuous years in state government led to a resolution to work for myself.
From 1997 to 2004, I ran a 5-room bed & breakfast inn featuring a waterfall in its park-like 30-acre setting. This chapter in my story could be a book in itself. But I was definitely working for myself -- with the exception of part-time work taking unemployment claims in order to retain my health insurance and two more excursions as a political appointee [while still running the bed & breakfast and commuting 85-miles to work each day].
In 2005, I took a different path to become chief fund-raiser for the Make-A-Wish Foundation of Middle Tennessee. Incoming annual funding increased by 225% over a four-year period. In my communications role, I collaborated with entertainment industry contacts to connect the organization for wishes involving the Academy Awards, partner for the world premiere of "Country Strong", and grant wishes on the sets of "Glee", "Chronicles of Narnia", and a room makeover by HGTV's David Bromstad.
Since my Fall, 2016 move to the mountains-the privilege of writing almost full time, result in "Strings", historical romance novel spanning four generations in Western North Carolina and East Tennessee between 1776-1805.
My life's journey has been filled with a diverse field of career and personal experiences in the entertainment industry, politics, and in marketing, advertising, and public relations.
In my public service career I not only worked with outstanding individuals in the advertising business, hard-fought campaigns, and on the White House Advance staff, I served as Congressional Liaison-The Peace Corps, and in Tennessee as the Military Department's Personnel Director, Deputy Commissioner of Tennessee Tourist Development, and in senior positions on the staffs of Governor Lamar Alexander, Governor Don Sundquist, Senator Howard Baker, and Senator Bill Brock. I also served on the boards of the Nashville Entertainment Association, Nashville Urban League, Leadership Tennessee as well as the Sinking Creek Film Festival-later renamed the Nashville Film Festival. In 1981, I was honored to Chair the U. S. Delegation of Atlantic Council of Young Political Leaders General Assembly @ Oxford.
I studied journalism at the University of Tennessee, but my greatest education has been life's experiences. My Resume does not only consist of career achievements, it is much more. I am not My Job. I am not My Resume'.
I am -- Myself.
My daughter has listened to numerous stories -- some funny, some more of a life's reflection. Thanks to her encouragement, My Resume, Myself is on the horizon as my next book.
This short bio is merely a glimpse into the chronological basis for the book.