25-year real estate veteran Velda Lueders receives Diamond Achievement Award
The Conway Area Chamber of Commerce’s eighth annual Women in Business Awards took place Tuesday, Dec. 10, at Centennial Valley Events Center. The sellout event honored five Outstanding Women in Business, an Outstanding Woman in Nonprofit, and a Diamond Achievement Award recipient.
The 2019 Women in Business honorees are as follows (row 1, from left): Donna Seal, Outstanding Woman in Business; Velda Lueders, Diamond Achievement Award recipient; Melissa Allen, Outstanding Woman in Nonprofit; (row 2, from left) Jamisa Nuness-Hogan, Outstanding Woman in Business; Rebekah Fincher, Outstanding Woman in Business; Cinda Montgomery, Outstanding Woman in Business; and Rita Birch, Outstanding Woman in Business.
Velda Lueders of Coldwell Banker RPM Group is the 2019 Diamond Achievement Award recipient. This award is presented to an individual with at least 25 years of professional experience who has inspired and empowered many generations of women and who has had a positive impact on those in her profession and in the community.
Lueders has worked in real estate for more than 25 years. Recognized by her peers in the industry as a successful Realtor and effective leader, she has served as the president for the Faulkner County Board of Realtors twice, was inducted into the Faulkner County Hall of Fame, and received recognition as the Faulkner County Realtor of the Year as well as the Arkansas Realtor of the Year.
The 2019 Outstanding Women in Business are Rita Birch, Arvest Bank; Rebekah Fincher, Conway Regional Health System; Jamisa Nuness-Hogan, Kids World Child Care Center; Cinda Montgomery, Yours Truly Consignment Inc.; and Donna Seal, LCSW. Melissa Allen of CAPCA is the 2019 Outstanding Woman in Nonprofit. These women “embody high standards of excellence, dedication, and accomplishment to their respective organizations, industries, and to the business community.”
The selection committee consisted of women executives outside the state of Arkansas: Jereta Halstead, California Chamber of Commerce (Sacramento); Shae Janner, Brenham/Washington County Chamber & CVB (Brenham, Texas); and Jennifer Johnson, Fresno Chamber of Commerce (Fresno, California).
Additional information about the Outstanding Women in Business and Nonprofit follows.
Rita Birch oversees business development for Arvest Bank. In her 28 years in the industry, she has had the opportunity to serve as team leader, offering training for those just starting out in banking, as well as coaching members of the community to achieve their goals through United Way’s financial courses. Birch takes pride in her dedication to helping others and attributes her work ethic to the time she spent growing up on a dairy farm.
As chief administrative officer for Conway Regional Health System, Rebekah Fincher is responsible for strategy, growth, and business development for the hospital. A collaborator by nature, Fincher has worked with her team to achieve growth in Conway Regional’s number of providers, spanning seven counties. She recently received the C.E. Melville Young Administrator of the Year Award, presented by the Arkansas Hospital Association.
Cinda Montgomery is the owner of Yours Truly Consignment Inc. Over the past 20 years of business, the store has expanded seven times and welcomed items from more than 26,000 people. Montgomery is committed to investing in the next generation of leaders, and her staff of 30 consists largely of local college students. A favorite of area customers and consigners alike, Yours Truly Consignment Inc. was recently honored as the 2019 Outstanding Small Business in Conway.
With over two decades of experience in the child care industry, Jamisa Nuness-Hogan oversees a staff who share her dedication to the well-being of children and families. Kids World Childcare Center accommodates more than 100 children each day, providing families with a safe and engaging environment that is ripe with growth. As owner of the business, Nuness-Hogan is particularly moved when children she once cared for eventually become parents and bring their own children to her facility for care.
Donna Seal, LCSW
As a consultant, national speaker, small group leader at church, or as a therapist, Donna Seal has shown patience, understanding, and encouragement, positively shaping the lives of those who she meets for over 24 years. In addition to working with individual clients, Seal has a heart for health care organizations. She co-founded HEART Consulting Group (Healthcare Employees Achieving Results Together) to design strategies to improve patient satisfaction and employee morale.
Melissa Allen is the community programs director for the Community Action Program for Central Arkansas. For more than 10 years, she has worked to empower families to transition out of poverty. Outside of witnessing positive transformations in the individuals with whom she works, Allen considers the implementation of Project Homeless Connect, Student Market, and Reality Enrichment and Life Lessons Simulation as some of the most effective tools in CAPCA’s work.
About the Event
This year’s speakers were the first seven women to be named Secretary in Arkansas state government.
In conversation with broadcast journalist Melissa Dunbar Gates (far right), the seven female cabinet secretaries for the state of Arkansas shared with the audience of more than 300 their career paths and other life experiences at the Conway Area Chamber of Commerce's 2019 Women in Business event: (row 1, from left): Secretary Becky Keogh, Secretary Elizabeth Thomas Smith, Secretary Jami Cook, (row 2, from left) Secretary Wendy Kelley, Secretary Stacy Hurst, Secretary Amy Fecher, and Secretary Cindy Gillespie.
This past April, Governor Asa Hutchinson signed into law the Transformation and Efficiencies Act of 2019, bringing about a historic transformation and reorganization of state government agencies, boards, and commissions – the first reorganization of state government in nearly 50 years.
A cornerstone of this effort was the reduction in cabinet-level agencies from 42 to 15, resulting in a more modern and efficient way to operate state government without cutting any services. Fifteen cabinet secretaries were appointed to lead each agency, and seven of these 15 positions are held by women:
- Department of Correction: Wendy Kelley
- Department of Energy and Environment: Becky Keogh
- Department of Human Services: Cindy Gillespie
- Department of Inspector General: Elizabeth Thomas Smith
- Department of Parks, Heritage, and Tourism: Stacy Hurst
- Department of Public Safety: Jami Cook
- Department of Transformation and Shared Services: Amy Fecher
In conversation with broadcast journalist Melissa Dunbar Gates, the seven female cabinet secretaries shared with the audience of more than 300 their career paths and other life experiences. Prior to the event, we asked them a few questions to get a glimpse into their work for the state of Arkansas.