This year’s NFPW conference is coming together with an outstanding program, thanks in part to conference co-chair Sherrie Simmonds. Sherrie and the rest of the Alaska team have been working hard for months to make this year’s conference a memorable and informative experience. Sherrie is using her leadership and organization skills to help ensure the conference is a success. Take a minute to meet this unique and unbelievable member I am honored to call a friend.
Name: Sherrie Simmonds
City and State: Anchorage, Alaska
Affiliate and any leadership positions: I’m currently Alaska Chapter President and co-chair for the 2015 NFPW Conference. Prior to my presidency, I served several years both as affiliate secretary and treasurer.
Years a member of NFPW: 25
Tell us a little about you.
I spent my 20s in Oregon, working as an office manager for a physician. I became the first person in my hometown to become a Certified Medical Assistant. After helping start a local chapter of the American Association of Medical Assistants, I eventually served as Oregon state president just prior to moving to Alaska. When I found it impossible to find a job in the medical field in Anchorage, I was fortunate to begin working for a state agency, Alaska State Housing Authority. After a few years as the administrative assistant to the CEO, Deputy CEO, and two attorneys, they created a new position, Community Relations Coordinator, where I did community outreach and public relations. Later, following a merger with a public corporation, Alaska Housing Finance Corp., I was promoted to Corporate Communications Officer, where I managed the public relations and marketing, which eventually included the intranet and website. I became active in Public Relations Society of America and later served as Alaska chapter president. One of my best decisions was to join Toastmasters in 1989. I was extremely frightened of speaking, but eventually began to love it. It took many years, but I finally earned their highest designation, Distinguished Toastmaster, and I’ve won several state and international speech contests.
Since retiring four years ago, I’ve expanded my Toastmasters’ affiliation to three clubs, began teaching AARP Smart Driver courses, joined an investment club, and now serve as the CEO (Chief Enthusiastic Officer) for the Wild Women on Wine—Alaska Women of the Vine.
My husband Jack and I love to travel. I’ve been to 37 states, 78 countries, and all five continents. I have a step-daughter and four grandchildren in Utah. And here in Alaska, I have an Egyptian Mau cat named Sphera and a very large goldfish named Georg.
Any career advice you would give?
My philosophy has always been to “go with the flow,” expect change, and be willing to take on new responsibilities. It may feel uncomfortable at first; but it will push you to continue learning. Take online or night classes. Join Toastmasters. Don’t worry about your job description; never say, “That’s not my job.” Volunteer to help on a project; or, if you have some free time, offer to help a co-worker. If you keep busy, you’ll never be bored, time will pass quickly, and the experience may just help you meet the right person or learn the right skill to get the next promotion or your dream job.
Which talent would you most like to have?
I would love to be able to sing. Growing up and through high school, I was a Girl Scout and would often lead the singing on the bus or around the campfire. I didn’t know I couldn’t carry a tune. It wasn’t until my husband winced a few times that I wondered if singing lessons could possibly help.
If you could live anywhere, where would it be?
It’s right here in Anchorage, Alaska. I’ve been here 32 years and can’t imagine living anywhere else. We have natural beauty, along with moose, lynx, black bear, and wild hares literally in our backyard. And I love the seasons. Living with warm sunshine all year long would probably be boring.
What book are you reading?
I’m like someone else you interviewed recently, who always has several books going at once. I just finished The Martian. (Wanted to read it before the movie comes out.) For my book clubs, I’m reading In My Brother’s Image: Twin Brothers Separated by Faith After the Holocaust, and John Muir and the Ice That Started a Fire: How a Visionary and the Glaciers of Alaska Changed America. I recently started 1,000 Foods to Eat Before You Die: A Food Lover’s Life List. I love to eat, but not cook—my husband does ALL our cooking. And the final book is Desert Lost: A Lena Jones Mystery. I started the series after hearing the author, Betty Webb, speak at an NFPW conference a couple of years ago. Although they’re fun mysteries, they make a social statement—this one about polygamy.
What would people be surprised to learn about you?
I used to be pretty good at both hula hooping and limbo. When I was younger—much younger—I won a number of ‘50s Nights contests.
Why is your affiliate and NFPW important to you?
I’ve made such terrific friends, continued to learn from our monthly luncheon speakers, and had the opportunity to successfully compete nationally in the communications contest. I’m very thankful to the person who first invited me to my first meeting and very sorry she passed away a few years ago.
Way to follow you on a website, twitter, Facebook, etc.
Twitter: @alaskasherrie, LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/sherriesimmonds; Facebook: Sherrie Simmonds