April 2015 Leadership Feature Story: “Got Leadership?” Luncheon

‘The sky’s the limit’

Women’s Council of Realtors “Got Leadership?” panelists, from left, Jefferson County Sheriff Colleen M. O’Neill, Doreen Garrett, founder of Otis Technology and owner of the Tilted Kilt, Erika F. Flint, executive director, Watertown Urban Mission and Sarah V. Compo, deputy chief of staff for state Sen. Patty Ritchie, R- Heuvelton. Photo by Norm Johnston, NNY Business.

Women’s Council of Realtors “Got Leadership?” panelists, from left, Jefferson County Sheriff Colleen M. O’Neill, Doreen Garrett, founder of Otis Technology and owner of the Tilted Kilt, Erika F. Flint, executive director, Watertown Urban Mission and Sarah V. Compo, deputy chief of staff for state Sen. Patty Ritchie, R- Heuvelton. Photo by Norm Johnston, NNY Business.

Women leaders stress goal-setting, networking

By Lorna Oppedisano, NNY Business

Leadership is a lot like parenting: you have to make the best decisions for your team, know when to sit back and listen, absolutely love what you do and know your end game.

“It’s about goal-setting,” said Doreen A. Garrett, founder of Otis Technology and owner of the Tilted Kilt. “Ten or 20 years might seem like a long time, but all the decisions you make today help you make that goal.”

Mrs. Garrett was one of four women who spoke last month during the Women’s Council of Realtors annual “Got Leadership?” luncheon at Watertown’s Italian American Civic Association. The panel also included Sarah V. Compo, deputy chief of staff for state Sen. Patricia A. Ritchie, R-Heuvelton, Erika F. Flint, executive director of the Watertown Urban Mission, and Colleen M. O’Neill, Jefferson County sheriff. Alan Walts, WTNY radio, moderated the discussion.

“I actually tried to avoid [leadership] a little bit,” said Mrs. Flint, 2014 Athena Award recipient. “When I started to accept that that’s who I am, when I started to embrace it, I became the best version of myself for myself and the community.”

As a busy director of an active nonprofit, mother of two and member of several local boards of directors, Mrs. Flint said that balancing life and work isn’t as hard as one might think, saying that she views every responsibility as simply part of what she does.

“It becomes harder if you view it as separate things,” she explained.

Ms. O’Neill, the first woman elected sheriff in the state and daughter of former two-term Jefferson County Sheriff Alfred P. O’Neill, said she’s known where she wanted to end up since she was 10 years old.

The panelists cited their parents, colleagues and communities as support systems that have helped them achieve their goals.

“They impress me every single day,” Ms. O’Neill said about her coworkers. “What I expected was a good agency. What I see is a great agency.”

Ms. Compo, who was recently promoted from communications director/deputy district director to deputy chief of staff, stressed that surrounding yourself with positive role models is a great step for young leaders to take.

“Tap into the network of people you think are good leaders,” she said.

In a close and supportive community, this isn’t a hard thing to do, event attendee Eileen Kaleel said.

“It’s empowering as a woman to be in a town where the sheriff is making history,” Ms. Kaleel said.

After a short stint in the north country years ago, Ms. Kaleel and her husband retired back to the region about 10 months ago. She’s now working toward earning a real estate license at the Professional Institute for Real Estate Training. After living away, she’s impressed that the north country’s women leaders are so approachable.

“They put across a vibe that ‘We’re at the top and we’d love to help you,’” she said.

As women at the top of their fields, the panelists agreed they have rarely faced opposition simply because they’re women.

Ms. Compo, who last fall was named to NNY Business magazine’s 2014 class of 20 Under 40, said she doesn’t see gender as a barrier to success in Northern New York.

“The sky’s the limit,” Ms. Compo said.

Lorna Oppedisano is a staff writer and editorial assistant for NNY Magazines. Contact her at loppedisano@wdt.net or 661-2381.