SEAT PLEASANT — Jeannelle Branson-Wallace, the chief operating officer of Seat Pleasant, received the Women in Economic Development and Civic Leadership award from the Walker’s Legacy Foundation and will be honored at the 2018 Women in Business and Civic Leadership Awards Luncheon on Sept. 13. Branson-Wallace was born in Washington D.C. and graduated from Howard […]
SEAT PLEASANT — Jeannelle Branson-Wallace, the chief operating officer of Seat Pleasant, received the Women in Economic Development and Civic Leadership award from the Walker’s Legacy Foundation and will be honored at the 2018 Women in Business and Civic Leadership Awards Luncheon on Sept. 13.
Branson-Wallace was born in Washington D.C. and graduated from Howard University in 1972. Since then, she has worked in five city governments, beginning with Glenarden where she stayed from 1975 to 1999. There she worked in the youth and services bureau and was city manager. She then worked in Fairmount Heights and Mount Rainier and worked as an interim chief operating officer for Capitol Heights for one year.
Following her time at Capitol Heights, she had intended to retire. However, she was asked to work for the town of Seat Pleasant as the chief operating officer where she has remained for several years.
“I like to keep busy,” she said. “It was the shortest retirement in the world, but I was bored. I didn’t want to sit at home. I was sought out by two different cities when I retired. I like being busy and active.”
The Walker’s Legacy Foundation, inspired by Madame C.J. Walker, is an organization with the mission of creating a platform for female entrepreneurship through education, content and creating a global community.
The foundation exists as two different organizations. Walker’s Legacy contains their media platform aimed at engaging with people in the community. The Walker’s Legacy Foundation focuses on providing entrepreneurial, financial and professional support to improve economic prosperity and reduce economic inequality for multicultural women.
“Walker’s Legacy hosts national and local programs in major cities like Washington D.C., Houston, Atlanta, and Chicago,” said Communications Manager Rachel Hampton. “Annually we host programs to celebrate women leaders changing policy and programs and advocacy.”
Recipients of the awards must work for the federal, state or local government, a nonprofit, or a development corporation. They are chosen through a nomination process and must be a woman leader with proven impact and commitment to their work.
“Recipients are recognized for their work in women’s policy and programs,” Hampton said. “The purpose is to be a woman leader.”
While working at Seat Pleasant, one of Branson-Wallace’s main initiatives has been to help establish the town as the world’s first authentic Smart City. She piloted the My Seat Pleasant app, and residents can connect with the local government quickly if they need assistance or to report any issues and receive quick services without having to wait for a callback. The Ask Watson feature allows residents to connect quickly with frequently asked questions.
As a chief operating officer, her task is to make sure the city is doing things better than in previous years, she said. Part of that is making sure the town lives up to its slogan of being “A Smart City of Excellence.”
Working in the city government has not come without its challenges. All of the cities Branson-Wallace has worked in have had populations under 10,000 people, and small towns have big city problems such as ensuring the city is safe and clean, ensuring good work staff, and well-maintained streets. A larger city has a larger staff and, therefore, Branson-Wallace has had to wear a lot of hats a do a lot of multitasking.
“It’s always like the job is never done,” she said. “There is not a day to sit and breathe. That becomes the most difficult. It’s easy to get overwhelmed.”
Through all of it, Branson-Wallace said that her long career has been gratifying and one of the best parts has been working with a lot of talented people.
“You can’t be successful without a great team,” she said. “I’ve had a lot of mentors, and I’ve been a mentor, a lot of people have helped me to be successful.”
This year, 10 people from all over the country received the Economic Development and Civic Leadership award.
“Branson-Wallace really stands out,” Hampton said. “Especially given this time in our society and policy where women of color are making strides in innovating their communities. She has demonstrated this for the community.”
The winners will be honored at the awards luncheon at the Hamilton Live in Washington, D.C. which takes place during the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation and Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute’s 2018 Annual Legislative Conferences. At the luncheon where there will be a fireside chat and awards ceremony with prominent business leaders and policymakers in attendance.
Branson-Wallace intends to make Seat Pleasant the last city she will work for before potentially retiring. She will then retire for good and plans to take on the project of writing a book.
“I feel really honored,” Branson-Wallace said. “I didn’t know about it, the mayor and staff nominated me. They wrote up the application. They didn’t tell me, it was a total surprise. I’m truly honored.”