Greetings HR Colleagues,
I am Cheryl Lewis-Smith, your HR friend and collegial business partner.
I strongly believe our connectivity in our profession reflects true commitment to making a difference in our respective communities, agencies and organizations. As a tenured public sector human resources professional, I am committed to continued association excellence, promoting risk management, recruitment, training and development, employee and constituent relations, community engagement and effective organizational communication.
It is with great enthusiasm that I serve as president of this prestigious organization. I am eager to lead, while building upon the intrinsic leadership legacy of those who have previously served in this capacity. I stand ready, willing and fully equipped to serve. It is my desire to make an impactful difference in the human resources profession across the globe.
IPMA-HR, now known as PSHRA, has been a significant factor in the success of public sector human resources professionals, and I greatly applaud and revere the efforts of past leaders who have paved the way for future leaders such as myself to strategically inspire others through demonstrable leadership. I choose to invest in the development and success of others while carrying a torch of excellence for the human resources profession.
As a passionate and focused leader, I am committed to active listening, in an effort to blend ideas, thoughts and feedback into tangible action plans within the governance parameters of the Executive Council. My mantra is “Membership Voice Matters.”
Please join PSHRA in welcoming Cheryl Lewis-Smith as our association’s 2023 president, and to toasting a fantastic year ahead. Cheryl recently sat down with PSHRA editors to share some of her personal and professional story. Read on and get to know our new president a bit better …
PSHRA: You are currently the director of human resources for Sumner County in Gallatin, Tenn. What led you to public sector HR, and what led you to your current position with Sumner County?
Lewis-Smith: I have worked in a myriad of areas within HR throughout my 31-year career in HR management, to include both the public and private sectors. Twenty of those years were centered around local municipal and county government, along with higher education. I greatly enjoy the opportunity to serve as an ambassador for public sector interests. This interest began more than 40 years ago growing up in Delaware, working and serving in public leadership roles throughout my school years under the leadership of Governor Pierre “Pete” du Pont as well as future President Joe Biden, who was then a U.S. Senator.
Both President Biden and Governor du Pont appointed me to a variety of leadership roles at an early stage in life that left memorable and meaningful impressions. Student government roles coupled with humanitarian and community volunteerism yielded tangible opportunities where my voice and actions made a difference in my community and state in so many ways.
The desire to always want to make a difference in life spawned my interest in the HR profession. Throughout my tenure as an HR professional, I have left a legacy of making a true difference in each organization where I served. Each entity received a hardworking, tenacious and committed HR leader who always strived to make things better for both internal and external customers, staff and administration on both a personal and professional level.
In 2021, I received the honor of being recommended for my current role as County HR Director by a former administrator who knew I was truly capable of handling this newly created role within the county.
PSHRA: As we enter 2023, what do you see as the biggest challenges facing you and your public sector HR colleagues? And how are you responding to those challenges?
Lewis-Smith: Recovery from the pandemic, the retirement of seasoned HR professionals and recruitment for rising HR professionals, economical restraints in the workplace for training and development opportunities are all priorities.
In my mind, public sector organizations and professionals are resilient vessels and way makers. It’s in our DNA to help navigate through crisis and HR challenges. The pandemic opened our eyes and minds to think outside of the box related to professional training and development opportunities and to service our organizational constituents for their overall well-being. Many lives lost, many mental health issues, many unfortunate outcomes; yet HR professionals all across the globe were relentless and passionate in their efforts to continue to make profound difference.
Creative programming, hybrid telework arrangements, enhanced employee assistance programs, abridged approaches and flexibility in project management was paramount in the last three years and will continue to be needed for the next three years. It will definitely take some time to adjust to the impact, but HR professionals will survive and will be giants in leading workplace retooling.
Many seasoned HR professionals are retiring, and there is a big movement to find aspiring HR professionals who are interested in public sector work. There are notable differences in pay in comparison to private sector jobs as well as other work-related benefits that just don’t match up.
On a positive note, legislation is on the table for increases in the federal employee arena, which hopefully opens the door for more discussion and action for all public sector employees, collectively speaking. Historically, the perception of public sector jobs has been one of job security, stability and security, just by nature of the sector type. However, in an ever-changing world, these perceptions have shifted.
Funding for training and development has been cut in a lot of organizations. Strategic, tactical and critical thinking must be applied to navigate through unchartered paths. PSHRA and sponsored affiliates and partners aim to provide cost savings or practical opportunities to assist in paving a way for successful and desirable outcomes related to needed training and development. Resourceful information is available through a plethora of PSHRA affiliates who truly understand the need and are skillful in making things happen.
PSHRA: Looking more specifically at your role as president of PSHRA, what are your primary goals for the year ahead, and how do you plan to achieve these objectives?
Lewis-Smith: My primary goal is to serve our illustrious organization with the same valor and fortitude demonstrated in my extensive work history. I want to lead and excel in a transparent and collegial manner while focusing on the continued success of this wonderful organization.
It is my goal to be an active listener to our membership and to be an active change management agent; while providing demonstrable leadership qualities to make a difference. I will be a gracious and humble servant leader who hopes to bring out the best in people, situations and organizations. Our Executive Council will effectively partner with our membership and our corporate staff to provide optimal and stellar customer service experiences without pause.
PSHRA: On a more personal note, how do you like to spend your time outside of work, and what sort of plans and goals do you have for the new year?
Lewis-Smith: I am a lifelong learner who is constantly on the move in making things happen. I enjoy family life beyond measure. Whether it’s immediate, work base, spiritual base or volunteer base, I am connected. I am a devoted mother, wife, grandmother, daughter, sister, auntie and friend to many.
Known as a mover and shaker, I strive to make a difference. I serve on numerous boards and committees on local, state, regional, national and international levels while focusing on “Service to All Mankind.” I am a proud member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc. and have been involved with a wide array of professional HR and community-based organizations across the United States.
As far as personal goals for 2023, I’d like to continue to inspire others while carrying a torch with sincere humility, and to aspire to greater heights of service to make a meaningful and tangible difference.
01 January 2023
February 2023 Issue