I grew up everywhere. My dad is a retired lieutenant colonel chaplain in the U.S. Air Force, so we moved about every two and a half years. I lived in 10 states and two countries. Both of my parents are from Memphis, Tenn. We would spend summers in Memphis and I ended up going to college there and then lived there for a few years, so I consider it to be my hometown.
I moved to Tampa Bay 10 years ago. I was working for BB&T Bank (now called Truist) and I was brought down here to be the Hillsborough market president. As an adult, I’ve lived in Memphis, Charlotte, Atlanta and now here – and this is hands down the friendliest business community I’ve ever lived in. People are really community friendly, business friendly and happy to help you get integrated in a way that I’ve never seen anywhere else. So you take the good weather and the sunshine with the good people – what’s there not to like? My personal hashtag is #GoodFloridaLiving.
As the Tampa Bay Partnership’s first Black and first female leader, obviously it’s significant. I hope we get to a point in my lifetime when we’re not hearing about the first minority this or the first woman this – that it’s just, “This person is the CEO,” and it’s normal for them to be a woman or a person of color.
The most rewarding part of my current role is helping shape what our region is going to look like five, 10, 15 years from now. I think we have visionary people around the table who have the right heart for it. When we look at making our community as best as we can, the two big things that I hope we can get away from are making decisions based on term limits for politicians and the bridge connecting St. Pete and Tampa. We’re all one big community. These are superficial boundaries that we hold ourselves to that we don’t necessarily need to.
The biggest surprise of my life was getting named the 2021 Tom McEwen Community Advocate of the Year by the Tampa Bay Sports Commission. I did not see that coming. I’m someone who just loves giving back to our community. I participated in a couple of the host committees for Women’s Final Four. I also led the initiative for our community for the minority local diverse businesses to get business for the 2021 Super Bowl. I never dreamt that doing something like that would be rewarded with some type of community award.
What I’m most proud of is that there are several folks who have worked for me at the bank who have since gone on to leadership positions. I still talk to eight of them. So just having younger people who worked for me, and to watch them grow into leaders and know that I had a hand in that is really special. Some of these folks have not worked for me in over a decade and yet they’re still calling me to say, “Hey I got this going on. What do you think about that?” We still have that openness, and that says that I did something right.
I believe that in order to be successful, you have to have a coachable spirit. If you think about the most successful people that you can think of, whether it’s a professional athlete or a politician or a CEO of a company, they all have a coach. Everyone has the ability to be honest, know what they’re good at, take feedback about their areas for improvement and apply it.
I attribute my success to my parents, Bennie and Carolyn Liggins. You don’t get to choose your parents, and I feel like I hit the parent lottery. My folks taught me that I’m smart and pretty and funny, but not the smartest and the prettiest and the funniest. I think giving kids confidence is really important, and then wrapping that up into the discipline to work hard to see your goals achieved.
I’m inspired by all different types of people. I’m inspired by everyday people who work three jobs to put food on the table. I’m inspired by the people who offer themselves up in our community to be leaders and roll up their sleeves. I’m inspired by all of us who live here in this beautiful community that we call Tampa Bay. Each of us works hard to make this the magical place that it is.
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