2023 Ladies of Distinction
By Shelly Robertson Birdsong
What does it mean to be a lady? As explained: “A lady is a woman who is refined, polite, and well-spoken. She may be poor and have little education, but she exemplifies traits and character beyond her social stature or formal training and intelligence.” To be distinctive or to have distinction meaning to have “excellence that sets someone or something apart from others.”
It is no surprise then, that the eight women nominated this year for our annual recognition as Ladies of Distinction, fit those descriptions and then some. Every year, I look forward to our Ladies’ Edition of YOUR Williamson, to learn more about eight women in our community. Sometimes I know them already and learn something new I didn’t know. But most often, I have the privilege to learn about someone who I do not know and whose recognition in this issue, is both enlightening and inspiring, and I certainly hope, will be for you.
To be a lady, is something that was instilled in me as a young child, sitting at my grandmother Robertson’s formal dining table, being taught where to place the fork and knife properly; being reminded to keep my elbows off the table and to never interrupt the adults in conversation. Of course, I still believe all of those things are important, and I continually work to instill those values in my daughter, despite a world that seemingly, every day, works hard to dispel and squash those elements of tradition, honor and good behavior, from both a lady and a gentleman.
As an adult, and an adult in business, I continue to try to exemplify being a lady. And I value new and additional characteristics of what that means, in myself and others around me in life. Of course, I do try to mind my manners still when attending an event! But I also continue to address my seniors or those who came before me whether in life or in work, with respect. I believe that everyone should be addressed formally – Mr. Jones, Miss Smith – until asked or told to address them by their first name. Even then, I find it difficult with those I admire most. Sometimes our lady like tendencies give way to less so, when life is difficult and chaotic and no one else seems to care about such things. But I find solace, when I am able to remind myself that no matter your circumstances, no matter your place in the world, a lady is something that you can be even in your own personal worse moments; especially when you realize that another lady or person, is deserving of your best and your respect regardless of how you may feel that day. Carrying that mantra into the business world can make almost any exchange a little better!
These eight exceptional women are fascinating to me, and I am so proud to feature them here. I am even prouder to call several of them personal friends and I look forward to knowing more about those I am just meeting here. Here’s to the ladies Williamson County – they are as beautiful inside and out as they are smart, strong, resilient and above all – community minded.
Carey Ann Cyr
Carey Ann Cyr is a twenty-two-year veteran in the mortgage industry and serves as Branch Manager and Senior Loan Office at CMG Financial. As a top leader in her industry, Carey Ann feels her calling in life is to go out into the world every day with a passion to lead, support and celebrate employees, clients and others within our local community. Although excelling in business is a big part of who she is, her biggest accomplishment is being a very active and present mother, a loving daughter, a reliable older sister and a friend that will never leave a friend’s side.
Carey Ann’s passion for music brought her from New Hampshire to Williamson County. While trying to navigate her career path, Carey Ann worked at Cozymels Mexican Restaurant, where she was subsequently introduced to the mortgage business. Within a short amount of time, she began climbing the corporate ladder, beginning with assistant work, then operations, on to sales, eventually to leadership and now managing and operating one of the top leading mortgage teams in the state of Tennessee called: CareyAnn & MyMortgageTeam.
Carey Ann admits, “I am so very grateful to my parents who raised me with an understanding of class, how to be respectful and how much I can do in life – if I only put my mind to it. So, being a female in a very male-dominated industry was just ‘what it was,’ and I was not going to be intimidated or discouraged to go all the way and reach my goals.”
Most recently, Carey Ann launched a free monthly event called ExecuteHers, built for fierce and fabulous women in business who think big and want to execute bigger. Carey Ann wanted a safe place full of energy for ladies to meet other like-minded gals, learn business strategies, hear from keynote speakers, and, most importantly, know it’s okay to be driven.
Lisa Witherow Underwood
Lisa Witherow Underwood has owned her real estate consulting business, Underwood Marketing and Events, since 2000. Through her career, she has made a name for herself in the consulting industry, particularly in Williamson County. Her journey began after college when she landed her first job as a Marketing Director for a home building company. Lisa shares, “I immediately fell in love with the home building and land development industry and have been blessed to work in it for the entirety of my career.” Her passion for her work is evident in the contributions she makes not only to her role but also to the overall fabric of the community.
What sets Williamson County apart for Lisa is not only its physical beauty but also the kind and generous people who live there. Lisa shares, “I am proud to be a part of a community with a beautiful heart that attracts people from all over the United States.” Professionally, Lisa considers her greatest accomplishment to be the privilege of working with some of the absolute best people in the real estate industry. Personally, her greatest accomplishment is her family.
"I have been married for thirty-five years to an engineer who keeps me straight!" Lisa admits. "There is a definite difference between the mind of an engineer, and the mind of a marketing person." Lisa has two children, a son who passed away in 2022, and a daughter who is also in the real estate industry. Lisa has been a Bible Study Fellowship discussion group leader for the past sixteen years and serves on the Board of Directors for the Home Builders Association of Middle Tennessee, as well as an advisory board member of the Construction Management program at MTSU.
Lisa's advice to her younger self today would be to remember that the most important thing in life is being there for the ones you love. Lisa believes that being kind, gentle and having compassion for others is what it means to be a lady. Her faith and her family inspire her to work harder, be better and do more. In her free time, Lisa loves to travel, exercise, read and explore the back roads of Williamson County, while looking at real estate.
Ever since moving to Nolensville a decade ago, Halie Gallik and her family have found that Williamson County is a community that cares about each other. In 2009, she moved to town and began working for Public Entity Partners. She’s served in multiple roles in her time there and is currently the Director of Underwriting.
In 2020, the citizens of Nolensville voted to change their charter from an Aldermanic charter to a Commission form of government. That same year, Halie decided to run for Commissioner. She ran because she “felt that her knowledge and professional experience could benefit the Nolensville community during the transition.” Her victory led her to her current mayoral position, where she is focused on improving public safety resources and expanding parks and recreation opportunities for Nolensville.
As a Commissioner and Mayor, Halie is committed to listening to the needs of her community and working tirelessly to advocate for their interests. She believes that as an elected official, it is her responsibility to ensure that requests of her community are provided, particularly in areas like parks and recreation and library services.
Halie and her husband, Michael, have been married for twelve years and have three children. She hopes to instill in them the values of hard work and the importance of advocation for one’s beliefs; knowing these principles, anything is possible.
Janet Norman joined the Williamson County community in 2001. Since then, her dedication to the community has been far-reaching. She is a 2013 graduate of the Leadership of Brentwood program and a member of the Lions Club and Kars4 Kids. Janet has been a part of A Vintage Affair for fourteen years and has served on their Board of Directors for three years. She feels honored that the Drury family entrusted her to be a part of the organization and is inspired by their hard work and dedication to the community.
Along with being an active community member, she has been a part of the banking industry for twenty-nine years. In April of 2022, Janet joined Mountain Commerce Bank, as she connected with their values and appreciation of giving back to the community. Janet has always tried to lead by example, and she feels that to be successful in this community, you must have strong personal values such as integrity, accountability and teamwork. She wants to go the extra mile to ensure that Mountain Commerce Bank is represented positively in the Williamson County community.
She believes that growing up in a small community inspired her to want to help others. Raised on a farm in Coffee County, she developed a strong work ethic, rising early and working late. This upbringing instilled in her the importance of structure in life, which she credits with shaping her character.
She married her soul mate, and they’ve endured life’s ups and downs as one. They love to travel and experience new things, making Williamson County a great fit. She loves the rich history, special events throughout the year, the shopping and, of course, the parks. Janet and her husband love being outdoors and taking in the community’s beauty.
Born and raised in Williamson County, Monique McCullough always knew she was meant to serve her community. And for twenty-three years, she’s been doing just that at the City of Franklin. Monique is the city’s Special Events and Public Outreach Specialist, a role that allows her to work closely with the community she loves.
At the City of Franklin, she leads the Special Events Advisory Team. Referred to as “SEAT.” The team comprises a staff member from most of the city’s departments, including Police, Fire, Emergency Management, Traffic and Public Works. Together,they review all special event applications and work with the organizers to ensure their ultimate goal: Safety.
Having worked on hundreds of events over the years, Monique finds that festivals are important to the quality of life in our community. One of her favorite events is the Veteran’s Day Parade. Just after the tragic events of September 11th, local radio station WAKM approached the city with the idea to host a Veterans Day Parade. The City accepted it with zero hesitation, and it’s now an honored tradition in downtown Franklin. Monique describes the chills she gets when she looks down Main Street and sees thousands lined up to honor our Veterans.
Monique’s strong work ethic has always been apparent, but knowing she serves others inspires her to go above and beyond.
Ayla Robertson has been a Police Officer for the Brentwood Police Department for two and a half years. While working in Williamson County, she has found that the people here contribute to the tight-knit and supportive community. Despite the potential for encountering individuals who may not appreciate her role, Ayla finds immense value in the trust and support of the citizens she serves.
Ayla’s interest in law enforcement was sparked from a Criminal Justice course she took in high school. Her teacher had experience in law enforcement, and she was drawn to how the course was designed. From there, the teacher became a mentor she still reaches out to. Her core motivation is to help people, with a goal to steer individuals towards a more positive outcome.
She doesn’t take her responsibilities lightly and knows she may be talking to someone on their worst day. So, she ensures that all her interactions prioritize empathy and understanding. To Ayla, being an officer is more than upholding the law and assisting during emergencies. She also must understand the ever-changing needs of individuals in the community.
Reflecting on her own journey, Ayla would advise her younger self that even though setting goals and pushing oneself to achieve them can be challenging, it can also lead to growth and personal development. She draws inspiration from her grandfather’s encouraging words, “You can do anything you set your mind to,” as a reminder of the importance of perseverance.
Cheryl D. Brown serves as the Chief Executive Officer and founder of the Good Neighbor Foundation. The Good Neighbor Foundation is a United States Department of House and Urban Development Certified non-profit whose mission is to ensure that individuals and families with low to moderate income, as those of any income level, can maintain ownership of their homes. She saw a need and a gap to serve, and she filled that gap by teaching first-time homeowners the process of understanding homeownership.
She also recently served as the first black woman in the role of Chairman of the Williamson County Republican Party. Over her three years in that position, she increased membership by over 120% and raised over half a million dollars.
Brown is proud to have called Williamson County home for the past twenty-three years, and she loves serving this community by being a leader. Cheryl and her husband, Michael, have been married for thirty-five years, and the pair moved their family to Williamson County in 1999. After losing her son to suicide in 2010, Cheryl and her husband, Michael, have made it their mission to share their story with others who have experienced the same tragedy, bringing comfort and hope to those in need.
If Cheryl could offer advice to her younger self, she would encourage her to find peace, stay there, and forgive quickly, as life is too short to hold grudges. Her inspiring story is a testament to her strength, resilience, and dedication to serving others.
Dr. Rebecca Baskin works as a surgeon and breast health expert, currently serving at the Williamson Breast Health Center within the Williamson Health Center. After battling breast cancer in 2008, she returned to her career with a reignited passion and has been helping her patients on the same journey she endured. Since joining Williamson Medical in 2016, Rebecca and other doctors have worked tirelessly to stay dedicated to the cutting-edge care of women’s and men’s breast health and education and technology.
She enjoys caring for the health of women in the community and how the positivity ripples throughout the community. She often witnesses her patients underestimating their own strength throughout their journey and finds great joy in being able to support and guide them through every step of the process.
Rebecca's greatest accomplishment is building an integrated team for her patients, which includes radiology, surgery, and oncology partners. From imaging and radiology to the care post-biopsy, her patients can rest assured that the team is dedicated to supporting them every step of the way.
Rebecca and her peers are determined to stay current and learn new techniques that can improve the lives and outcomes
She believes that being a lady entails upholding the golden rule – treating others the way you would want to be treated.