Women Shaping Raleigh

In Feature Stories, March 2023 by Raleigh Magazine1 Comment

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By The Editors
Photography by Jennifer Robertson
Women Shaping Raleigh in partnership with HMD Construction & Development 

It may surprise you that we live in a city—and in a moment—where the highest profile positions are held by women. True placemakers, trailblazers and changemakers, these women shape and lead our community while setting the tone and pace for all its denizens—including the women we celebrate on these pages. To honor that remarkable truth and triumph, meet our Women Shaping the Future of Raleigh—an elite cast of local ladies who are literally helping shape the future of our city. Think: architects, city planners, commercial Realtors, recruiters, developers and so on.

Inspired by the brilliance and determination of the women before them—from Ruth Bader Ginsburg to an orphan grandmother-turned-successful government spy—they were taught women could rise to be whatever they dreamed with hard work and grit. 

Likewise inspired by the local business owners with whom they collaborate on the daily and united by their commitment “to creating a lasting and meaningful impact on [our] community through design, philanthropy and engagement,” as award winner and CEO and principal of HH Architecture Kristen M. Hess elucidates, these bold women also are determined to put power in the hands of women, building community and setting the stage for future female leaders. “My greatest hope is that Raleigh will have enough opportunity, culture, creativity and affordability that my daughter will one day choose to build a life here too,” says award winner and District B City Council Member Megan Patton. “Our city’s future is personal to me.”

That future is personal to all of these illustrious, optimistic and passionate women leaders. “Building our city’s future can feel overwhelming at times,” says award winner and Kane Realty Corporation Senior Development Manager Kallie Walker, “but if we, those who live here and are invested in the long-term vitality of our city, aren’t the ones planning for the future, then who will?”

4 Female Freshmen | Raleigh City Council

From left: Christina Jones, Jane Harrison, Megan Patton, Mary Black

“I hope to make this a place my children won’t want to leave when they grow up”—so says Council Member Christina Jones, who won a heated race to unseat incumbent David Knight in District E. One of four freshman female council members poised to serve as changemakers for our fast-growing and rapidly rising city, Jones is joined by Mary Black, Megan Patton and Jane Harrison to comprise the youngest and most diverse council this city has ever seen. Intentional, analytical, determined and kind are just some of the standout attributes driving these fierce females in their dedication to public service as “tireless advocates for our neighbors—this generation and the next,” says Harrison. “It has always been important to me that those who say they represent us make sure to spend time learning about what matters to us,” adds Jones. “I want to be the kind of leader I wish I had—one who listens to understand instead of to just respond.”

Jane Harrison
District D | Raleigh City Council 
Your MO: Be who you are. Love what and who is around you. Do what you can. Greatest hope for Raleigh: Sustainable and inclusive development Fun fact: I am an environmental economist with a PhD in Natural Resource Management; I also serve on the faculty of the College of Natural Resources and work for a NOAA program NC Sea Grant at NC State University. Worst advice: Stay neutral.
Fave Raleigh bar: Neptune’s

Megan Patton
District B | Raleigh City Council 
Your MO: Do the maximum and the least harm for the most people. Best advice: ‘We have to remember what’s important in life: friends, waffles and work. Or waffles, friends, work. But work comes third.’ —Leslie Knope Fave Raleigh bar: Heyday Brewing—I love their Finger Guns IPA. Thing you’d tell your 20-year-old self now: Pace yourself—the world needs us working diligently to create the world we want to live in, and to do that, we have to avoid burnout.

Mary Black
District A | Raleigh City Council 
Fun fact: As an environmental advocate, I worked to create alternative futures for the climate crisis through transformative solutions. Greatest hope for Raleigh: In 18 years, I’ve seen this city change in ways that are exciting—yet also unsustainable and unaffordable. Through trust, healing, resiliency, intersectionality, collective vision and engagement, we can ensure every resident can thrive.

Christina Jones
District E | Raleigh City Council 
Your MO: Show up. Stand up. Speak up. Worst advice: This is how it’s always been done. Fave Raleigh restaurant/retail: Crabtree Valley Mall has my daughters’ favorite places to shop and eat! Thing you’d tell your 20-year-old self now: Don’t be afraid of your voice. Give it space and don’t worry about being wrong.

Mary Heath
Chief Administrative Officer | McAdams
For seven years, Heath has been helping transform the fabric of Raleigh with her team through the designs of prominent projects like Dix Park Gipson Play Plaza, North Hills, Bloc[83] and Downtown South, among many others. Not only are these beautifully designed spaces and avant-garde developments, but they foster an environment that allows people to be “authentic, creative and curious,” she says. The self-described succinct, fair and enthusiastic CAO also focuses on promoting diversity and equitability within the industry—and speaks up as a woman in the field who’s bringing unique perspectives to the table. “I hope Raleigh continues to further develop its brand through its people and sense of vibrancy,” she adds. “And I hope we stay curious to continue setting the stage for an even more diverse and thoughtful city.”

Best advice: Transparency in communication is key to building trust. Who you want to meet—dead or alive: Lucille Ball Love most about Raleigh: It feels alive with the perfect amount of energy, good food and good vibes. Fave Raleigh restaurant: Sitti

Kallie Walker
Senior Development Manager | Kane Realty Corporation
In her eight-year career at Kane Realty, Walker has overseen more than $1 billion in development projects across the city—from The Dillon in Downtown to the Peace Raleigh Apartments and Publix grocery store at Smoky Hollow to the North Hills Main District Expansion Project. In essence, Walker has literally helped shape the skyline of Raleigh tremendously. “These projects create the places where Raleigh residents will live, work, eat, shop and spend their free time,” says Walker, “and it is truly an honor to have even a small part in shaping our community.” And not only is she shaping the city itself, but also the city’s potential future leaders as a guardian ad litem for Wake County.

Your MO: If not us, who? If not here, where? Greatest hope for Raleigh: That it continues to grow smart & sustainably Best advice: Look at everything through a funnel—start with the big picture and funnel down to the details. Love most about Raleigh: It’s the perfect mixture of dense yet attainable,
energetic yet unassuming. 

Alaina Money-Garman
Founder & CEO | Garman Homes
Literally making Raleigh a place we love to call home is this leading homebuilding lady who’s putting a new spin on the term “homemaker.” Not only does Money-Garman build up her company’s presence, but she gives back to the community through Habitat for Humanity; the 2015 Miracle Home for Duke Children’s Hospital; Operation Coming Home, an org that helps gift homes to the widows and families of fallen soldiers; and the Farm at Penny Lane, a program that helps people with mental illness find affordable abodes. And, as a mom to five teenagers (whew!) and a wife to her “partner in business and life” Jim Garman, she’s a superhero in her own home too. And she’s poised to keep building Raleigh up—for all.

Your MO: ‘Once in a Lifetime’ by Talking Heads—the lyrics remind me to stay intentional with my thoughts and actions. Fave Raleigh spot: North Hills What you love most about Raleigh: I love it isn’t trying to be like any other city—it honors the old while also making space for the new.  

Kristen M. Hess
CEO and Principal | HH Architecture
After nearly two decades at the helm of HH Architecture, this Indiana-born and NC-bred NCSU College of Design alum has quite literally shaped our built environment. “Committed to creating a lasting and meaningful impact on my community through design, philanthropy and engagement,” Hess has significantly sculpted our city—from her work on the Steve Troxler Agricultural Sciences Center to serving organizations and initiatives like Blue Ridge Corridor Alliance and the Wake County Schools Bond campaign. As a Marshall Memorial and Zhi-Xing Eisenhower Fellow, Hess has also introduced global business leaders to what makes Raleigh unique. And as a Gold Award Girl Scout and board member of the Girl Scouts North Carolina Coastal Pines, she remains passionate about paying it forward to future generations of women by “helping grow girls of courage,
confidence and character.” 

Best advice: Take a seat at the table, even when it feels like you don’t belong there. Biggest inspiration: My mentor, master architect Wayne Schmidt… when I was 3, he said I’d be an architect one day—and here I am! Thing you’d tell your 20-year-old self now: You don’t need to know all the answers!

Janet Cowell
President & CEO | Dix Park Conservancy
If you had to sum up Cowell in one word it would be “transformational.” The former NC treasurer, NC state senator and Raleigh city councilor—who has already made great strides for our city and state in those roles—is now leading one of the most transformational projects in Raleigh’s history, Dix Park. Not only will this project preserve the city’s past, but it will propel us into a future with myriad opportunities for residents and visitors alike. But Cowell humbly maintains it’s not a one-person job. “Creating the park demands a partnership-driven approach that taps the talent and creativity of our community,” she says. And Dix Park will certainly reflect that. 

Greatest hope for Raleigh: Be known as a welcoming and caring city of shared prosperity Best advice: Always keep a chilled bottle of Champagne in the fridge. Who you want to meet—dead or alive: Dorothea Dix Hobbies: Lift weights at Olympus Athletic Club

Yolanda Winstead
President & CEO | DHIC Inc.
Fueled by a hope that Raleigh can become “a truly inclusive community where everyone can thrive regardless of socioeconomic status,” Winstead works to pour into and build up our city and its people by supplying both high-quality homes and uplifting opps. And with over 25 years of experience in the biz, she’s well-versed in an array of savvy skills—think affordable housing development, financing and related services. Her great advice to pass on to fellow females? “Don’t be afraid to take on a challenge,” she says, “because even if you fail, you’ll learn something about yourself in the process.”

Who you want to meet—dead or alive: Coretta Scott King Hobbies: Watching NCAA women’s basketball, strolling the Southern leg of the Neuse River Greenway Trail and reading Fave Raleigh restaurant: NC Seafood Restaurant at the State Farmers Market Thing you’d tell your 20-year-old self now: Always, always be unapologetically yourself.

Cindy Eckert
CEO | Sprout Pharmaceuticals + The Pink Ceiling
A “badass in a pink power suit,” Eckert spends her days leading the way for local women—from mentoring entrepreneurship undergrads at NC State to placing bets in favor of a female founder seeking venture funding. To boot, she’s made a name for herself on the national stage (hey, “Female Viagra”) and uses her clout to cultivate a thriving ecosystem right here in Raleigh for upcoming female entrepreneurs while “obliterating obstacles” that might get in their way via her baby, The Pink Ceiling—aka, the “Pinkubator”—that invests in and mentors women in business. May the bright pink spotlight forever shine on this womens’ health icon!

You in three words: Bold, passionate and pink Your MO: Putting power in the hands of women Who you want to meet—dead or alive: Warren Buffett Thing you’d tell your 20-year-old self now: Waiting for it to be perfect is only slowing you down. Go! 

Photo by Sharon Suh

Meredith Kirkpatrick
Partner & Architect | Maurer Architecture
“Honor the past, celebrate the present, embrace the future”—an MO that this Raleigh native and NCSU alum lives out each day as she breathes new life into some of our city’s oldest buildings—at once maintaining their identity while reimagining them for our evolving needs. “It’s an exercise in understanding Raleigh’s past, present and future,” says the placemaker extraordinaire and partner at one of DTR’s most prominent architecture firms behind some of the city’s coolest and most significant spaces—from Trophy Brewing, Young Hearts Distilling and Raleigh Wine Shop to Dix Park. “I get a real kick out of imagining, for example, how my work on the 100-year-old buildings at Dix Park will evolve over the next 100 years,” she says.

Greatest hope for Raleigh: That the growth doesn’t outpace the charm of the city and the kindness of the people. Supporting diversity and bolstering local businesses is key. Who inspires you: I am inspired every day by the local business owners I work with. Raleigh wouldn’t be anything without their commitment to the community, to their crafts and to placemaking. Thing you’d tell your 20-year-old self now: Relax. 

Teressa Merck
Managing Director & Principal | IA Interior Architects
When your grandmother rises from orphanage roots to CIA secret agent, you learn a thing or two about blazing trails. “She taught me I could do anything I put my mind to,” says Merck—“lead with confidence and seize the day!” So, employing that same hard work and grit, she has. Beyond building out via projects for clients like Trinity Partners and Wake Tech Community College, the passionate placemaker builds up the next generation by developing young leaders via myriad organizations such as the ACE Mentor Program of America—and peers via serving on the board of Triangle Commercial Real Estate for Women (TCREW) and CoreNet Global, among others. “Everything we build is a sandcastle on the grand scheme of eternity,” she says. “But the relationships we form and the time and energy we pour into others is our legacy.”

Who you want to meet—dead or alive: Mother Teresa, who changed the world through her charity Nugget of wisdom: You can do anything you put your mind to as long as you create your own definition of what ‘success’ means. Fave Raleigh bar: The Lounge at Longleaf Hotel—it is the most charming place to have a cocktail in town!

Ashley Campbell
Chief Executive Officer | Legal Aid of North Carolina
Campbell began her career at Legal Aid of North Carolina as a staff attorney in 2003—and  has been an influential volunteer and legal services advocate ever since. Case in point: This year, she and her team are establishing the Legal Aid of North Carolina Innovation Lab, a dedicated hub for using technology and design to increase access to justice for as many people as possible. The double Tar Heel (’99 and ’03) is also committed to community service work—whether or not it fulfills her professional goals—and has served on many nonprofit boards that “were not directly linked to my private practice legal work, but gave me huge personal satisfaction,” she says. 

Biggest influence: Charlotte legal legend Ted Fillette Your MO: Be open. Thing you’d tell your 20-year-old self now: You look ridiculous in those black combat boots. Fave Raleigh retail spot: Quail Ridge Books

Dr. Paulette R. Dillard
President & CEO | Shaw University
For Shaw U’s leading lady, Raleigh has a “special ‘vibe’ that invites engagement and makes you want to be a part of the city,” she says—a vibe she is very much a part of shaping. Beyond leading NC’s first HBCU—which contributes $88 million in economic benefit to the city—and being actively engaged in the Dix Park Conservancy, Downtown Raleigh Alliance, City Club Raleigh, Cooperating Raleigh Colleges and Carolina Small Business Development Fund, the self-described “tough and tender” NC native is also engaging in the process of creating The ShawU District. Read: propelling the campus as a DTR destination that will “serve as a model for envisioning the future of higher education, celebrating Black culture, promoting entrepreneurship, providing employment, and creating a vibrant mixed-use urban living community that will transform the lives of everyone who comes here,” she says.

Your MO: It’s a new dawn, it’s a new day, it’s a new life for me, and I’m feeling good (lyrics from the Nina Simone hit plays in my head). Fave Raleigh restaurant: ORO Restaurant & Lounge (great food, friendly atmosphere, super bartender) Thing you’d tell your 20-year-old self now: Trust yourself—your voice matters.

Lindsay Wrege
Co-Founder | 321 Coffee
Hobbies: Walks, playing casual sports with friends and eating—ideally wherever Kevin Ruiz is the chef! Fave Raleigh retail spot: Edge of Urge Who you want to meet—dead or alive: Hilary Duff—I’m obsessed with Lizzie McGuire!

Photo by Mallory Bryan

Gabi Angelini
Co-Founder | Gabi’s: Powered by Special Abilities 
Greatest hope for Raleigh: Get self-driving cars for people with special abilities and build Gabi’s Village (with a swimming pool and gaming area) where all our employees could live Best advice: Ask God for what you want and He will answer you with a miracle. Who you want to meet—dead or alive: Michael Jordan 

These two 20-somethings are powered by java and joy—plus providing a whole latte love and employment ops to the special-needs community in Raleigh. Not to mention seeing and loving everyone for who they are, naturally. Serving coffee and kindness since their late teens, these do-gooder gals are channeling big dreams and big hearts toward the betterment of our city through each of their community-oriented coffee shops—both to national notice (Think: the Today show, The Kelly Clarkson Show…). And you can be sure to see both of these talented and inclusive ladies brewing up more business and good vibes for our city for years to come. “I want to see Raleigh as a hub for social business,” says Wrege. “This is already starting… and I hope it continues and becomes the norm.” 

Maggie Kane
Executive Director & Founder | A Place at the Table
Self-described as “passionate and a lover of people”—and so humble that she tried to pass on this award!—Kane has lovingly combined a profitable business endeavor with an uplifting venture that empowers the homeless community… and offers a pretty delish meal to boot. Inspired over eight years ago to found APATT, this Raleigh-born and -raised hype queen is constantly lifting up our city to be a united, caring and diverse community one plate at a time. “I am just the lucky one to do this work,” she says. “We have the best women on staff, best volunteers and best diners that make APATT a beautiful place to work every single day.”

Your MO: An African proverb: ‘If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.’ Who you want to meet—dead or alive: Quinta Brunson or Michelle Obama… anyone have a connection? Thing you’d tell your 20-year-old self now: Celebrate everything; spend time with your humans; hire people better than you; and jump out of that airplane!

Kimarie Ankenbrand
Office Lead/Managing Director | JLL
Ankenbrand’s mantra is “continuous improvement” (“Growth requires to always be thinking if there is a different or better approach to doing things,” she says)—and it shows. The Dallas-born powerhouse uprooted her family to move to the City of Oaks four years ago to take over leadership of JLL’s first NC office in Raleigh, and continues to constantly bring new ideas and perspectives from other cities to the area in hopes of increasing sustainable innovation and transformation within the community. One of the 2018 Real Estate Forum Women to Watch, Ankenbrand is also focused on building Raleigh out with transformative project Hub RTP, which will consist of office, retail, hotel and multifamily apartments. 

Hobbies: Attending live sporting events with my husband and two boys (Go Canes, Wolfpack and Tar Heels!) You in three words: Loves a challenge Thing you’d tell your 20-year-old self now: Be curious and have a sense of urgency, but be patient while you learn along the way. Fave Raleigh restaurant: Crawford and Son

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