One could say that Kathy Springer, CEO of United Way of South Mississippi Inc., has spent her entire career in roles that groomed her for a job where making a difference is the measure of success.
Springer’s career path began in healthcare, taking her first job at Gulf Oaks Hospital and Gulf Coast Medical Center, where she worked from 1988 until 2005. She then joined Merit Health Biloxi (then Biloxi Regional Medical Center). There, she served as marketing director, director of volunteers, and director of business development.
“When I joined Biloxi Regional, I started as the director of strategic planning, and when I left I was the privacy and compliance officer,” she said, noting that being flexible and willing to change and take on different and additional duties were key to succeeding in the constantly changing healthcare field. She also understood the importance of treating everyone with dignity and respect.
Throughout her time in healthcare, Springer says she never faced any gender issues and was always treated fairly and with respect. She understands, though, other challenges women face in their careers. She had her first and only child when she was nearly 42. “There is most definitely an ‘organizational factor’ in being a working mom,” she says.
She insists the tools for success are simple: She rises early and shows up every day. “I’m interested in teamwork. I’ve always been about bringing out the best in the staff that I work with. It’s not about who I am, but who we can be – and what we can accomplish together.”
A ready volunteer, Springer has been quick to work for causes that are meaningful to her. “On many occasions, the community work I do is with friends or with my son – so it’s rewarding not only for the particular project, but the time spent together is most valuable. I always walk away feeling like I’m the one who benefited,” she says. She carries with her the inspiration she gained from a nun with whom she volunteered for United Way years ago. “We visited many businesses and industrial sites together at all hours of the night as the shifts changed and spent hours together — she was a remarkable lady ‚— endless energy. I just remember that time as being very special, and I believe she had a great influence on me to give back.”
She also credits mentors and friends for nurturing her personal development by guiding her and being honest with her, helping her re-evaluate and redirect when things didn’t turn out as she’d planned.
“In turn, I’ve tried to pay that forward and help other young women as they develop in their careers,” she says.
The decision to make a career change after 10 years in her most recent position was guided by her desire for more direct community involvement and to make a difference in the lives of the people with whom she shares her home — the Mississippi Gulf Coast.
“There’s not another place like this,” she says. “I believe we build and rebuild community in many ways, through our networks, churches, friendships, workplaces, social groups, etc. In this community, we are diverse and rich in many aspects – not only environmentally, physically, geographically but in heritage, friendliness, generosity, welcoming and accepting. It’s hard to put into words, but this community to me is about the people. One of my goals in this position is to bring awareness to the community about the work that we do and why it’s important through our partner agencies and how the community can partner with United Way of South Mississippi either through the Volunteer Center, workplace Campaign, participating in events that benefit the community or the Dolly Parton Imagination Library.”
As CEO of United Way, she is leading the organization in its quest to create a long-lasting impact in Harrison, Hancock, Pearl River, and Stone counties. “We work to improve outcomes in education, health and financial stability.”
Springer’s advice to other career women is to never stop learning. “Never work for the salary only; work where you are happy — work where you support others and others support you. Never be afraid to take a risk. Trust in God.”
ABOUT UNITED WAY OF SOUTH MISSISSIPPI
United Way of South Mississippi will celebrate its 25th anniversary in 2018. Since its inception, the organization has awarded more than $24 million dollars in local grants.
Like United Way of South Mississippi on Facebook and visit its website at www.unitedwaysm.org. Ninety-nine cents of every dollar given to the organization remains in the communities it serves, funding local agencies that serve local people.