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Podcast Transcript

Leading Communities With Angelia Pelham

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  0:10  
Welcome to "Your Authentic Path to Powerful Leadership" with Marsha Clark. Join us on this journey where we're uncovering what it takes to be a powerful woman leader. Marsha, welcome back.

Marsha Clark  0:24  
Thank you.

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  0:24  
Yes, and welcome to our very first episode commemorating National Black History Month. And we're kicking off a month of powerful shows with a very special guest today who I'm personally excited for everyone to meet with.

Marsha Clark  0:39  
Yes. Well welcome to you as well, Wendi, and I'm also excited about our upcoming episodes this month. This is a great month and I want to celebrate great women in this month and that includes today's guest and since the two of you know each other so well I'd love for you to do the honors and introduce.

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  0:57  
Oh my goodness. Okay. Well, you know, I'd love to. I don't even know where to start other than you know how you have your know, love and trust circle, Marsha. Well, Angelia Pelham is in mine, and she's our guest today. And I'm going to share more about your background in a moment, Angelia, but before I do, welcome to the podcast.

Angelia Pelham  1:19  
Thank you for having me. I'm excited to be here.

Marsha Clark  1:20  
Yes, well, and I too want to add my welcome, Angelia. I know Wendi and Tracie Shipman are huge fans of yours and they have invited me to officially join your fan club. Based on our pre podcast chats, I can understand that so you can count me a bonafide member now. And Wendi, so you can share a little bit on how the two of you know each other.

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  1:43  
Of course. So I got to know Angelia most recently back when we were involved in a local mayoral campaign here in Frisco back in 2017-2018. And we were both supporting the incumbent and Angelia ended up joining his team as the mayor's campaign treasurer. But I had known of Angelia and been loosely connected with her beforehand because of her involvement in the community as part of founding and building a church along with her husband Dono (Life-Changing Faith is the name of that church here in downtown Frisco) and through her work as also the co-founder and chair of the nonprofit organization called Linking Cultures of Frisco. And so mine and Scott's (my husband) company Lifestyle Frisco provided complimentary media and marketing services to get the word out and sell tickets to Linking Cultures of Frisco, which is unique in that it hosts an annual Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Oration Gala which provides thousands of dollars in scholarships each year to high school students in Frisco. And those students like participate in live oration contests where they've memorized speeches. And it's just an incredibly moving evening. So then fast forward to 2020 and Angelia decided to run for Frisco City Council herself. And that's when I really got to know her really well and connect with her on a much deeper level as I was campaign treasurer for her.

Angelia Pelham  1:47  
Yeah, Wendi, I was talking to Marsha before we started the podcast trying to remember when we actually met, and I think we have been so intertwined that it feels like I've known you all my life. And it was just it was an incredible honor to work with you on the campaign and to have you as my treasurer, but more importantly, to have you as my friend and my confidant going through that entire process. It was a new process for all of us, and it was quite an uphill journey, I will say, and having people that I could trust, people who could just kind of whisper in my ear, a voice of encouragement, a voice that says, hey, you can do it, on some of your darkest days. It just really meant a lot to me. So having you part of that campaign was just so special. I'll never forget that time.

Marsha Clark  4:07  
I just want to say what a great example of women supporting women. Absolutely, absolutely.

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  4:14  
The entire campaign team was women.

Marsha Clark  4:16  
Well, yay! You got it done.

Angelia Pelham  4:19  
Yes, we got it done. And I will tell you, it's it was just it was an honor to have all of those amazing women with me.

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  4:25  
Yeah. Okay, so one more first about Angelia and then I promise we're going to jump into this content. So some of our listeners may not really follow their local elections. And although I will say that, to me, they're even more important than the higher level races, but I digress on that one. So anyway, in Frisco we elect the mayor and six other city council members, and each year after new city council members are sworn in, the council then chooses who amongst their peers will be Mayor Pro Tem which is basically the spare mayor or the person who fills in on official duties if the mayor is away and the council also chooses a Deputy Mayor Pro Tem who is third in line for official responsibilities. And Angelia right now is the first African American Deputy Mayor Pro Tem for the mayor of Frisco. So another awesome first for our city.

Marsha Clark  5:20  
Yeah, the three of us that are sitting here, we're in Frisco recording this and we're citizens of Frisco and so that's some big stuff. And I don't want that to just pass by lightly. I mean, that is a big deal, to be a first at anything is a big deal. And when I think about the work you've done in linking cultures in a city that's quite diverse, and yet, you're the first African American Councilwoman and Mayor Pro Tem. And I also love the connection because of course, Tracie Shipman, who helps produce our scripts, was also a Mayor Pro Tem and Councilwoman in Frisco. So there's a lot of deep connections here. And I know we have listeners beyond the Frisco, you know, population. And yet, I encourage all of our listeners to understand what their history of their local governments are and what they can do to get involved in supporting candidates of their choice, as well as being a candidate because we need more women at those tables where big important decisions are getting made.

Angelia Pelham  6:21  
Yes, right. Yes.

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  6:23  
So as promised, let's dig into today's focus. This is the first week of National Black History Month, and we wanted to spend some time at the beginning of the episode providing some background on the designation and how it was established.

Marsha Clark  6:36  
Yeah, and I we've reviewed and looked up quite a few resources so that we can inform and educate our listeners on this. And there are two in particular that I want to call out. One is and that is the Association for the Study of American Life and History. That is the name of that organization. And then the second resource that we dove into was

Angelia Pelham  7:14  
I'm excited that we're even having this conversation today about Black History Month. It's one of those designations that sometimes doesn't always get talked about. And so I'm excited about that. I'd love to add that, you know, as you talked about Dr. Woodson, who actually was the originator of this concept was supported by so many people in the community when this was all being determined as something that we wanted to celebrate. And so it was, it was that mixture, again, that Marsha talked about with linking cultures as well, that you pull in all of the community. And so there was support from everybody across the board when it came to having this be something that we wanted to celebrate and acknowledge in our country.

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  8:00  
Absolutely. Yeah. The catalyst for Black History Month is attributed to Harvard trained historian, as Angelia just said, Dr. Carter G. Woodson, and a brief description of the genesis of Black History Month from the website was really insightful and they say that, quote, "Recognizing the dearth of information on the accomplishments of blacks in 1915, Dr. Woodson founded the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History, now called the Association for the Study of African American Life and History

Angelia Pelham  8:38  
Yeah, I again, I think it's just it's incredible that this organization exists to ensure that the history and the achievements of African Americans don't go unnoticed. We were an indelible imprint and are an indelible imprint in history and for them to showcase these contributions, and it's very interesting that it's not just the contributions of men. It's the contributions of men and women throughout history. And I think that's also the exciting part about African American history is that it showcases both genders as it relates to contributions made by African Americans.

Marsha Clark  9:16  
I love that, too. And Wendi and our listeners will know this, Angelia, that one of my favorite quotes is, "History is not what happened. History is who tells the story." And the fact that often our history books do not tell the full story, it makes me sad that we need to be prompted to have special call out in order for us to know all the stories of the men and women who have created this world. And I love bringing this history to life in ways that are truly more representative and inclusive of all the people who have contributed accordingly, being able to soak in that content at a deeper level when we strike that chord.

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  10:00  
I love what is stated on the ASALH website, to bring the history to life in one's imagination is to walk with giants. I just really love that. Yeah, love that. So in 1926, Dr. Woodson initiated the celebration of Negro History Week aligning the week with the birthdays of Frederick Douglass and Abraham Lincoln since so many people were already acknowledging those key leaders for their contributions. But Dr. Woodson wanted to expand beyond just acknowledging those two key figures and according to the ASALH, Woodson believed that history was made by the people, not simply or primarily by great men. He envisioned the study and celebration of the Negro as a race, not simply as the producers of a great man. And they went on to say, rather than focusing on these two men, the black community he believed should focus on the countless number of black men and women who had contributed to the advancement of human civilization.

Marsha Clark  11:08  
You know, one thing from the research that I appreciated was how eager people were to participate in the Negro History Week when it was introduced. The website that we pulled a lot of this information from shared that black history clubs sprang up. Teachers demanded materials to instruct their pupils, and progressive whites, not simply white scholars and philanthropists, stepped forward to endorse the effort. And by the time of Woodson's death in 1950, Negro History Week had become a central part of African American life and substantial progress had been made in bringing more Americans to appreciate the celebration. And at mid century in this 1950's timeframe, mayors of cities nationwide issued proclamations noting Negro History Week.

Angelia Pelham  11:59  
Yeah. Now this is interesting, because when you talk about proclamations, Marsha, it's very impactful when a mayor of a city stands and reads a proclamation. It means that he or she has had an opportunity to review that proclamation. They've thought through all of the unintended consequences when they stand before the council and the city and they make this proclamation. And so that says during that time, it's a very contentious time when it comes to race relations. The mayors of these cities, leaders of these organizations stood and read this proclamation. I mean, that's, that's impactful. And as a council member, that says a lot because I think about during that timeframe. Yeah. In the 50's. Yeah, think about proclamations that Mayor Cheney reads today. And he reviews them, and we talk about them, and we talk about what's the implications of them. But to stand in the 50's and read that proclamation. It just, it's pretty powerful.

Marsha Clark  13:08  
Well, and I think too, as you said, Wendi, and you, Angelia, as well, those were contentious times. There was a lot going on, and that even as mayors and councils agreed to and supported these proclamations, they did so knowing that there would be potential backlash and all that that might bring with it. And yet the courage of their convictions and living their beliefs and principles, was something that was more important than fearing the backlash that might come their way.

Angelia Pelham  13:39  
I'll just add this really quickly in there. Whenever there's discussion on the Civil Rights Movement and the history of the African American Journey, people often look at some of the greats like Dr. King, and you know, a number of others, Rosa Parks who refused to give up her seat on the bus. But it was a community effort. And it was those mayors of cities who risked being re-elected by reading this proclamation. It was people who stepped out and it was a community effort. It was not done singularly by any one or one small group of individuals. But it took, it really took a village for this.

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  14:20  
Absolutely. So to wrap up our little history here on how National Black History Month started, we began with the inspiration and determined focus of one man, Dr. Woodson, and to what that became a nationally recognized month of celebration in 1976, the year of our country's Bicentennial. And in formalizing the month then, President Gerald Ford urged Americans to seize the opportunity to honor the too often neglected accomplishments of Black Americans in every endeavor throughout our history. That's just, again, in 1976, you know, a white man standing on a principle.

Angelia Pelham  15:04  
Yeah, it took a level of political courage, I would say for President Ford to make such a statement during that time. And so now here we are 50 years from Dr. Woodson's first celebration, the first Black History Month, was commemorated and continues to be acknowledged every year. It's hard to imagine that in just four years, we'll be looking at 100 years of celebration. It's incredible.

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  15:29  
I know. I think we need to start planning a huge event for your Linking Cultures of Frisco at least I mean, you know, it's because it's so aligned and reinforced with the amazing work that you've been doing for years with your nonprofit and the annual Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Oration Contest and Gala. So let's go to you, Angelia. What was your inspiration for starting that organization and the event?

Angelia Pelham  15:53  
I will tell you, we started Linking Cultures about 13 years ago. And it was really during that time, as we all know, Frisco has continued to become more and more diverse as a city. But during that time, there were not any celebrations acknowledging Dr. King's birthday. We would have to go into Dallas for any type of community celebration. And it was just heavy on my heart that if I'm going to complain that we don't have anything, why can I not be a part of the solution. And so it started really within our church. And we launched the oration competition, oration is near and dear to my heart. You know my story. Oration was my way out of poverty. And I won a number of awards doing public speaking. And it started with just an idea of wanting to give back to the community, wanting to acknowledge Dr. King's birthday, and also wanting to give students who had a passion for oration an opportunity to come forward. And so all of that just came together in our Linking Cultures, MLK Oration Gala, and it has grown every year. I will say that the city of Frisco has been involved since its inception. When we first started, it was with Mayor Maso at the time, and he attended every one of them, he spoke at them, he served as a judge. And over the past four to five years, it has evolved with Mayor Cheney, who now is a fixture at the event. He also is a judge at the competition. So it's just been an incredible opportunity to look out over the audience. And you've been there, Wendi, to see people of so many different backgrounds and racial profiles and ethnicities all in one room all under the banner of unity.

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  17:41  

Marsha Clark  17:42  
Well, and I love when you think about the work that Dr. King did through the churches and how the churches were such a big part of that. It's only wonderful, and as it should be that it was born in your church, and you can count on me to be in that room this year because I can't wait.

Angelia Pelham  17:59  
Awesome. Awesome. I'm looking forward to it.

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  18:01  
So because you've hinted at it, I'm going off script here a little bit. Just very briefly Angelia, you touched on the fact that oration was your way out of poverty. Tell us about that. Tell us your story.

Angelia Pelham  18:13  

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  18:15  
I'm going off script here.

Angelia Pelham  18:17  
You know my story, Wendi, but I grew up the eighth of nine children. And I grew up in poverty. My, neither my mother nor my father got a high school education but my dad was incredibly resourceful. He was smart, didn't have the academics or the certifications to show it but just naturally gifted and could fix and repair anything. And he was working on this beautiful old building in Pensacola, Florida, where I grew up. And it was one of the most prestigious private schools in the city. And he was a fixture there, literally, in terms of repairing the building. And the headmaster of the school asked him one day, George, you're so faithful, you're always here. You do such a great job for us. We want to bless you. Do you have a child who we could scholarship to attend this private school? And the school went from like Pre K four or five up through third grade and I just happened to be the child, the one in the eight that fit in that category. And my dad said yes. He said, well, I have no way to get her here because it was literally on the other side of town. And they said don't worry about that. We will put her on a carpool rotation. And so that started my life of, I lived in a mobile home my entire life until I went to college. And so I would go home to this mobile home in the evening but then I would go to school with children of lawyers and judges and doctors and it was an incredible experience. And that's really where I got the opportunity to do public speaking. I had a teacher there who said you're really gifted in this and so I was cast as Tiny Tim in, I know, the Tiny Tim story and yeah, the rest is history. I started believing in myself and my ability to use my voice. And I did that and won a number of scholarships to college just through public speaking and or writing throughout the state of Florida. So yeah, that's my story.

Yeah. And now her only daughter is at Columbia, and is going to be a lawyer.

Marsha Clark  20:16  
Well there you go.

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  20:22  
Using her voice as well.

Marsha Clark  20:23  
So one generation to another. What a different life can be.

Angelia Pelham  20:27  
It is, it is. And I remind her of that. I remind her that you know, your grandparents never would have even dreamed of the opportunity that you have now. And you definitely don't want to get me on an Ashley tangent. That's my daughter. I'd be there all day. But I will say that not only is she at Columbia, I shared with you earlier, Wendi, she finished her freshman year with a 3.98. And she's going to be studying abroad this summer in Paris. So she's living, she's living a life that my mother, who since passed away and my father as well, would have not ever dreamt of living.

Marsha Clark  21:04  
So you had to go across town (Yes, ma'am, I did) to see another part of the world. (I did, I did.) She's going across an ocean to see another part of the world.

Angelia Pelham  21:13  
You are exactly right. And that's always been my push for her. I want her to know that the world is much bigger, because I saw that. And it was because of what I was exposed to as a young child that I realized, wow, I could actually live a different life.

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  21:26  
Um hum. You have to see it to be it.

Marsha Clark  21:28  
Well, and I got to the Maya Angelou quote of, you know, when I know better, I do better. Yes, exposed to things beyond my world, what is often small world of wherever we grew up, and now there's a much bigger world out there. And I want to be a part of that.

Angelia Pelham  21:45  
You're absolutely right.

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  21:46  
So okay, so now we're gonna go back on the script. And let's talk more about the Dr. Martin Luther King event, Angelia. So tell us a little bit of the details.

Angelia Pelham  21:57  
So every year we have this incredible gala. And as I mentioned, it started really small in our charge. Over the past five or so years, it really has grown and now we have it at the Verona Villa here in Frisco. And it is typically attended by about 200 people. We have incredible performing arts. So I, my goal is for this to be not only a diverse experience, but a cross-cultural experience that people won't forget. And so I'm very deliberate about the performances that are part of it. We've had everything from Indian coochie coochie dances to Chinese ballets. I won't tell you what's coming up but we've had African folk art dances. I want people to have a cultural experience when they come. And so that's a part of it. We also have this incredible orator, professional orator who can channel Dr. King like I've never (he's amazing) heard. And I won't give you any more information than that. But I will tell people that you have to come and see it to believe it because if you did not see this person and you had him behind a black curtain, you would not know that you're not hearing Dr. King. (Wow.) And so that's exciting. But the hallmark of the night is the oration competition that actually happens there in front of a live audience. For these students from all over Frisco ISD had to submit an essay from the topic, Many Cultures - One Dream. And then their essays are selected, we screen out the essays. The top 10 essays are then brought in for first round oration. And that happens before the gala. And then the top five oraters are actually then bought in to compete at the gala that night. And they're oration again is off of the topic, Many Cultures One Dream. They have six to eight minutes to orate. We have a rubric that the judges are looking at. And so they can they basically compete and do their oration in front of an audience of 200 people in front of a live judges panel. And we announce for a second and third place winner that night. We tabulate the scores and so they're awarded scholarships. This year, we're awarding $3,000 for first place, $2,000 to second place and $1,000 to third place. And then we have some special prizes for our fourth and fifth place recipients as well.

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  24:23  
And I want everyone to know that these kids don't just stand up and like read from note cards for six to eight minutes. They have memorized their speech and they are full on with hand gestures and engaging with the audience and looking at people in the audience. And I mean it is a moving evening to watch these, they're juniors and seniors right? Yeah, juniors and seniors in high school just deliver a Dr. King worthy performance.

Marsha Clark  24:55  
That is amazing. It's beautiful. Yeah, I was going to ask what the age group was and they're old enough to really understand the power of the exercise and all that it represents.

Angelia Pelham  25:05  
Ah, Marsha, I tell you, when I read these essays, it's moving. And I just keep saying this generation is just so much smarter than the generation before because I read these papers and I think I could have never written this and they reach deep. They're not, they're not, it's not an academic exercise. Most people think that you're researching Dr. King. What they're asked to do is what does many cultures one dream mean to you? (Right.) And so we have Indian students who talk about the fact that they are first generation in the United States and how they have had to become comfortable in their own skin. African Americans and Caucasian students, students of all backgrounds, really embrace what that theme means to them, and they just run with it. I can tell you, we've had the same theme for most of the competition, but I've yet to hear one speech that sounds like another. So it just goes to show you how powerful people take and internalize this concept and make it their own.

Marsha Clark  26:07  
Well, that's the authenticity, which is another one of our key messages is be your best self. Sounds like this allows them an amazing opportunity to put that best self forward.

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  26:19  
Absolutely. And your scholarship dollars go up every year. How much money have you guys raised so far over the years?

Angelia Pelham  26:22  
We have raised, it's about $70,000 that we've given out in scholarships. And I'm glad you mentioned that, because it's important to note that we could not do that without the support of our corporate sponsors. And we reach out to sponsors every year. And I will tell you that we hadn't always done that. The first four or five years the church was funding it. And it was a much smaller amount. But since it became its own separate nonprofit, and we now have it in a much bigger facility, we are able to reach out to corporate sponsors and our corporate sponsors are the reasons that we're able to give out the dollars that we give out. So thank you for reminding me of that.

Marsha Clark  27:05  
I'd love to know more about that because I can maybe get you some more sponsors.

Angelia Pelham  27:09  
Oh, I'd love that. Thank you so much.

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  27:12  
Awesome. Well, providing an opportunity for these bright young students to shine is a perfect example of your attitude and reputation of having a servant leader kind of heart. But so between your education and your work experience, is that where your philosophy on and commitment to leadership and developing others was formed and forged?

Angelia Pelham  27:36  
I would definitely say that. I've always believed in giving back to the community. I've always believed in, there's a scripture that says much given, and I've received much. And so I want to give out what I have. My husband says this as a pastor, and I agree with him, I'm right along with him, I want to die empty. I want to, I want to pour out everything that I have. I don't want to be known as having kept any of the talents that I have to myself. So that's a part of my philosophy.

Marsha Clark  28:08  
I love that and, Angelia, I want our listeners to know you've worked at Walt Disney World, PepsiCo, Frito Lay, Yum Brands, Cinemark Holdings, Dave and Buster's, Main Event, all the fun places. But I also think about having then left that corporate environment. And I was not part of many companies like that but I had a strong corporate environment. And then you branched out, you decided to go out on your own as an entrepreneur and launched your own executive coaching and consulting firm. So tell us a little bit about that.

Angelia Pelham  28:39  
Yeah, it was, I will tell you, it was a faith move. I'd been in corporate for 32 years and I was the chief HR officer for Dave and Buster's at the time. And during that time, the CEO that I was hired on to work with decided to retire unexpectedly. And it gave me an opportunity to pause and to make a determination of is this what I want to do long term? I was driving pretty far, I was driving from Frisco to even pass downtown Dallas, so it was about an hour commute one way. And my daughter was about to go into high school at the time. And so I had some decisions that I wanted to make. And I had to also ask myself, do I have something that I can offer that I can make money with? And I prayed about it. My husband and I prayed about it. And we launched into Real-Talk Executive Coaching & Mentoring. My office is at the Frisco Station near The Star and I will tell you the first couple of months like any new entrepreneur, you're scratching your head and thinking, wow, I left a corporate career. How am I going to do this? And then I will tell you that you know, I've just been incredibly blessed and most if not all of my business has come through relationships. It hasn't been somebody calling me cold that I didn't know. Every client that I can remember that I have since I started was a client that knew me as an HR executive, or that I'd met at a conference or had some type of relationship with. And I'm fortunate to say, I'm blessed to say that I have never, after the first three or four months of getting my business off the ground, I've never been without a client. And so I am blessed. And I will tell anybody that, you feel like you have something to offer, trust yourself and take a leap of faith.

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  30:34  
Yeah, I mean, one of the many reasons I'm always so inspired by Angelia is not only because of her professional coaching work and developing others, but because she really does integrate who she is with what she does, and how she supports others. I mean, she's just, she is who she is, authentic, consistent, whether she's interacting with beautiful and powerful daughter, Ashley, or Dono or peers on the council, or staff, or residents. Like I would watch her during the campaign. Like there would always be that one resident who just you know, has to come up, and they just want to talk to you for the next three hours about their dog or their fence or their thing. Like whatever her deal is their deal is, and Angelia like is like every other person who is a true leader, 100% focused on that person and what they're saying. I mean, Angelia is somebody you can count on for sure to be present, honest and fierce when she needs to be. And I love that.

Angelia Pelham  31:38  
Thank you, Wendi. Yes, there is that fear side of me. I tell people, there's Angelia and then there's Angie. Oh, you remember? That's right. Angie comes out from time to time. (That's right.) We had to name her.

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  31:49  
I love that. Not Tiny Tim, either.

Angelia Pelham  31:53  
Not Tiny Tim, no. For sure.

Marsha Clark  31:55  
I love it. You know, as I said earlier, thank you for being a leader in a community that I love. I've been here now for 26 years. We had about, I think if I recall correctly, there were about 10,000 population here when I moved here in '96. And we've grown a bit since, just a tad. We are close to 250,000, or something like that and still building out. Yeah, there we are. And, you know, I can only imagine just how incredibly powerful it is for other citizens, people of color to see you not only sitting in that council chamber but also in an official leadership position, being so active and accessible out in the community. And you know, as a woman of color, your presence on that council is so significant for it's the "if I can see it, I can be it" for other people. And you're doing that.

Angelia Pelham  32:46  
Yeah, I would say it's, at some point, it stopped being surreal. Initially, it was kind of surreal to, especially to sit up on the dais and during a council meeting and know, wow, I'm actually here. And at that time to look around and know that I was the only person of color. Now we've since added another woman of color to counsel. But it's been powerful. And you know, there are the conversations that happen behind closed doors that I have an opportunity to plan a unique perspective to sometimes challenge folks to see things from a different perspective. And it's an honor to be able to do that. I wear that badge pretty proudly to know that I am the first in many cases, but not only just the first in name only, but my goal is to leave an imprint. When I decide or I turnout or decide not to run again, I want people to know that they didn't vote for me in vain, that I did contribute. I did add perspective and and hopefully the city and even the council would be better for it.

Marsha Clark  33:51  
You just spoke what I believe to be so true about why we need women at the table, is that different perspective, broader perspective. It's not obvious. It's not common sense. It's common to some if you're living in an echo chamber or if everyone looks and has had similar life experiences to you. And yet yours are unique and you can represent voices that are not otherwise represented at that dais or in that executive council meeting. I just, I love that you're there.

Angelia Pelham  34:24  
I'm honored to be there. I will tell you, Marsha, that like I said, I don't take the role lightly. And I look forward to adding a flavor and a seasoning that may have not been there before. And so it's a pleasure to be a part of the council.

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  34:40  
Well, Angelia, your professional and personal commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion both in the organizations that you lead and those you now consult with, I know that was an important factor and differentiator in your election. Was that a driver for your interest in running for office in the first place?

Angelia Pelham  35:00  
Yeah, you know, I would say, Wendi, it, yes and no. As an African American woman, woman of color, this is a suit that I can't take off. It's what I wear every day of my life 24/7. And everything I do is through that lens. And so that's the yes part of it, as I'm always thinking about how I show up because I am a woman and because I'm a woman of color. But it wasn't that that was the impetus for running. For me, I felt that I had 32 years of corporate experience that I could bring to the table. And in many veins, running a city is a lot like running an organization. And so I knew that a lot of my corporate experience would be value added to the decision making of a growing city. And so that was really for me, the impetus is I felt I had something to offer. And I felt that what I had to offer was the right time for this particular counsel. The added benefit is I was a woman and a woman of color and so that was to me kind of the icing on the cake. But the cake was really more about the experiences that I brought to the table.

Marsha Clark  36:15  
But I have to tell you, one of the things that impresses me is that knowing that you were part of another person's campaign, and all that you see sort of in the back room of politics which I mean, I have to tell you, I have to take a break from the national politics every now and then because it just drives me crazy. And so I am glad that it drew you in instead of sending you away. So I just have to say that.

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  36:39  
Yeah, that's a great point, Marsha, because we got lucky she didn't get dragged into a nasty campaign for her first experience because it might have turned her away and we would have lost such a fantastic person on the council. Angelia, any thoughts to add to that?

Angelia Pelham  36:55  
Yeah, I would agree. I think that it's important, too, for people to realize that local politics takes on or can take on a little bit of a different personality than national or even state politics because when we are together as a council, we don't experience a lot of the same things that people see on a national level. We have a job to do. We're all volunteers at the end of the day, and we've got to make quick decisions about the growth of the city. And so we don't get into some of the drama, I would say, that some of the other levels of elected officials get involved with so I've been very pleased with that. We keep it pretty civil here at the local level. And hopefully the residents can see that

Marsha Clark  37:40  
I also think about you're more likely to see people at the grocery store, walking the dog, you know. You've got to come face to face with your constituents more than people who are, you know, flown to Washington, DC to do their jobs. So I'm thinking that has another added urgency and intimacy associated.

Angelia Pelham  38:01  
You're so right, Marsha, I see people everywhere, and I'm out and about quite a bit. So I would definitely say that that level of accountability also keeps us in check for sure. No doubt.

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  38:12  
How has it changed you over the course of the past year and a half since you were sworn in? I know you've been very intentional about bringing your unique perspectives and skill sets to the table. So how has that changed you?

Angelia Pelham  38:25  
I would say, you know, for me, it's been an incredible journey. I will definitely say that it's been one that it's not for the faint of heart. You find that you have to structure your life around being on council. It is not, at least for me, it is not a check the box. There are times that I have to say no to events and I hate doing that, because I really want to be accessible. But for the most part, if I can be there, if a resident is having a grand opening of a business, or they're having an event that they'd like for me to be there and they reach out to me, my goal is to try to be there. And so I would say it's time management has probably been the biggest thing for me is trying to fit in everything. When I left corporate I was on such a hard grind. I had two assistants, my, I was traveling quite a bit, I had a daughter at home, my husband, I was on a number of boards. And so my life was just so on point all the time in terms of schedule. And now that I have control of my own schedule, it's being mindful of my time and what I accept, what I don't accept, I think is just been probably the biggest challenge for me and trying to keep it all together and not lose sight of self, which I think is also important.

Marsha Clark  39:41  
So I'm curious about, and this is maybe a variation on some things we've talked about, but you said when you first realized you're sitting at the dais and I am now a council woman and what were some of the early decisions that you had to contribute your thinking to, or that are memorable in the sense of I brought a different perspective. And I'm just curious about that, those initial moments, initial times as a council woman.

Angelia Pelham  40:08  
Yeah, you know, it's interesting, because I found in many cases that I did have a unique voice. And so it's much like many people, women in particular, when you are the only and you say something, and the room is quiet. And, you know, you have to stand behind what you said. And so I've had those experiences where my perspective was unique, and I would put it out there and the room is silent. And you know, you just move on, I think it requires a certain level of confidence and courage to sit in that seat. But I would say unique perspective in terms of maybe some tangible decisions, we'd only known one city manager, everybody knows that, George Purefoy for 35 years. And so we had never, as a city, selected a city manager before. And it was the responsibility of the city council to do that. And so having done CEO C Suite selections for 30 plus years, I had a unique voice, right, in terms of how we should make decisions on the search firm, questions to ask the search firm, how should the search process go? So I had that opportunity that was probably very different than anybody else on counci., I had done executive searches before. And so being able to be a part of that was really important. And it was a very unique experience for the council, and to be able to have my experience, I think, was very helpful during that one in particular.

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  41:35  
And you also were you are instrumental in working with the police and fire departments around their diversity of recruitment process. Talk about that a little bit.

Angelia Pelham  41:45  
Yeah, I had an opportunity to meet with one of our firefighters for coffee...and we just started talking. He was a man of color and we started talking about the opportunity to improve diversity representation within the fire department, and realizing that it was also an opportunity for us with our police department as well. And it's like I said earlier, you can point the finger out, why don't they do something about it, or you can realize that I am now a part of the they. And I thought why not get the community involved, why not get the diversity of the community involved in helping to surface candidates for these positions? And I approached both of the chiefs, Chief of Police and Chief of Fire and threw out the idea of just having a community event where we invited the community from a diverse lens to help us find talent and they both jumped at it. They both wanted to improve their diversity numbers, and so they partner with me to host this event and we invited the community. We put out a very clear flyer that said we want it to focus on increasing diversity in public safety careers, and put it out there and we had about 60 people who showed up for that event and for our city. Really good. And I'm still working to see if we had any candidates that actually flowed through to hire. We had a number of people that were there that either were, we wanted two types of people to come to the event and we and we were clear on the flyer. We either want you to be an ambassador for public safety career so that you could go out and share with others the opportunities, or we want you to be an applicant and actually be somebody that applied. And so I have to research with police and fire to see how many actual applicants have flowed through the process and were hired, but it was a great first step to let the community know that we're aware of that (It's important) and we're aware that we need to do better. And so that accountability, I think, was very clear when we had that event.

Marsha Clark  43:41  
I'm also just thinking. Okay, this is, I'm an idea person. Yes, I think out loud. So I'm just wondering with, you know, the University of North Texas campus that's now in the city, Collin College that's here, being able to even partner with them to have some sort of program that could be a transition step from high school to some college and then the protective services for the city.

Angelia Pelham  44:06  
I agree. I think that's a phenomenal idea. We actually had a number of our FISD board trustees that were at the event as well who took up the mantle of saying, hey, how do we help bridge the gap even from high school, because for fire, police, that's not required. And so how do we help start that early at junior/senior level, of wanting to build a career in public safety? So those avenues, I think, are great opportunities to build that pipeline for them, too.

Marsha Clark  44:37  
I do, too.

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  44:37  
So is there anything that has surprised you since you've been elected to City Council? Now we're going to... total giddy.

Angelia Pelham  44:48  
You know, I would say I get asked that question a lot. And I would say that there's not been anything that's been surprising and I think that's in part because of my experience, you know, being an HR executive in corporate for 30 plus years, there's probably not a whole lot that surprises you. We see it all as HR professionals. So no, there's there's not been anything that's been surprising. I think just, for me, it's been the gravity of preparing for the decision. People see us at a council meeting every first and third Tuesday and make decisions. And it looks like we're making decisions, like, you know, in the moment when somebody presents and we either approve or not approve. But there's a lot of work, a lot of reading a lot of meetings that go along behind the scenes that help you make that decision. And so I think probably for me, it's just realizing the magnitude of the work that happens before you step foot on that dais on a Tuesday night.

Marsha Clark  45:49  
Yeah, I think about 20 or so years ago, I was working with the City Council way back when, and when they got their first iPads and when they got their first electronic package of material to review. And it was lengthy and there was a lot of work went into getting you prepared to be able to make the decisions that you make.

Angelia Pelham  46:08  
Yeah, it's a lot. And so it's building in that time, you know. For me, it wasn't so much building in just the time for the meetings, but building in the time for the preparation for the meeting.

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  46:20  
Right. Yeah, one thing that I want to let all of our listeners know is that in Frisco, Texas, our city council representatives aren't paid. They receive a small monthly stipend that helps them defray some of their expenses, but it's not a salary. So this is a volunteer role for city council and the mayor and then when you add on top of that time that they're dedicating to the community in their city council roles. I mean, and then you still serve on a couple of boards too, Angelia. I mean, this is a big commitment.

Angelia Pelham  46:55  
Yeah, I do. I serve on three boards, two of which are paid opportunity. So I want to be clear there, because it's, yes. There are some volunteers in there, there's no conflict of interest. But two of those are paid boards that are with a private equity firm out of New York. And so that's a Care and Family Home Resource Center. But my volunteer board is on the Medical City Plano and Medical City Frisco hospitals, and I absolutely love sitting on those boards and contributing. It's just been phenomenal.

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  47:32  
Yeah, for the spare hobby activities. Yes, in my spare time.

Marsha Clark  47:37  
Yeah. And I have a question. We may have some listeners, and I hope we do, that might be considering their own public office runs. And I know for some that starting on the boards of their homeowners association, or their PTAs, or whatever that might be, if you were giving advice to someone who might be considering public office, and not just in the terms of time, but even money, support systems, focus areas and all of that, what would you say to someone who's thinking about running for office?

Angelia Pelham  48:10  
I would say count the cost and not and when I say that, not talking about financial cost, but look at what it means to run. People see sometimes what appears to be the glamorous side of, you know, showing up and doing photo ops and cutting ribbons, all of those fun, glitzy things. But I think you've got to have a passion for this. You've got to have a passion for anything that you do. And I think you've got to have a passion for the city that you want to serve. You have to believe in the city and want to see it reach its full potential. And you've got to make sure that you have the time to commit to it. Because for me, I never want to check the box. I never want to do anything halfway. And so that means you've got to carve out hours of time to read through the materials that you talk about, talk and interview with people who can answer questions for you, and then be at social events. I think that's probably the biggest thing for me is showing up to the community events that are happening throughout the city. One of the things that many people do when they're running for office is they're at every event and Wendi knows this. We were everywhere. We showed up at every event. But the moment that you get elected by those same people, you, it's a disappearing act. Like disappearing ink, you don't see them anymore. And I never wanted that to be my legacy. I wanted to govern like I campaigned and I wanted to not only be present and at these events during my campaign, I wanted to also be there during the governing and so that's the other piece that you got to count the cost of. Am I going to be present, fully present, at these events because if your city is like Frisco, there are a lot of different opportunities to get involved and be present at.

Marsha Clark  49:58  
I love what you're saying about being present, not just physically present, but really being there to listen to and hear what people are thinking, feeling, saying, seeing and be able to give them a glimpse into their government. And I think about local government as the place that probably has the biggest impact on any one of us. I know, as you said, there's state and federal things going on, for sure. But when I look at what's impacting, and it's not just identifying the problems, but this is an opportunity to be at the table and influence what's going to be done to address those issues and challenges that we see as meaningful and serious in our lives.

Angelia Pelham  50:40  

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  50:40  
Yeah. Well, I don't want this episode to end, but... so Angelia, as we wrap up our conversation, what are your key takeaways, final thoughts, parting words of wisdom?

Angelia Pelham  50:51  
First of all, thank you for having me. It's been an honor to be here and to have this conversation with you and always to be able to share my stories. Just an incredible opportunity. I would say, show up and be authentic. And those are the two things that I have held near and dear to my heart as an executive in corporate and the same I carry with me in my role on counsel. And it's the same thing that I tell my daughter. Show up, be present and be authentic. Be your true, authentic self. That way, you never have to worry about who was I in that meeting? What was I with that person, because if you have all of these faces, it's hard to keep up with the faces. So, it's just be who you genuinely are and be ever present. And that's really kind of my parting words for anyone considering running for office or doing anything. (Yes) Be present and be authentic, be your unique self. You were made who you are. I believe in a scripture that says that you were wonderfully and uniquely made. Be true to that.

Marsha Clark  51:54  
And I just want to say too that this idea of being authentic, what I hear in your story, and what I value in the people who are in leadership roles regardless of the kind, is listening to those you serve and you know, you saying you want to govern in the same way that you ran your campaign, and staying in touch with the realities of the people you are serving I think is a true statement, no matter whether it's a government official, or an elected official or a leader of a for profit, not for profit, hospital, school, whatever it might be. And I appreciate that you do that on a regular basis.

Angelia Pelham  52:33  
Thank you. Thank you, Marsha.

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  52:34  
Well, Angelia, thank you so much for being here with us today. Marsha, I feel like this was a great and authentic conversation, which is so relevant to the title of this whole show. And so for anyone who wants to learn more about Angelia's company, it's called Real-Talk Executive Coaching & Mentoring. And her specialty is on supporting executive women in the workplace. And her website is and we'll have all of that in the show notes transcript.

Marsha Clark  53:09  
All right. Well, again, let me add my thank you for being here today and helping us celebrate Black History Month.

Angelia Pelham  53:14  
Thank you for having me.

Marsha Clark  53:16  
Yes, it's been wonderful.

Wendi McGowan-Ellis  53:17  
Yes. And listeners, thank you for joining us today on this journey of authentic and powerful leadership. Again, please download, subscribe and share this podcast from wherever you like to listen. Visit Marsha's website at to subscribe to her email list and stay up to date on everything that's going on in her world. And of course, you can get her latest book, "Embracing Your Power".

Marsha Clark  53:42  
Yes. And let me just again, thank you, listeners, for being a part of our podcast today. And I always end with women supporting women and so now, Angelia, I just want to say to you that you are another woman that I want to support.

Angelia Pelham  53:55  
That's incredible. Same here.

Marsha Clark  53:57  
Yes. So "Here's to women supporting women!"

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