When you take a look at our beautiful city and what makes it all work together, you can’t help but notice some strong women that are helping to make a difference. Each of them has a different perspective and background, but they all share a love for Hendersonville and an investment in the future of our community.
If you’re looking for someone with a lot of drive for our community, look no further than Leisa Byars. She brought the award-winning Goddard Preschool franchise to Hendersonville almost seven years ago and was honored in 2015 with the chamber’s “women impacting the community” award. She has served as chair of several local boards and currently sits on the board of the United Way of Sumner County.
She put aside the hustle of the business world to fulfill the dream of this successful preschool. Byars says when she was looking at where to build her school, “Hendersonville’s family orientated community was the perfect fit.”
The school prides itself on a spirit of excellence both socially and academically. Every month they support a different local organization, teaching their students how to serve others in simple ways. They are one of only 20 preschools in the country to hold P21 exemplar certification. Byars says the best part of her job is the daily hugs she receives and the impact on the future of our children she can help cultivate.
She has been married for 24 years, has a son that is a senior at Belmont University and a daughter who is a freshman at Washington University in St. Louis. She and her husband love to travel. Her favorite spots in Hendersonville include the walking trails by the Hendersonville Library, “where you can hang a hammock and just relax,” Cafe Rakka with their delicious food and outdoor eating and what she says is the best place in town for a lunch meeting, The Chop House.
Talk to any student from Union University, and it is evident how much Renee’ Dauer cares for our community. Dauer and her family have lived here since 1993. Together with her husband, Brett, they have watched the area grow and change throughout the years and continue to be in love with it.
“I am proud that we raised our daughters here because it is such a special place,” she says. “What I love most is the compassion of our community. Many years ago I went through two serious health issues, and we were completely amazed at the outpouring of love and care from people who didn’t even know us. They carried us through it. That speaks volumes about Hendersonville. We are a community willing to reach out and take care of one another.”
Dauer serves as campus director and oversees adult and professional programs at Union University.
“Making the decision to go to college can be overwhelming and foreign, especially as a working adult with families to take care of,” she says. “It is such a blessing to be able to help our students navigate their journey to earning a degree. I am honored to be a part of the process with each individual student helping them achieve their goals, no matter their age.”
Staying involved in the community, Dauer also serves on the educational and economic development committees for the Hendersonville Area Chamber of Commerce. In their spare time, Dauer and her husband enjoy walking on the greenway trails. They also enjoy all of the city’s sports facilities.
Kathy Raglin knows a lot about Hendersonville and the surrounding areas as she has supervision over the Sumner County, Robertson County and Clarksville YMCAs. Raglin grew up in Robertson County, and while her family still currently lives in White House to make their commute a little easier, they have hopes of moving to Hendersonville. She and her husband are empty nesters as their two boys have grown and gone off to college. They enjoy all that Hendersonville has to offer with what she says is a “small town feel with big city amenities.”
Raglin is passionate about her work as she has seen firsthand what an impact the Sumner County YMCA has in connecting the community.
“People from all walks of life come together and find so much more than exercise, they find lifelong friendships,” she says. “If you want to find community within Hendersonville, look no further than the YMCA.”
YMCA serves everyone from 6 months old to 99. The intergenerational gap is bridged here, and connections are beautifully made.
“On any given day, you can find children drawing pictures and giving hugs to the seniors,” Raglin says. “It makes the kids feel special and brings a smile to our seniors too. You might take an aerobics class only to find someone who is fighting the same battles as you are in life. It really is a beautiful thing to see.”
Raglin met her husband at a YMCA! They have been married now for over 21 years.
Gallatin Mayor Paige Brown grew up in Gallatin, but as a teenager said she couldn’t wait to leave. However, it wasn’t long after graduating Florida State University and working a few years down South that she eventually made her way back home, “where she was meant to be.” Embracing her heritage, she now resides in Gallatin’s Historic District in a 1912 Craftsman.
“I love our county’s abundance of natural areas and historical sites,” Brown says. “The local farms, fantastic restaurants and great shopping make this area so beautifully unique. As someone who grew up here, it is so exciting to see the changes and opportunities that are all around us now. I am fully committed to having a city that retains its character, yet is a place where people can truly live, play and work in good stable jobs—a city that can celebrate its history.”
Brown is surrounded by lifelong friends who all happened to graduate together from Gallatin—the police chief, the finance director and the Sumner County Health Department director to name a few. That is a testament to the area, people who grow up here want to give back.
“I get to work with many amazing people in making a difference for the lives of those in our community,” Brown says. “We all share a similar dream for this city that we love.”
Some of Brown’s favorite restaurants in Hendersonville include Cafe Rakka and Sam’s Sports Grill. She also loves the water, which she thinks is one of the most charming things about the area.
Although Kathleen Hawkins has only been in Hendersonville less than a year, that hasn’t kept her from diving right into the heart of our community. She serves as the president and CEO of the Hendersonville Area Chamber of Commerce. Her family of five settled right in and immediately found their place.
Hawkins comes from a background in business coaching and development, where for the last 20 years she traveled all over the country helping shape and build other peoples’ businesses. With her depth of knowledge in the coaching world, she can offer help with boot camps welcoming new local businesses pulling permits within Hendersonville and get them up on their feet.
“I am passionate about helping our local entrepreneurs meet their goals because ultimately that will shape and change our community for the better,” Hawkins says.
When asked what the chamber contributes most to the city, Hawkins says, “We offer many annual events that help benefit and raise money for different causes within the city. One such perennial event is the ‘Freedom Festival’ which is a large contributor and support to our local schools. But what most people don’t know is that a lot of what we do is from an economic development standpoint. We work closely with the city to identify all new businesses that pull permits in the community and walk through the process with them.”
A new campaign Hawkins is about to launch is called “Hendersonville is hiring.”
“We hope to bring awareness to the area, that we can solve the transportation issue heading to Nashville by letting people know how many jobs are available right here in Hendersonville,” she says. “Our community is something special, and although change can be hard, the growth will help build better schools and will bring a very bright future. There is energy and excitement in our city, and that is what makes me passionate to do the best I can in my job.”
Local business owner Kori Langford and her family moved here in 1992, and except for her college years, Langford has proudly called Hendersonville home ever since. Together with her parents, she owns the successful local restaurant The Black-Eyed Pea, located just off of Main Street in the heart of the city. For the past 16 years, they have remained a local charm, establishing close relationships in the town as they’ve continued to build a loyal customer base. On any given month you can find family celebrations, charity fundraising events or social gatherings happening within their walls.
“We truly believe in servant leadership, and it has been our pleasure to be able to serve our community over the years with our restaurant,” Langford says. “We have particularly enjoyed partnering with different organizations to give back in some way to our city in the best way we can.”
She says her favorite thing about Hendersonville is the sense of local community. Currently serving as the chair of the Hendersonville Area Chamber of Commerce, Langford is passionate about seeing the community grow and develop.
“I am lucky to spend a great deal of time with other business owners in our city,” she says. “It is certainly a blessing to have a great deal of people that believe in our city and want to work together at making it the best place to live, work and play.”