Georgetown Herstory: A Chicks With Chai Series
A Nurturing Lori Saunders
Strong. Passionate. Nurturing. Confident. Kind. Encouraging. The list is impressive. The list barely describes Lori Saunders.
I have started this piece numerous times. It could go in so many directions. All deserving directions, as there are so many fine qualities to the woman we know of as Lori Saunders. She is strong, passionate, nurturing, confident, kind and encouraging. I think I mentioned some of those already, but did I mention modest? She really was most likely annoyed that we did this story at all because we surprised her with it one afternoon in her office. We knew she would decline our nomination to the Chicks With Chai “Georgetown Herstory” series. After all, she is the first woman of our series highlighting women of Georgetown. I think that says a little something about her, don’t you?
Nurturing her family
Although Lori Saunders is a transplant of Georgetown from Fleming County, she knew it was a great place to live and raise her family from her first visit to the town with her husband in 1990. “It reminds me of home. It has a small-town charm that I just love,” she said. So, they packed up and moved to Scott County where Lori helped her husband grow his business as she raised two boys, all while volunteering, fundraising and supporting her husband’s dream. Now that her husband is semi-retired, there is a role reversal, leaving him to do household duties and cook. “He’s the one and is proud of it!” she said. “And a very good cook.”
She learned quite a bit from her husband while working for him. “You don’t see a lot of women in that field, but he had the faith and confidence in me and that is important to me,” she said. Something she takes with her everywhere she goes.
Lori succeeded in real estate and then went to work for public works, a job that gave her a better appreciation of how hard those people work for our city. After finding her way to the tourism commission, Lori worked her way up through the office, holding a spot in every position and learning about each facet of the commission. She now holds the title of Executive Director of Scott County/Georgetown Tourism. Although she claims John Simpson, former director, “took a huge chance” on her, Lori couldn’t be a better representation and supporter of our town because of her love and passion for it. “I think that is why he took the chance with me. Because he saw the drive and the passion. And he knows I will do everything in my power not to let him down, or this community.”
Nurturing the next generation
As the executive director, Lori’s main job is to nurture and promote Scott County, something she seems to do in every aspect of her life. She nurtured her husband’s business by working hard on the finances while he worked hard out on site, all while raising two boys at home. A task she takes very seriously. “I want my boys to know that my number one lesson was to give them the skills to be men. Men I can be proud of,” she said.
This is also a philosophy she lives by with the ladies she works with at the office. “They are my baby chicks, and I’m the mama,” she said about Bailey Gilkerson and Natalie Partin, new additions to the team. “They are so great at what they are doing and they are learning more and more everyday.”
Nurturing the ladies and their creative ideas is something Lori does every single day for the betterment of the office. There are also two other ladies who work in the office, and they are included as well. “I try to do everything team oriented. Whenever you have an idea, I want to know about it,” she said. “This is how we stay fresh, stay current. And there is a reason they are in the position they are in, because I felt confident they could do it. And they do.”
Although Lori admits she wishes Natalie and Bailey would stay and work with her forever, she realizes opportunities in their future will arise. “I do not want them to look back, I want them to go forward. I want to know we have been able to help them go much, much further than they ever dreamed,” she said. Lori wants the ladies to learn as much as they can as they work for her, “I will be the first person to make any phone call they want me to, because that’s what you want for young girls. You want to see them succeed. I’m going to be so proud of them, because I already am. My heart is just going to burst!”
Nurturing Scott County
Lori Saunders recalls coming home from a trip to see her son in Hawaii, who currently lives there. She joked that her friends were skeptical she would even return to Kentucky because of the beaches of Hawaii. “I was flying home and we started coming in over Lexington and I just burst into tears like a baby,” she said. “If there was ever a doubt about where I belong – the doubt was gone.”
Lori’s heart bursts for Scott County and Kentucky. Every day. “It’s so hard to express into words,” she said. “Our state is beautiful.”
We could talk about the fact that Kentucky’s incentive packages are some of the best in the nation. Or we could talk about how there is 98 million dollars of indirect spending in this state, or 133 million of direct spending, but we aren’t. We are talking about the one of the woman behind these stats and who eats, lives, and breathes Kentucky. And sleeps Kentucky. “I’ve ridden the Horsey 100 in my dreams. I have run a marathon,” she said.
She laughs about her husband telling her about her nightly conversations in her sleep. “You worked all night long!” he said as she laughs.
“With this job, I wake up with a smile and I go to bed with a smile on my face,” she said. “There is no place I love more than Georgetown.”