Each year, five women are chosen by the Punxsutawney Career Women’s Club for Career Women’s Week, which this year runs through Nov. 13. The criteria used for choosing these women are based not only on their professional efforts, but also on the contributions they have made to community and family.
The club was founded in 1930, originally known as Punxsutawney Business & Professional Women’s Club. Sept. 8, 1998, the club name was changed and incorporated as a non-profit organization under the name of Punxsutawney Career Women’s Club, with objectives to promote growth and respect of women in the workplace; improve self-esteem in all careers; educate women; and support community projects.
By Tom Chapin
Of The Spirit
PUNXSUTAWNEY — After graduating from Purchase Line High School, Tracy Smith faced a reality that many high school graduates face: She just didn’t know what she wanted to do right away.
She worked as a cashier at BiLo, because, she said, “I didn’t want to put money into college unless I knew for sure what career path I would pursue.”
Her view of the future became a little clearer having worked in accounting for four years at Wal-Mart in DuBois, where she learned to couple her interest in math with the business world.
“I liked math; I was good at math, but I liked the business end,” Smith said. “I took business-related courses, and I liked that. But I knew I wanted to do something dealing with people. I like interacting with people. It makes your day more enjoyable.”
Smith paused her working career so that she and her husband, Bryan, could have a family: Daughter Morgan, now 14 and a freshman at PAHS, was born first, followed by their son, Garrett, now 10, who attends PAMS.
After her children reached ages eight and four, Smith tested the employment waters again, accepting a telemarketing position selling subscriptions at The Spirit, which allowed her to work a few hours a day during hours she picked, so she could care for her family.
“It was an easy way to get back into the workforce,” she said. “I was interested in returning to work, but without taking away too much time from my family.”
A year after calling customers for newspaper subscriptions, Smith was so successful that when a full-time post on the newspaper’s advertising team opened up, she was approached for the job.
“I was surprised; I never thought of myself as a salesperson,” she said. “I said, ‘I’ll think about it; I have to talk to my husband.’ And he said, ‘It’s perfect. You get to meet people, and you get to talk to people.’”
Upon selling advertising full-time, Smith said she picked up on cues and styles from fellow ad reps and then applied her own methods.
“You have to let people know you’re a person,” she said. “You’ve got to get to know your customers. I want them to know that I know them and I care about them.
“Each customer is so different; they have different outlooks on business,” Smith said. “You have to be aware. The customer looks to you for advice, and they trust you to serve as an expert as how to best serve their advertising needs. I give them advice as I would want if it were my own business. The advice I offer reflects on me directly. I take this responsibility seriously.”
Six years later, Smith has earned two Super-Achiever Awards from The Spirit’s parent company, Horizon Publications, for outstanding sales marketing, and, among other members of the advertising team, has become one of the faces of the newspaper for special projects, promotions and events.
“Since I cover the Punxsutawney area, I feel I am the face of the paper that most people see and talk to daily,” she said.
Outside work, Smith helps with the Punxsutawney Fire Department — her husband of 16 years is the chief of the Elk Run Volunteer Fire Company — preparing food for special events and volunteering for the annual Pizza & Prevention effort with Fox’s Pizza Den.
“It’s hard to have a husband in the chief’s position, not just because of being called out for fires, but he still constantly has things he has to do — maintenance on the trucks, maintenance on the building, filling out paperwork,” she said. “It’s a lot of work, and nobody realizes how much they do, and it takes a lot of time away from our family.”
Smith added, “I’m proud of him for doing that, but here we are sitting down for Thanksgiving dinner, and the fire whistle blows, and then it’s, ‘See ya!’ Even though it is an inconvenience, I admire him for his dedication.”
She is also a volunteer cheerleading coach at PAHS, a program in which her daughter has been active for three years.
“The cheerleading girls kind of give you a different perspective on things,” Smith said. “It’s fun. It keeps me young at heart.”
Her son is active in Boy Scouting and Little League, and the Smiths also attend the Chestnut Grove Independent Church in Bell Township and enjoy camping.
In her own spare time, Smith enjoys photography, having started with just snapping pics of family, and now delving into weddings, senior pictures and engagements.
“A very close member of the family passed away, and his wife gave me his camera because I had commented on it so much, and that’s what kind of got me going.”
Smith said she tests new filters and equipment by taking pictures of her children, and son Garrett knows now that, “Give me one good shot, and you’re done.”
“I’m proud of what I do,” she said about her career. “I think at the end of the day, I feel like I’ve accomplished something. I think when I am in the paper and the public, and people approach my family, it makes me feel good to do something that I hope makes them proud of me.”