First Things First / President & CEO


Julie Baumgardner


President & CEO of First Things First

College/University Attended

Undergraduate degree from Transylvania University, Master’s degree from University of Tennessee (Knoxville)

What is your favorite aspect of being a leader?

I love the opportunity to dream and execute. It’s unique, to be able to have a big vision and act on it… consider the what ifs and what’s possible.

What advice do you have for women aspiring to be leaders in their field?

Don’t be afraid to step out, to say, “I’m doing this but really want to do something else. Can you help me get there?” Ask for help, believe in relationships and in people helping other people.

Can you name a person who has had a tremendous impact on you as a leader? Maybe someone who has been a mentor to you? Why and how did this person impact your life?

Two women come to mind: Jayne Griffin and Zelma Lansford. I have been meeting on a weekly basis with Jayne for close to 20 years. Zelma has come alongside me for periods of time throughout my career. Both of them have encouraged me and challenged me not to sit back and rest on my laurels to be there for others.

What do you see as the biggest challenge facing female leaders today?

Women often don’t believe in themselves as much as other people believe in them. And the fear of failure.

Approximately how many years have you been involved with CWLI and in what committees do you participate?

I joined CWLI in 2007. I currently serve on the board, the executive committee last year, programming, Impact the past three years, and I am chairing Impact in 2018.

With what other community organizations/activities are you involved?

The Hamilton County Juvenile Court Commission, Downtown Rotary, Signal Mountain Presbyterian, American Lung Association, Women of Distinction Chair, 2.0 Early Learning and Community Champions workgroups, Leadership Chattanooga, and the Chattanooga Area Manager of the Year award recipient for 2017.

What initiatives are you excited to tackle with CWLI?

I am excited about all of them. CWLI is a well-rounded organization and it’s beneficial to women in all stages of lifewhether you’re up and coming in your career, a seasoned worker, or retired. There’s a way for everyone to serve and be served. I’m always happy to be able to give and receive and have the chance to grow.

What changes do you hope to see in the organization as it grows?

I hope to see more young women become involved and more participation from seasoned women who may be retired with a lot of experience. Those who’ve had full careers can provide a lot of benefit and insight on lessons learned.

What strides do you think members can take to make more of a difference in women’s leadership issues in the local community?

Let your voice be heard in a way it can be heard. Speak up in your different spheres of influence. You can make a difference from the seat you’re in. Say you’re in a toxic work environmentshow up, be the best you, and encourage others. You have the capacity to make changes for the entire department or company if you lead from the seat you’re in and don’t shrink away from the opportunity.

How would you best describe the benefit found in joining this organization?

You get out of CWLI what you put in to CWLI. You get to know people who don’t work in your lane and function outside of your everyday silo. You can hear what others do, what they accomplish, how they navigate the same situations you may be facing. The networking opportunities are invaluable as well as the class and programming opportunities that can help shape us into future women leaders.

Check out Julie’s full-length interview here.