By Megan Sayles,
AFRO Business Writer,

The Baltimore Business Journal hosted the CEO of the Year and Power 10 awards at the Center Club in Downtown Baltimore on Sept. 7. Sandy Hillman, known for transforming Baltimore’s tourism industry during the 1970s, was celebrated as CEO of the Year alongside 10 other local business leaders. 

The Power 10 honorees included Christine Aspell, managing partner at KPMG’s Baltimore office; John Brothers, president of the T. Rowe Price Foundation; Bradley Chambers, senior vice president and COO of MedStar Health Baltimore region; Frances “Toni” Draper, CEO and publisher of the AFRO; Bruce Jarrell, president of University of Maryland, Baltimore; Troy LeMaile-Stovall, CEO of TEDCO; Tim Regan, CEO of the Whiting-Turner Contracting Company; Shanaysha Sauls, CEO of the Baltimore Community Foundation; Laurie Schwartz, president of the Waterfront Partnership of Baltimore; and William Wiedel Jr., president and CEO of CFG Bank. 

“What does it take to be a Power 10? It is more than just leading your company to financial success. Anybody can do that,” said Rhonda Pringle, market president and publisher for the BBJ. “It’s really about consistency, understanding what good leadership means and, more importantly, it’s about understanding that we have a responsibility not only to our employees and all of our stakeholders but to the communities we serve. Our Power 10 understands that there’s a commitment on their behalf to help make Baltimore and the region better.” 

Hillman currently serves as president of Sandy Hillman Communications, a public relations firm in Baltimore. Much of her acclaim comes from her time as the founder and director of the Baltimore City Office of Promotion and Tourism during former Mayor Donald Schaefer’s administration. She held the role from 1971 to 1984 and was instrumental in creating the Baltimore City Farmers’ Market, Pier 6 and the City Fair. 

“Our family has been deeply involved in Baltimore since [my husband] brought me here kicking and screaming a little over 50 years ago,” said Hillman. “I really thought my life was over, and little did I know that really my life was just beginning.”

During a fireside chat between BBJ senior reporter Melody Simmons and Hillman, much of the conversation involved Hillman’s public life under Schaefer. The public relations executive celebrated Schaefer’s leadership and his iconic “do it now” style of governance. 

“He was first and foremost—and I think this is what separates him from some elected officials— a public servant, and then he was a politician,” said Hillman. “You lead and govern very differently if that’s your attitude.” 

Rhonda Pringle, market president and publisher for the Baltimore Business Journal, said their Power 10 awards were given to people who are committed to making Baltimore better. (Photo by James Fields)

When asked whether the Orioles’ recent success will bring a tourism boost, Hillman said the winning season will be very helpful, but the city still requires more development around the Inner Harbor. 

“I think that most people, including elected officials, don’t understand the power of tourism. In this community, tourism is probably the No. 3 economic driver and employs over 30,000 people in [the Inner Harbor,]” said Hillman. “Those people who are employed in tourism are people who need jobs, and this is a great way into a career and into a good family life. It’s important for the city to support tourism.”

As the Power 10 honorees received their awards, they had the opportunity to share a few words with attendees. 

LeMaile-Stovall, who funds early-stage technology companies, urged his fellow executives to refrain from getting caught up in their visions and to remember the importance of the moment. 

“Remember the moment, and stay in the moment,” said LeMaile-Stovall. “That’s what this is about, the journey that we’ve had. All of you are a part of this ecosystem that we’re building to build a more vibrant, successful, sustainable and, most importantly, inclusive Maryland economy.” 

Draper discussed the historic origins of the AFRO, chronicling her grandfather John Henry Murphy’s establishment of the newspaper in 1892 with the help of a $200 loan from his wife. She said Murphy used to say a newspaper succeeds because it “believes in God first, itself second and lastly, the present generation.”

She shared a prayer from Murphy:

“Oh dear God, help us to do the work of the world without bluster or brag or what we call tooting our own horn,” said Draper. “Let us remember that whatever comforts or material things we accumulate in life are only given to us for a moment and to do something good for somebody else.” 

Megan Sayles is a Report for America Corps member.