This 2015 cover of Coulee Region Women, when I became the first female CEO of the La Crosse Chamber, helps me reflect on my answer to a question I was asked last week. "Who are my role models?"

My answer: all the women who paved the way before me.

Women in History: I was aware of Michelle Obama, of course, because of being the first black first lady of the United States – a picture of grace and intelligence, whose love for her husband and children exuded in genuine gestures with that incredible, beaming smile.

It was upon listening to her book “Becoming,” narrated by her, that solidified her as a relatable woman who inspires women -- regardless of skin color. Her determination and intelligence resonated.

She lightly veiled in humorous frustration that as she sought a check-box and straight path to success, she fell in love with a man whose own path was like a swerving comet.

Through it all, she insisted on keeping her own identity and her spunk, even telling Barack, “Don’t count on my vote.” She turned hatred for politics into a platform where she graciously uplifted those around her. I now get to watch her post-FLOTUS work with a new perspective and know that I watched history being made.

It is not lost on me that in a few short weeks, I may assume the position as the first female Mayor in our city’s history. As I prepare to bring a new perspective to city hall, I will also bring with me the wisdom, the guidance and the strength of women from both my personal and professional life and those who have influenced me through the pages of history.

Vicki Markussen

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Founder, Engage Greater La Crosse