WOMEN SHAPING HISTORY 2012:
Carla Markell: First Lady, Delaware
What inspired you to pursue your current career?
My “career” as First Lady found me, more than I found it. I wasn’t sure how active of a role I wanted to play when Jack first got elected. I heard Michelle Obama speak on her own transition and she said she was getting started by going around visiting various federal agencies to let folks know they were cared about and appreciated. I decided to do the same thing in our own state. Something I knew I sincerely felt and was interested in doing. I started with Ferris School, a Level 5 high security detention center for adolescent boys. I ended up organizing a book drive for the kids which ended up in a series of good will, volunteerism efforts which ultimately created a small library, classrooms and a voice for the children to share their art and writing. The evolution of that process continues to give me my inspiration.....knowing the difference a person of influence can make in a positive way.
What are some of the challenges you have faced and how did you resolve them?
My biggest challenges continue to be my schedule and balance of family life and trying to do all I can while in this position of First Lady of Delaware. My husband has a two term limit, four years each term, so I know our time of being able to make a big impact while we’re each in our roles is finite. I have two teenagers and an aging mother with health issues and want to be here for them as much as possible. Probably no different than most working mothers.
What are some of the accomplishments you’re proudest of?
I’m very proud of the work we are achieving around increased levels of volunteerism and mentoring. I really believe each child deserves and needs one on one interaction with a caring adult in order to overcome difficult societal and familial challenges. We are working very hard to build public and private partnerships with our local Boys and Girls Clubs to try and keep their facilities and staffs strong to provide the services needed in our community.
Who have been the most influential mentors in your life?
My biggest mentor, without a doubt, is my husband, Jack. Next would probably be his sister, Judy. Jack has taught me a great deal about human decency and making a difference in the world. Judy lives those principles as well, and has also taught me a lot about parenting and family.
What would you describe as a turning point in your life?
A turning point for me was re-meeting my husband. Jack and I grew up together, both attending a public high school in our hometown of Newark, DE. I had a lot of family challenges growing up with in a family overwrought with chemical dependency and mental health issues. I always wanted a better life for myself and was working toward that, but had deep insecurities and fear. My husband believed in me before I believed in myself and taught me I can do anything I set my mind to. He has a very supportive family that have been great to me and through the years. One step at a time, I’ve grown to be a much more confident, capable and secure person. This probably helps to explain why mentoring is so important to me.
What are your future goals?
In terms of my role as First Lady, my goal is to try and help bring focus and attention to all areas of volunteerism and bring as many high quality mentors into the lives of our children in need as possible. My personal goals are very basic. To continue to work hard to try and do good things every day I’m alive and to be the best mother, daughter and wife I know how to be. I always keep an open mind about where that leads me. #