Chipley Mayor Tracy Andrews was among those recently honored at 850 Magazine’s annual Pinnacle Awards. The awards are held each year to honor women in the Florida Panhandle who are a moving force in private business and nonprofit organizations.
Andrews’ nomination stated, “We know business and community members are led to a life of service above self. Rarely do we meet someone who is so focused on service to others that they genuinely take on leadership roles, meeting the challenges and adversity head-on to achieve the purpose of making life better. Of standing for what is right. Of preserving dignity. Of creating unity.”
“Tracy Andrews is one of those people. She is a respected leader whose quiet influence and passion to serve – customers, community, Faith and heritage – has had a tremendous and affirming impact in her home community and throughout Northwest Florida.”
Andrews has worked for more than 28 years with Gulf Power Company, spending most of her career working and serving the customers and community in and around the Chipley area.
She began as a customer service representative and was promoted to residential marketing representative, commercial/industrial marketing representative, local manager and now serves as an External Affairs Manager, still working out of the Chipley office.
Andrews’ desire to help her community grow and prosper led to increased civic involvement, including municipal boards for planning and zoning, parks and recreation, code enforcement, and ultimately the Chipley City Council.
In October 2017, Andrews was elected the first female African- American Councilwoman for the City of Chipley. A year later, her council members gave her another first by appointing her the as the first female African-American Mayor. This achievement itself is noteworthy due to the incredible support Andrews received from her peers. It’s even more of a testimony to her recognized leadership and character to understand this vote came within a week after Hurricane Michael devastated so much of Northwest Florida.
Andrews spent the days ahead of, during and after the storm holed up in the Washington County EOC in Wausau, Fla. She not only performed her critical operations role identifying and restoring utility service, but she also represented the City of Chipley and Washington County residents in identifying critical needs and resources to aid the residents of Washington County.
Andrews’ strong and effective leadership during this disaster and her engaged, problem-solving – but respectful— manner to her constituents since then resulted in another first: re-appointment as Mayor for a second term last October.
Now our communities across the globe face another crisis, and Tracy continues to look for the best ways to help her local community survive COVID-19-related losses. Her support as Mayor to provide necessary support to fund Emergency Relief Grants to small businesses in the Chipley Redevelopment Agency — more than 70 $2k grants have been approved — is just one example of how she is helping others.
Another example is her participation in allocating COVID-19 grant funds to local United Way affiliated agency.
During her career, Andrews has served on many community boards, often taking on leadership roles. The list of organizations is long and includes Habitat for Humanity, Opportunity Florida, CareerSource Chipola and the Florida Panhandle Technical College Foundation.
Andrews has successfully navigated leadership and service to community while managing unique challenges. She has been the true servant leader, not acting for her own benefit, but for the betterment of others she serves in her home community and our region.
850 Magazine recently highlighted Andrews, quoting Marianne Wilson: “Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness, that most frightens us.”
The Magazine recognized Andrews as striving every day to answer Marianne Wilson’s call for self-actualization.
“I encourage people today, especially our youth, to not let fear impede upon the greatness inside them,” Andrews said.
For her, fear came knocking when Hurricane Michael ravaged Chipley and when, just days after the storm passed, she was made mayor.
“I asked a room full of councilmen and commissioners, ‘Are you sure?’” Andrews recalled. “Were they sure it was me they wanted to assume this role? It spoke volumes about their trust in me, and I resolved that I wouldn’t let the opportunity be anything other than a privilege.”
Thanks to a citywide team effort, storm recovery has come a long way. So much so that Andrews is now focused on revitalizing Chipley’s downtown, an area that, during her childhood, was a “vibrant hub of mom-and-pop stores.”
“The challenge I think for any community leader is wanting results ASAP,” she said. “Learning to be patient with the process and being sensitive to the true needs of your community takes time. There’s not always an easy fix, but as long as we’re making strides to get positive results, it’s worth the sweat equity.”
Born and raised in Chipley, Andrews graduated from Chipley High School in 1986 and then attended Chipola College before transferring to Florida A&M, where she earned a bachelor’s
degree in computer information systems. An internship with Gulf Power led to a full-time customer-service position with the utility in 1991 and returned her to her hometown.
As a community-oriented organization, Gulf Power encouraged Andrews to pursue new ventures in volunteering. She became involved in the Literacy Council of Washington County and held seats on Chipley’s Parks and Recreation and Code Enforcement boards.
She became chairman of the city’s Planning and Zoning Commission and served as a member of the Advisory Committee for Washington County Public Schools.
“When I think of powerful women, I think of Dr. Thelma Wood, who was one of our first African American female school board members in Washington County and a great educator who served graciously,” Andrews said. “She is still a resource who I, as a young leader, call upon for advice.”
Andrews also admires former Gulf Power vice president Bentina Terry, and her friend Carmen Smith, who is a director for Habitat for Humanity. Both of those women are previous Pinnacle Award recipients.
“I lastly rely upon the strength of my mother, who has always encouraged me to be my best and be all that God has purposed for me to be.
“My goal is to be a positive voice for my community, one that leads with dignity, character and integrity. My desire to serve comes from a genuine love for the people in my community and a desire for us to grow and develop into something greater.”
850 Magazine contributed to this report.
This article originally appeared on Washington County News: Mayor honored at Pinnacle Awards