Women's History

WHM Louise Mitchell

WHM Linda Porter b

WHM Sherikia Hawkins

 WHM Melissa McQueen

WHM Ladonna

WHM Angela Cohen

WHM Zoey Touray

WHM Tia Harvey

WHM Karema Dejesus

WHM Emily Cunningham

Linda Zabik WHM 2024

 WHM Madonna

WHM Chief Jenkins

WHM T.Ramsey

The road that led Delia to become Human Resources Assistant traveled through several areas where the public comes first. Early on, she thought crime fighting was in her future, so she pursued a degree in criminal justice. But soon after applying for a job in law enforcement, Delia decided to pursue other options that led her first to a bank and then a mortgage company.

While the customer service aspect of her assignments was wonderful, she didn’t like the dysfunction that prevented her from truly assisting clients. So, she searched for a job that fueled her desire to help. At home, she cherished raising and caring for her children and elderly father, and it is that sense of making a difference that has her loving her work in recruitment and hiring. She wouldn’t trade anything for the journey that brought her to the role she has today, because, as she sees it, that path was meant to be because it opened new horizons.

“If you have dreams, write them down. When you can visualize, it becomes reality. Also, stick to what you want to do. You can’t focus on what others are doing because you don’t know what they did to get where they are—that’s their path. Stay focused on the path that is meant for you and if you want it bad enough you will do what it takes to achieve the goal.” – Delia Corke

Delia Corke Womens history Month short

Markeita Johnson Womens history Month short

After working for years in the automotive sector and then banking, Markeita was well prepared to work in the new Mayor’s administration. Her extensive background in customer service helps her deal with daily critical issues of city government, especially as she endeavors to treat everyone with respect. While she has enjoyed her career, she always considered being mom to three boys as “job one.” Juggling her children’s education, serving on the board of the Pontiac Academy for Excellence and working full time wasn’t always easy. But, it taught her several things: treat others as you want to be treated, remain professional, and stay positive!

“As you pursue your goals, don’t take no for answer. It may be frustrating when you receive a no, but dig deeper and find out why. With the right way of speaking and pushing for yourself, that no can turn into a yes!” – Markeita Johnson

Alicia’s days as Purchasing Manager at the City are never dull because she is always faced with a different issue, or contract or procedure to figure out. She welcomes the responsibility because she truly enjoys getting things done for those who rely on her. She says the only thing bigger than her desire to improve processes is being a role model for her young daughter, who is watching her work hard at her job while pursuing a Masters in Business Administration. In addition to her deep faith, Alicia’s background working for other administrations—City of Detroit, Detroit Zoo and Department of Natural Resources—has helped her maneuver many difficult situations. She says the key is focusing on effective communications and allowing yourself room to learn and grow.

“Just try to focus on what is most important. Try not to be a perfectionist—no one is perfect. Remind yourself you’re going to make mistakes. When you become aware of them, correct them and move forward. Give yourself a little grace.” – Alicia Martin

Alicia Martin Womens history Month short soc and web post

Rachel Loughrin Womens history Month short soc and web post

There aren’t many people who travel across country for their first job out of college, but that is exactly what Rachel did after graduating from Northern Michigan University and continuing more studies at Wayne State. She was so enthusiastic about pursuing a career in urban planning she applied for every entry-level job on the American Planning Association’s website and got the call she was looking for. She moved to Arizona and began working in her field in earnest.

After several years she returned to Michigan with her family, became a real estate project advisor with Oakland County Economic Development, and years later excitedly hired in to her current role as Community Development Director for the City of Pontiac. Rachel absolutely loves the work, which can be challenging when it comes to aligning work from previous administrations to the city’s current mission of implementing procedures to support development. The best part, in her view, is investigating problems and providing citizens and business owners with effective solutions!

“It is perfectly fine to not know something. What’s not fine is to ignore that and not find someone to help you learn what you need to learn. We need to be okay with relying on others in our network. No matter how monumental the task in front of you, don’t be afraid. Just take it bit by bit and work your way through it.”

Angela Powell got her start serving others in high school as President of her Class and also the Student Body. Growing up she assisted her parents, who are deaf, through sign language that taught her everyone can help in their own way. In her early career, she worked in various areas of government—Greater Pontiac Community Coalition, House of Representatives in Communications followed by a stint as Constituent Services Coordinator for then Representative Greimel.

When that assignment with then Rep. Greimel ended, Angela continued as the newly elected Oakland County Commissioner for District 10 (City of Pontiac) and serving the private sector through tax preparation services—a business that now in its 12th year. She has a lengthy history helping citizens maneuver bureaucratic processes and takes every request she receives seriously. As she sees it, every positive outcome—no matter how small—motivates her even more to continue working to help others achieve their goals.

“I live by this saying from Mattie McKinney Hatchett: “One can and will make a difference.” God gave us all gifts to be able to perform and do our jobs. He gave me tools to change the community, do my part and stay in my lane. If you understand that, you will navigate through a lot of stuff far differently.” –Angela Powell

Angela Powell Womens history Month short soc and web post

Deborah Younger Womens history Month short soc and web post

When Deborah Younger interviewed for her first job out of college for a position in rehabilitation, she thought she was entering a field that focused on rehab for patients, not property! But when they offered her the job, she took it because she knew she wanted to improve quality of life. She wholly embraced her workforce development role in urban communities and made a name for herself in municipalities from Newport News, VA to Columbus, OH and then Toledo. Her expertise led her to become Executive Director for LISC Detroit, a non-profit that invests in and empowers businesses and enterprise programs.

Deborah’s mission is to increase economic and social equity and wants to make  a similar impact in Pontiac. She hit the ground running upon joining the Mayor’s team to meet key community members and learn what the city needs to grow. While she says growing up in a military family developed her drive to conquer new horizons, she’s also learned to not be so serious all the time.

“I am very passionate about my work, but I also learned you have to laugh. Take a step back—don’t take things so seriously. When things happen, realize it’s not about you, it’s about the work. There is going to be another project, so relax, course correct and move on.” -- Deborah Younger

Councilwoman Melanie Rutherford sees life as a journey of continuing education where you are constantly learning to maneuver all that in store for you—the good, the bad and the ugly. Her life lessons began at an early age. In high school, she literally sang to win a competition to pay for her school clothes.  At 17, living on her own, she went south to attend Dillard University. Soon after, she became a young mother. As her responsibilities increased, so did her resolve, leading her to adopt Stevie Wonder’s “Don’t You Worry ‘Bout a Thing” as her theme song. It wasn’t long before her hard work in the music industry earned her a Grammy nomination.

While proud of her award, Melanie says success is best measured in how you help others—advocating for those who cannot advocate for themselves. It was that call to service that led her to run for council representing District One, which she says is “the best district ever!” She credits having a strong support network and a life coach with helping her adjust to the rigors her new role as an elected official, but no matter what she promises to always be her authentic self—without fear of failing.

“You have to have faith in what you know, even when there is no one telling you that you are going to make it, you have to know it. It is faith over fear—faith in one’s self, faith in one’s ability, faith in knowing that it has to, and will, get better.” -- Melanie Rutherford

Melanie Rutherford Womens history Month short

Growing up in a family that championed education, Tanesha always envisioned working as a teacher. However, her path after high school steered her to a role in school administration and coaching youth teams in cheer and dance teams throughout Michigan.

While caring for her family, working full-time and attending college, Tanesha established her own successful cheerleading business called Quest Athletics. Quest Athletics has become a National and Internationally known Championship Cheer Program that has taken youth from all walks of life and given them the experience and exposure of a lifetime. In addition, Tanesha is also the Cheer Coach for Oakland University, a MHSAA Official, as well as a Collegiate official for NAIA and an All-star Cheer and Dance Official. Tanesha also serves on several boards. Tanesha strongly believes you can’t be what you don’t see. 

“You need to know you are enough. Don’t let anyone tell you you’re not good enough, not pretty enough, not small enough, not smart enough no matter your skin complexion … it doesn’t matter. YOU ARE ENOUGH.” -- Tanesha Taylor

Tanesha T. Womens history Month short

Prior to joining the Mayor’s administration, Jenee spent several years working as a forensic lab analyst and several more years as an advertising account representative. As a working mom of two and wife of a construction business owner, she readily acknowledges she is the hub of getting things done in her home. That can-do attitude aligns well with her extensive experience in public service and also the private sector. Jenee believes having a servant’s attitude and maintaining a mindset of customer service is key to excelling in her role at the City and, quite frankly, any position.


“Make sure your voice is heard and never lose sight of what your goals are. Never let your emotions overpower your intelligence, you are strong enough and more than able enough to accomplish what you came to do.” -- Jenee Suddeth

Jenee Suddeth Womens history Month short web post

Before City Council, Kathalee James enjoyed a long career blazing trails at General Motors, one of the first black women professionals in her plant. She started out as a Production Supervisor at the Plant on Joslyn, and later, was promoted to Senior Quality Engineer. She maneuvered the complexity of supervising in a male-dominated environment by determining she would always project respect and professionalism. She left the executive suite for several years to return to the plant so she could devote more time to her teen daughter. Once she saw her daughter off to college, she returned to GM corporate leadership.

Following retirement, Kathalee filled her time with cleaning and improving Pontiac area parks and gladly helped to form Friends of the Pontiac Parks in 2012. The group has since worked with the Mayor’s office to tackle funding issues so Pontiac parks could be restored and flourish. With encouragement from her friend, (Jesus), she decided to run for Council in District 4 and has been continuing to make an impact on the Pontiac landscape since being sworn in, on January 2, 2022.

“Believe in yourself. Understand you have every right to be where you are—to work, to make a living for yourself and your family, and don’t let people tear you down to the point you’re running from job to job. Stand on your right to do that, to express yourself and your right to be who you are.” -- Councilwoman Kathalee James, District 4

Kathalee James Womens history Month short for web


Alexandra Borngesser was inspired to pursue political organizing and social justice, and obtained a Political Science degree from Wayne State University. She successfully led political and issue advocacy campaigns before taking on Grants and Philanthropy at the city of Pontiac—a department that, under her leadership, is now a formal part of the City’s administration for the first time! Alex says this move carries great weight with funders who see the administration is serious about revitalizing Pontiac. Alex relishes the fluid nature of her work, knowing that as one program reaches fruition, there’s always another major initiative set to launch.

The following is advice Alex w
ould give to young ladies and women everywhere: 

“As a woman in the workplace, specifically in male dominated fields, it’s important to remember that it is not your job to shrink to make room for the egos of others, and it is not your job to bend your values for the sake of patriarchal tradition to keep the peace. You’re allowed to take up space and your perspective is valuable.” - Alexandra Borngesser

porcheprater Porche Prater has more than a decade of public sector experience, having embarked on a career in finance as an undergrad. Porche has served in two Michigan municipalities and rose through the ranks as Property Tax Manager, Deputy Treasurer and now, City Treasurer. Along the way she’s seen women excel—particularly in Accounting—which she says engages women’s detailed oriented nature and ability to multi-task and lead. In preparation of the next phase in her career, Porche is working to complete her Masters in Accounting with the goal of receiving CPA accreditation. It is intriguing and no small feat, however she’s devoted and excited about the future.

The following is advice Porche would give to young ladies and women everywhere:

“When setting goals for yourself don’t focus too much on the end result, rather, pay attention to the process. The path between start and finish is where you discover the most about yourself. It is there that you develop an understanding of your strengths, weaknesses and your ability to overcome the obstacles life brings. Stay steadfast in achieving your goals and reach for the stars.”  - Porche Prater