• Chessie Flanders

    Chessie Flanders

    Vice President / Commercial Relationship Manager, Citizens State Bank

    Chessie Flanders is a natural born leader and continues to prove her strength every day. From working since middle school and throughout high school, to becoming a mother and wife, to returning to college with a full schedule already on her plate, she gained her ferocity while persevering though adversity and credits her grandmother for giving her the resourcefulness, boldness and strength to succeed. Flanders is the vice president at the Newberry Jonesville Chamber of Commerce, president elect of the Gainesville Downtown Rotary Club, director of the Miss Bradford-Union Strawberry Pageant and an associate board member on the Bradford County Education Foundation.

    “Write your goals down. Start with once a month, then once a week. It works! It is ok if it’s not perfect. Work toward it and do your best, then be good with that. Never stop learning and put good things into your mind,” said Flanders.


    What does it mean to be Fierce?

    Fierce is being strong and confident while walking through adversity. Fierce is believing you can do or be anything, while viewing challenges as opportunities for growth. Fierce is never allowing yourself to get into a comfort zone. Fierce is lifting others up to show them their beauty inside and out. That is fierce!

    What does success, achievement and accomplishment mean to you?

    Success is very individual, and I believe that no one can define success for you except you. Success for me is showing and sharing God’s light and love in my home, job and to everyone I meet. It is also doing my very best to help others in all my actions. Accomplishment is the satisfaction of knowing that I have done the best I can in every situation. Achievement is reaching the goals I set for myself and always striving for improvement and constant development.

    What motivates you in the morning?

    Prayer and meditation, breakfast, my family and podcasts (in that order most of the time).

    What or who is inspiring you right now? Why?

    Entrepreneurs inspire me. We have so many great business owners in Alachua and the surrounding counties. I work for a wonderful bank where I am able to work with business owners to help to make their dreams come true as their businesses grow and change. I have great appreciation and respect for business owners after personally owning several small businesses. As I get to know these awesome entrepreneurs, I find so many inspirations. The passion for their business is always what drives them. When I see the passion through the product, employees, service, etc., I am always inspired.

    People inspire me. Every mom will tell you that at one point or another their children have inspired them, made them cry and then given them love beyond all comprehension. My boys are wonderful, and they inspire me. We all have gifts that inspire others, and in most conversations (even with strangers) I find inspiration.

    What was the best decision you’ve made? What’s the worst?

    The best decision I made was to go back to school to get my college degree after I started my career. I did not like high school academics and I was very discouraged by education. I knew I could work hard and pay attention, and I would learn my job. I was doing very well in my career and on my way “up the corporate ladder.” I had plenty of work experience and I was told that I was a “natural leader,” but there were missing pieces that the education at Santa Fe College and then St. Leo University put together for me. I am very thankful that I got those degrees.  I worked as a full-time manager while getting my AA at Santa Fe College and a full-time Vice President while attending St. Leo University as a full-time student to get my bachelor’s degree.  It was not easy, but it was well worth it. Someone told me once that a degree was something that you earned that is yours to keep and no one can ever take that away from you. Those degrees are special trinkets of accomplishment that I always carry with me as proof of my skills, ability, knowledge and tenacity.  “You can never be overdressed or overeducated,” as Oscar Wilde said.

    The worst decision: If I could do it over again, I would have have gone to college while single and right out of high school, so I could truly have the “college” experience. I would have liked to study abroad and most likely become a geologist. That was one of my absolute favorite classes at Santa Fe College thanks to Professor Van Dubolsky and the many adventures he created for all of his students.  Accounting was pretty great too, thanks to Professor Rom Gilbert and his real-life examples and interactions. They both revived my faith in education and the wonderful teachers that work hard to help students achieve academic excellence.

    What has been your biggest obstacle and how have you overcome it?

    My biggest obstacle is the fear of failure or disappointment to others or myself. This manifests at work and home but has definitely changed as I have grown older and a little wiser. Learning to love myself and recognize my efforts was a big step toward great growth in this area. I overcome it by just jumping in and having faith with anything work related. I have also been better at saying no. I go easy on myself understanding that I will mess up sometimes, but I also know that I will always do my best to give 150 percent, and that gives me satisfaction. All Moms fear failure with parenting, and I am definitely no exception there. In this area, I pray a lot, do my best as a parent and set the best example I can for my children by giving, teaching and loving them.

    How do you address negativity in your life and in business?

    Stay away, stay away, stay away! It is obviously going to arise sometimes, but I ignore it and go the other way. This mama does not like drama! There is no reason to feed that monster. I like to listen to motivational podcasts and plenty of dancing music.

    Is there a particular instance or occurrence that you credit for building your confidence and self-esteem?

    I am the namesake of a beautiful woman, my grandmother (the original Chessie). She always told me how beautiful I was inside. She never once emphasized external beauty. Like many kids, I went through a “chubby and awkward” phase and really felt ugly. I remember her telling me how beautiful I was inside and how that will always shine out. I always try to look my best, but there are days when extra pounds or bad hair make me feel a little less than. Those are the days I am reminded of what she taught me: Shine on!

    When I was 26 years old I had a wonderful manager named Steve Jeppson who told me that I was a natural leader. Although I was an aassistant branch manager at the time, I was so shocked and humbled at his comment. He pointed out all of my accomplishments and abilities that I had not taken the time to reflect upon and appreciate. He talked to me about going to college.  I enrolled and made it happen and continued to advance in my career. Thank you, Steve!

    How do you empower other women?

    I try to help them see their special talents and gifts. Many women are humble and don’t take time to see how much they have accomplished. Sometimes they just need little things pointed out to them, so they feel empowered to make more meaningful decisions and make things happen just like Steve did for me. One word or gesture can change someone’s perception. I like to connect women in the business world. I am passionate about connecting women with diverse occupations and interests. It is amazing to watch relationships form and subsequent business relationships and friendships grow. This will help to build future female leaders.

    What change do you want to see in your industry?

    I would like to see more women who go after executive suite leadership and management roles. There is a need for a continuity of service and culture in business today. Whether it is virtually, on the phone, or in person, many women have specific talents in relationship building. There is a need for cultivating culture in business in the growing Gen Y, Gen Z and Gen Alpha with existing Gen X. I see more women in leadership roles in this much needed and growing area in the future.

    Do you have any advice for young women as they try to achieve their goals?

    Write your goals down. Start with once a month, then once a week. It works! It is ok if it’s not perfect. Work toward it and do your best, then be good with that. Never stop learning and put good things into your mind. Zip Ziglar said,” You can have everything in life you want if you help enough other people get what they want.” You really can do almost anything. If you forget to aim high, just aim at the target. It is much easier to hit a target that you can see than shooting into blank space and hoping to hit something. Love your mind, love your body and everything about yourself. You will never be as young as you are today, so give yourself some love and appreciation.

    What do you want to be remembered for?

    Being the best, God-fearing mom, step-mom, wife, sister, aunt, daughter, granddaughter and friend that I know how to be. A southern belle who never let anyone who came to her home or her life leave hungry or unloved. Driven and tenacious in my career while helping others see their version of success along the way. Oh yes, and an awesome dancer!

    How do you defy the current stereotypes, stigmas and double standards that women have today?

    I don’t like to draw hard lines on stigmas or stereotypes, I like to blur them with ability, intelligence, implementation and results. Be a “Get it Done Girl,” aka Fierce!