Q&A with … Toni Yuille-Williams: Brooklyn’s Savvy Lady

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What are Brooklyn Savvy qualities and traits? It’s about knowing your own power, and not being afraid to express who you are to the fullest.

It’s knowing your way around challenges, figuring a way through, around and over obstacles. Being Brooklyn Savvy is being politically wise and street smart, but also having values, strong beliefs, being kind and looking out for others, caring about your community and taking necessary action, but with urban grit, tenacity and fearlessness.

How would you describe a savvy woman? A savvy woman knows how to get things done for her family, friends and community. She does not live for herself alone; she devotes time to serving others. I think of Michelle Obama, Hillary Clinton. I think of my Brooklyn Savvy panel, my sister Links, Jack and Jill moms, Weeksville’s Pam Greene, Concord Baptist Church’s Rev. Emma Jordan-Simpson, and Ella Weiss and Linda Johnson and many other women who are making a difference in Brooklyn through the work they do as leaders. Let me not forget Susan Rice and Valerie Jarrett. Clearly, these women have used their intellectual gifts and the resources available to them to build phenomenal careers.

Any tips for women rising to the top? Four. Don’t worry about the lives of others -be the best you can be. Have a strong sense of priorities, and put first things first, and everything else later. We’re all juggling but we need to have a clear sense of what must be done in the NOW. Give. Don’t be concerned about what you’re going to get; as you sow, so shall you reap. Have faith in the future, be optimistic that you can achieve your goals, and that life has all of these surprises along the way-good that you didn’t expect to happen but it did.
Are there women or family issues that are of concern to you?We’re all working too hard these days, especially women. We’ve got huge demands as mothers, and some of us are fortunate enough to be working in very responsible jobs. But still, there are just not enough supports available. In many cases, it is taking too long for our institutions to transform lives and respond to the urgent needs of families. For example, I am very deeply concerned about the state of public education in my community and whether the work required to build the next generation of leaders is being done adequately and compassionately.

What do you feel is your greatest accomplishment? I don’t see life in order of magnitude or absolutes. But I would say being a mother is my most important role. I love helping my kids chart a course for their lives, and I enjoy their company and who they are as people. Being a ‘savvy’ mother is a test of faith; a tough journey because there are twists and turns, ups and downs, routine and unpredictable. It’s scary but God’s got it at the same time. Also, I feel very blessed to have been a part of the fabric of Con Edison. It’s a great learning environment filled with great opportunities and hardworking people. I’ve learned practical leadership lessons through the opportunities availed to me. Ilike when employees say they want to work with me; it’s a great compliment. Oh, dare I forget the career-defining moment of Hurricane Sandy? Being able to serve the residents of Brooklyn — working 14-hour days for about 4 weeks straight — was an incredible experience; it was challenging but it was meaningful and a real privilege.

I also see my television show Brooklyn Savvy as a huge accomplishment. I’ve assembled a great team with great skills and deep passion. We continue to dialogue on the issues of the day and we take the time to understand different points of view. It leads to understanding.

So what makes Toni run?I’m ambitious, but not just for myself, for others as well: my children, my friends, my community. Most importantly, I have a personal relationship with God. And I know that all things work for good for those who love the Lord and are called according to His purpose. For more information on Brooklyn Savvy – http://brooklynsavvy.tv/

Antonia Yuille Williams
Ms.Williams is the director of Public Affairs, Government Relations for the Con Edison Company of New York, Inc. She develops the strategic direction for the Brooklyn Public Affairs Department. Her responsibilities include community outreach, corporate community relations, media relations, employee communications, volunteerism, special events and the Renaissance Housing Program.

The ultimate multi-tasker and the recipient of hundreds of awards, Toni serves on the boards of the Brooklyn Public Library, Brooklyn Navy Yard Development Corporation, Brooklyn Alliance, Bedford-Stuyvesant Restoration Corporation, The Brooklyn Arts Council, Brooklyn Information and Culture, Children’s Defense Fund, New York City Technical College Foundation Board and The Brooklyn Center for the Performing Arts at Brooklyn College. She was also appointed to the Mayor’s Panel on the Role of Brooklyn in the 19th Century Abolitionist Movement. She is a member of the Brooklyn Chapter of the Links where she serves as First Vice President and she is the former First Vice President of Jack & Jill of America-Brooklyn Chapter.

Toni graduated Summa Cum Laude from the University of Massachusetts in Amherst and completed a graduate degree in Health Services Administration from the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor. She is an Adjunct Professor at St. Francis College. Toni is a graduate of the American Academy of Dramatic Art. Toni lives in Brooklyn, is married to Kelvin Williams and has a son, Alexander, and a daughter, Adrienne.

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