Coto picked among 50 'most influential'

Apr. 19, 2014 @ 03:11 PM

Union County Manager Cindy Coto was named among the Charlotte region's top 50 Most Influential Women of 2014 by the Mecklenburg Times.

The recognition was created to spotlight the important roles of women in business, society, non-profits, government and education, states the Mecklenburg Times website. A panel of Charlotte professionals chooses each year's award winners out of a pool of nominees. Coto was among 300 women nominated for the recognition.

"I am extremely surprised and humbled," Coto said. "I am proud of what has been accomplished during my tenure as County Manager and my involvement with various civic and non-profit organizations within our community, but to be named as one of the 50 Most Influential Women is overwhelming."

Coto was hired in 2010 by an outgoing majority on the Union County Board of Commissioners. Coto quickly proved herself versatile and up to the challenge of handling the county's budget shortfalls due to the nationwide economic recession.

Though both are 40-year central Florida natives, Coto and her husband have settled into Union County life comfortably. It feels like home, she said, because of the county's strong sense of community.

"My husband and I have never felt so welcomed by a community as we have since moving to Union County. It is like a blanket of genuine warmth and kindness that is exhibited by everyone we encounter," she said.

She sees it as a place of great potential. Over the last three years, she has worked to put the necessary pieces in place to address not only the Union County of today but the Union County of tomorrow with a planned approach versus a reactive one, she said.

Coto began her career in government as a typist in a Florida county office, but quickly worked her way up in rank. She began her executive career in 1995 when she became the deputy county manager for Seminole County, Florida. In 2000, she was hired on as the manager of Volusia County, Florida where she remained for about 5 years. She returned to Seminole County in 2006 to serve as its county manager.

Her motivation for success has been to make a difference, a positive impact and to inspire others to reach goals. In short, "be a weeble" - a roly-poly figure that will lean but never fall, no matter how far they are pushed.

"I believe we all have a responsibility to the community in which we live, that we need to be contributing members of our community, which each of us define from our personal vantage point," she said.

A large part of being that inspiration for others is in Coto's advice to other women about their careers. Foremost, she recommends finding a career you are passionate about — "even the most daunting days are easier when you care about what you do each and every day," she said.

And remember to focus on little things. Her most rewarding days are when she makes a difference, even a small one.

"One such moment was in December 2005 when I was retiring from Volusia County and my staff decided to have a farewell party" she said. "I was greeting people who came in the door there was one gentleman, who shook my hand indicated that I did not know him but that he worked at the County landfill and then thanked me for changing his life.  I must say I was confused, when I asked him to clarify he indicated that because I had championed a pay increase for some of our employees that he was able to quit his second job.

"It is those moments that I hold dearest with respect to my career," Coto said.