6 Duos Excelling in Work, Their Relationship, & Giving Back to the Community
Influential in their own right but even more dynamic as a duo, power couples make success look easy. As a pair, they maneuver through personal and professional demands with ease and clarity. In Chattanooga, we have numerous power couples who have excelled in their individual careers while fostering strong relationships and collectively impacting our community in a positive way. Here’s how these six make it work.
By Nicole Jennings | Photography by Lanewood Studio
Human Resources Consultant, BlueCross BlueShield
Senior VP & Relationship Manager, SmartBank
Tonya noticed Travis’ entrepreneurial spirit right off the bat. Working his own construction business during college, he would come to class still in his work boots. “With that hardworking spirit combined with his caring heart and charming personality, I haven’t been able to let him go since!” Tonya laughs.
The duo lives by two guiding mantras: “To whom much is given, much is required,” and “Teamwork makes the dream work.” They are constantly finding ways to partner together through volunteering, giving back to the community, or working on new ventures. Travis is the networking, big-picture visionary with a go-getter attitude, and Tonya is the detail-oriented, fine-tuner. Travis muses, “We always joke that I’m the hunter, and she’s not the gatherer – she’s the skinner.” The duo works together to come up with ideas and then systematically picks them apart and whittles them down until something solid remains.
A key to their success: “Communicate, communicate, communicate!” says Tonya. “That’s been one of our strongest assets for marriage and life in general.” Travis agrees, “We each have our expertise, so we know our roles and responsibilities. Our partnership works because we can each stay in our lane. I don’t get into anything without running it by her first and getting her full agreement.”
A balance of togetherness and individuality contributes to the health of their relationship. They make time to have lunch together during the week as often as possible, almost always have dinner together, and work on their joint projects nearly daily, but they say some space is good for them as well. Tonya says they’re not one of those couples that does everything together. Travis adds, “It is crucial to work hard, find time to enjoy each other, but also find time for ‘me’ time.”
The pair attributes another facet of their success to mutual support and their complementary nature. “My weaknesses are Tonya’s strengths and vice versa,” Travis says. They agree that it’s important to respect the other’s thoughts and ideas, and they both make an effort to add value to their marriage. Tonya shares words to live by: “Always try to do what’s best for the marriage. It’s not about the individual.” Travis reaffirms, “It’s not a ‘me’; it’s a ‘we.’”
Realtor, Real Estate Partners Chattanooga, LLC
President, Dexter W. White Construction
While some couples avoid work talk at home, this couple was built by it. Linda Brock and husband Dexter White worked together for nearly 10 years before their relationship became something more. Brock says early on she told White he better not ever disappoint her in regard to the people she was representing. “And he never has,” she smiles. “That originated from a business perspective, but it grew into great personal respect.”
The couple works together frequently and feels they’ve really struck a symbiotic balance. Brock and White say shop talk never ceases, but they don’t mind. “Sometimes work is balance,” White says. “You can stress out from work of course, but at the same time, if you enjoy what you’re doing, you can get a lot of reward out of it.” While they don’t always agree – “Things can get heated,” Brock laughs – at the end of the day, they are working toward the same goal, which is doing the right thing.
The team collaborates not just on work and play, but for others as well. Their shared industry is deeply intertwined with their shared beliefs. “We build relationships instead of transactions,” explains White. Brock adds, “We have always put people first.”
Their work requires a lot of flexibility, but since it’s required of both of them, it makes it easier to embrace it with each other. “I think that becomes the benefit of us being in the same industry,” Brock says. “We have a better appreciation and understanding that people need us when they need us, so we need to be available.” Exactly, agrees White. “If one of us has to cancel on the other, there are never any hard feelings. We understand because we’ve both had to do it at times.”
Communication is what this team advises for prosperity in life and business. “During the day, we might talk 20 times or only twice, but it always ends with ‘I love you, be careful.’ It’s just that little reminder that we are more than a business,” Brock explains. “I don’t know that anyone would want additional advice from us … other than real estate,” she laughs.
Dr. Martina Harris
Assistant Dean of Nursing & Allied Health, Chattanooga State Community College
Executive Principal, Tyner High and Middle Academy
Gerald and Martina Harris have known each other since junior high. They both attended Tyner Junior, then Tyner High School, and then Martina followed Gerald to Middle Tennessee State University. So, after 27 years of marriage, raising three wonderful daughters, and climbing their individual career ladders to achieve success as public education administrators, it’s safe to say that they can teach us all a thing or two about how it’s done.
Between school sports, meetings, day-to-day office responsibilities, and the general hustle and bustle that comes along with being in administration, it can be difficult to find time to spend together. Because of that, Martina reveals the couple is very deliberate about carving out quality time for each other. They reserve one night a week as their designated date night. “It doesn’t always involve going out – sometimes we just come home, grab takeout for dinner, and watch Netflix,” she says. They are also trying to include more time for exercising. Gerald sweetly enrolled Martina in swim lessons at the YMCA so she could feel more comfortable and so they could swim together.
The Harrises have found it works best for them to leave work at work, so they avoid talking about it in depth during their time together. They also work hard to help each other achieve a healthy work-life balance. “If we see each other spending a lot of additional hours at work and then we still come home and pull out our laptops, we try to serve as the reality check for the other,” they share.
Aside from the passion and effort they put into their students’ success, they enjoy giving back to their community in other ways too. A particular favorite, they volunteer for the Thanksgiving Day Grateful Gobbler Walk
every year with friends.
An overlooked key to success as a strong couple is knowing your weaknesses. The Harrises recently purchased a renovation property and quickly realized they have different working styles. But this goes hand in hand with some of their words of wisdom: “We’re learning a lot. And something we’ve always lived by is, ‘Never be too proud or embarrassed to say you are wrong and you are sorry.’”
Amy Jo Osborn
President & Co-founder of Austin Hatcher Foundation for Pediatric Cancer | Principal Owner, Amy Jo Photography & Brand | Owner, Chili Pepper Ranch, LLC
Dr. James “Jim” Osborn
Orthopedic Spine Surgeon | Chairman of the Board & Co-founder, Austin Hatcher Foundation for Pediatric Cancer | Assistant Professor, University of Tennessee College of Medicine | President, Comprehensive Spine Institute, PLLC | President, Spine Consultants, LLC | Owner, Chili Pepper Ranch, LLC
Several years ago, Amy Jo was on assignment as a photographer for Southern Living magazine when she met her future husband, Jim. He was racing cars to raise money for pediatric cancer patients. She just happened to notice he was a tall, handsome physician with a passion for giving to others. She caught his eye with her beauty and wit.
Since then, they’ve had four children and started and partnered on a gaggle of businesses, including a nonprofit – their passion project, the Austin Hatcher Foundation for Pediatric Cancer. With so many projects, including a working ranch, it can be hard to find moments of quality one-on-one time, but the duo does their best. “Whether it’s getting up early when the house is quiet or planning a date night, one-on-one time is necessary, needed, and cherished,” tells Amy Jo.
But the team has struck a nice division of labor and balance within their work. “We do have the yin and yang; we blend our fortes and strengths,” Jim explains. “Amy Jo is a superstar. She’s everything that I am not. We do a lot of diverse things, but we get them done and do them together.” They team up on everything from advertising and branding to the overall concept behind an organization, working through any differences until they have a better idea or product they both agree on. “It’s just like polishing a gem,” Jim says.
The Osborns weave their faith into all they do and strive to live by the phrase, “Let go and let God.” They’ve learned it’s important to laugh together and find time to be silly. They teach their children to aim to make an impact and not just be a passenger in this life. As a couple, they’ve learned to take time to step back and examine their lives. “What is keeping you busy? What is driving you every day? Wherever your time is focused, make it something that someone will look back and see you invested in a greater good, whether that be in your relationships, family, or community,” advocates Amy Jo.
President, Real Estate Partners Chattanooga, LLC | Managing Broker, Downtown location of Real Estate Partners Chattanooga, LLC
President, The Schimpf Company
Buck Schimpf met Darlene Brown in 2002 when he hired her to market and sell the first downtown Chattanooga condominium development, Loveman’s on Market. They’re still partnering on the development and sale of Cameron Harbor, but aside from that, they now intentionally structure their relationship to be less work-centric. While the demands of her job are constant, Darlene says she does her best to avoid work talk at home completely.
Despite nonstop work schedules, the two take time every morning to sit together in a period of spiritual devotion. “In town or not, together or not, we share a devotional time,” Buck explains. The rest of their time together is taken when they can find it. A favorite place to relax together is on their back deck with a sweeping view on Missionary Ridge.
Darlene’s 24/7 availability is what makes her a successful real estate agent, and Buck supports and encourages her career. Darlene shares, “I couldn’t do half of what I do at work without Buck doing what he does for the everyday life part of our balance.”
Somehow, the pair finds time to volunteer and give back to their community. Darlene has spearheaded an effort for her company to “adopt” Clifton Hills Elementary School. Buck and Darlene have personally painted, cleaned, landscaped, and prepared Christmas presents for more than 600 students and staff, “and even provided Santa Claus to deliver gifts to students,” Buck winks. Darlene commends Buck’s willingness to jump in on some of her causes, like picking up trash on Main Street and helping with Clifton Hills. “There may be a lot of eye rolling, but he is usually game for most anything,” she laughs.
The two agree a key component of their marital success is nurturing a sense of humor and laughing together. “I don’t believe I have ever met anyone who loves the Tennessee Vols more than Buck. Every June he says, ‘This is our year for the national championship.’ With optimism like that, it makes it easier to get through the occasional tough issues in a marriage,” Darlene smiles.
Dealer Principal, Kelly Subaru & Southern Honda Powersports | Chairman, Chattanooga FC | Chairman, SocialBot | Managing Partner, Chattanooga Brewing Co.
Community Marketing, Salomon | Race Director, Rock/Creek Outfitters
Honestly, we both agree it might have been our hair!” jokes Ginny Kelly when asked what drew her and her husband, Tim, to each other at first. And who could blame them? But once they saw through the hair, the Kellys were mutually drawn to each other’s playful, adventurous spirit and “up-for-anything” attitude.
A shared love for athletics and the outdoors makes it easy for the couple to find activities to do together. It’s finding free time that becomes the real challenge. “We go 100 miles per hour during the week,” Tim says. “I live by Google Calendar, and I joke that it looks like a game of Tetris most weeks.” But building in downtime when needed is crucial. Ginny explains, “Scheduling free time for reading or napping or nothing at all is a big deal to me. If I don’t take care of myself, I can’t take care of anyone else.”
The pair agrees they’ve learned some vital relationship lessons along the way. Most important? Always put the other first and make designated time for each other a priority. “No matter how busy you are or how tired you are, always make time for each other,” Ginny explains.
They also admit that it’s inevitable that work talk comes up at home, but they don’t mind. They’re both passionate about their individual work. “We really value feedback and the alternate perspective the other person offers,” Tim says.
When not running around outside, traveling (another of their shared passions), or working, each Kelly serves on several local nonprofit boards. They enjoy finding ways to cross-pollinate those organizations whenever possible. “We’ve always shared a dedication to volunteering in the community,” Tim says. “Kelly Subaru will often sponsor Lookout Mountain Conservancy, Lula Lake, or Rock/Creek events, and we’re working on some stuff for the Kidney Foundation’s Dare to Dance event now.”
He summarizes, “We really love this city and all the opportunities it affords us. Most of what we do, in one way or another, is about making it a better place.” CS