[Editor’s Note: The following post has been updated to clarify comments made by Dora Paz.]
Community volunteerism and experience in entrepreneurship were common themes for three local women business and community leaders who spoke at a Thursday event.
Dora Paz, professional family mediator; Juliana Halvorson, Pioneer Bank vice president; and Adriann Ragsdale, Pioneer Bank in-house counsel, talked about their lives and careers during the second part of the Women Strive series sponsored by WESST, formerly known as the Women’s Empowerment and Self-Sufficiency Team. The event was held at the MECA Therapies Center on West Second Street.
“When God gives you a gift, you have to give back to the community,” said Halvorson, a remark similar to those made by the other speakers.
Supported by a grant from the Women’s Project of the United Way, the series is intended to provide networking opportunities for women, share ideas about success and inform them about support available. WESST is part of a statewide system of business development centers. Now it serves women as well as low-income and other underserved populations.
Halvorson — described by WESST Regional Manager Rhonda Johnson as a person who never sleeps — discussed how she was raised as part of a “Brady Bunch” family headed by an Air Force officer. She and her five siblings and parents traveled extensively before coming to Roswell in 1980. She said it was her parents who modeled civic involvement and it became an integral part of her life. In addition to being vice president of marketing for Pioneer Bank, a position that followed years in television production and as a self-employed graphic designer, Halvorson fulfills volunteer leadership positions with MainStreet Roswell and its UFO Festival, the Walker Aviation Museum, the Roswell Tourism Council, Fly Roswell, Team Pioneer and many other organizations.
The mother of two adult daughters, she lost her husband, John Halvorson, a former police officer and magistrate judge, a few years ago. In spite of hardships, she called herself blessed and said she thanks God every day. She also urged people to become involved in Roswell activities.
“I think if volunteering paid, I would be a millionaire. It feels good to help the community,” she said, adding about the Pioneer staff who participate in Team Pioneer. “The employees who volunteer more … they are happier. They are happier at work. They are happier at home.”
Paz took a big step in August 2018 and launched CrossRoads Mediation Services to handle custody, divorce, visitation and other family matters. Previously, she had worked as a paralegal for various law firms. She has a bachelor’s degree in business, a paralegal degree and a master’s degree in conflict management and resolution. Outside of work, she sings with her church and has volunteered with the State Bar of New Mexico.
She said mediation is the only option available to people involved in disputes that ensures that both parties have a say in the outcome. With courts and arbitration, third parties make the decision, she said. She works with married, divorced and unmarried couples and aims to reduce the negative emotions involved in custody matters so parents can focus on what is needed for themselves and their children in the future.
“It hasn’t been easy,” she said, “but it has been worthwhile.”
Ragsdale, an East Texas native, found herself in Roswell after earning a law degree from Texas Tech University and meeting fellow lawyer Luke Ragsdale. She moved here to marry him and began working as an associate with oil and gas lawyer Phil Brewer. When Brewer passed away, she formed her own firm and then later joined Pioneer Bank as its in-house counsel.
“Phil always told me, be a giver — don’t be a taker,” she said. “I want you to be involved.” She said that same idea is prevalent at Pioneer.
In addition to work and raising a young daughter, she volunteers for Court-Appointed Special Advocates, United Way and its Women’s Project, and the Eastern New Mexico State Fair Board.
Establishing herself as a lawyer wasn’t always easy, she said, especially when working in the oil and gas practice, where some clients spent years calling her “sweetheart and darling, all those things we love to hear from gentlemen when we are trying to be serious.”
She said she enjoyed the historical research aspect of the work and gained the respect of Brewers’ clients, if only because they thought she had to be smart if Brewer liked her. Managing her own practice was rewarding and she liked the flexibility it offered, she said, but has appreciated Pioneer because it means she can concentrate on one client.
“It has been a huge change for me,” she said. “I feel so appreciated, which is way more valuable than any paycheck or anything else they can give you.”
The third event in the series is scheduled for March 21, 5:30 p.m., at MECA Therapies, 1415 W. Second St.
Senior Writer Lisa Dunlap can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 311, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.