Arts Clayton Executive Director Linda Summerlin smiles as she realizes she is this year’s Businesswoman of the Year award winner. (Staff Photo: Curt Yeomans)
COLLEGE PARK — Arts Clayton Executive Director Linda Summerlin comes from an old Clayton County family.
She is one of five generations, including her daughters, who were born and raised in the county. Summerlin has been active in the county for decades and has lead Arts Clayton full-time for 11 years. She was also appointed to the Georgia Council for the Arts during the terms of former Govs. Zell Miller, Roy Barnes and Sonny Perdue.
Under her leadership, the Arts Clayton Gallery was chosen by Gov. Nathan Deal in 2011 to be the gallery of choice to provide artwork for his suite of offices at the state Capital.
With those kinds of ties, it may not be a surprise that Summerlin was announced Thursday as the Clayton County Chamber of Commerce’s 2014 Businesswoman of the Year.
“I am proud to join the women of achievement who have won this award in the past,” said Summerlin. “I am proud because of the many women in so many areas of business that this award represents: educators, government officials, civic and business leaders. Our community is so much richer because of the responsibilities shouldered by women.”
More than 100 people came to the Ninth Annual Women in Business Luncheon at the Georgia International Convention Center to see who would win this year’s award.
The event was sponsored by Southern Crescent Hospital for Specialty Care. It featured a keynote address from Arthur M. Blank Family Foundation President Penelope McPhee, who spoke about what it takes to be leader.
Summerlin was a finalist for the award along with We Are Clayton publisher Gerrian Hawes and Sutherland’s Foodservice Inc. Vice-President Bonnie Sutherland Wilson. Summerlin said she considers both women to be good friends. Hawes is also a member of the Arts Clayton Board of Directors.
Paragon Alarm Systems Inc President Karen Sullivan, who led the award committee, said all of the finalists were worthy of the award.
“This was a very, very difficult judging process,” said Sullivan.
Summerlin, like her fellow finalists, has had her hand in a wide variety of activities in the county.
In addition to her role at Arts Clayton, she is the chairwoman of the Clayton County Tourism Authority Board. She is also a past membership director for the Chamber of Commerce, a former president of the Lake Spivey Rotary Club, has overseen several community fundraising efforts and was once the office manager at the Driebe and Driebe law firm in Jonesboro, said Sullivan.
She is also a supporter of the American Cancer Society, the Heart Association, Clayton Mental Health and Clayton State University, Sullivan added.
When Sullivan announced Summerlin as this year’s winner, Arts Clayton Board of Directors members hugged and congratulated her. She also momentarily became choked up before approaching the stage to accept the award.
“I am so nervous and thankful and appreciative,” said Summerlin.