Brittany Barham Johnson
34, Executive Director of the Woman’s Club of Portsmouth (PSL Properties, LLC)
I am an active member of the Portsmouth Service League where I have been a board member and committee chair for fundraising events. I am also a member of the Esprit de Coeur Circle for The King’s Daughters (CHKD).
How do you define success?
Success is when you can find happiness regardless of the day of the week.
What person or experience has made the biggest impact on your life?
My parents have had the biggest impact on my life. They have been my biggest cheerleader and always supported my decisions. All they ever wanted for my brother and me was to be happy and do what we love, and they sacrificed a lot to make that happen.
What is your biggest accomplishment?
Second to my 3-year-old twins, the work I have done at the Woman’s Club of Portsmouth is my biggest accomplishment. I left my former career as an elementary teacher and was very lucky to have the opportunity to run a building that hosts weddings (another passion of mine) while seeing the proceeds from that building go back into the community. While the ladies of the League raised the money to renovate the building, I came in after all their extraordinary efforts and was tasked with making it successful. What started as a one-woman job, with an expectation of 40–50 events per year, has almost tripled in size and is one of the most sought-after venues in Coastal Virginia.
What’s the best compliment you’ve received from a colleague or manager?
I have always been told that I am very dependable. Up until a few years ago, I thought it was such a boring compliment, but as I have learned, dependability isn’t the easiest thing to find! I strive to show the world that if I say I am going to do something. I will see it through until the end.
When you were a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?
I wanted to be a dentist, thanks to Hermey the Misfit in Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer … one cavity later I decided to be an elementary school teacher!
Name a book that has inspired you professionally.
Honestly, the Bible. I did a lot of research on changing jobs (endless Google searches, talking to my elders about their experiences and their regrets, reading books), a lot of soul searching about whether I wanted to leave my master’s degree in Education behind to pursue something else and, at the end of the day, I had to give in to my faith to know that I was doing the right thing for myself.
What is your best time management hack?
I am a firm believer in lists. I schedule my day based on my to do list and constantly leave room for surprise interruptions. Over the last few years, my perspective on multitasking has evolved as well. While there are tasks that can be done simultaneously, many cannot. There is nothing wrong with a little focus from time to time.
What’s your favorite restaurant for a lunch meeting in Coastal Virginia, and what do you order when you go there?
Mannino’s in Downtown Portsmouth! I love their famous she crab soup with a caesar salad.
Is there anything that you would change about your generation as a whole? If so, what?
If I could change one thing, it would be that cell phones were not the center of our worlds. It is disheartening to see people together and everyone looking at their lives through the lens of their phone. I am guilty of this as well and one of the things I wish to improve upon. There is nothing in this world that can replace the effectiveness of face-to-face communication.
What do you think is Coastal Virginia’s biggest challenge?
The inability of the cities in Coastal Virginia to work together is its biggest challenge. If each city could bring its strengths to the table and work together, more could get done in an efficient and effective manner. I would love to see the entire area collaborate to get more initiatives accomplished and to see improvements beyond their own city lines.
How can Coastal Virginia better retain its younger population?
Coastal Virginia has many qualities that draw people to the area. Having the ability to get to the beach, a farm, the city, the country and the mountains in just a few hours’ time is something many take advantage of. I believe if the improvements to roads continue and large businesses stay in the area, it will retain the younger population. I can’t imagine living anywhere else!
What’s something that gives you hope for the future?
I never thought that at this age I would see my peers starting nonprofits, running companies, juggling families with careers they love and making brave moves in social and political stances. Whether you believe in their views or not, seeing that these people are willing to do what it takes to earn a life they love is truly inspiring.
From her nomination:
“Breaking into the market with a new wedding and event venue was a challenge, but under Brittany’s stewardship The Woman’s Club of Portsmouth has become the community’s premier wedding venue. Brittany’s outreach efforts and reputation for excellence has ensured that most every weekend is booked. As the club is a project of the Portsmouth Service League, the proceeds go to local charities so her work has gone directly back to benefit the community.”
—Moira Muntz, fellow member of Portsmouth Service League