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Women of Distinction 2018

Women of Distinction is Girl Scouts of Gateway Council's signature fundraising event to honor outstanding women in Northeast Florida for their professional accomplishments, service to others and community impact. 

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Thursday, April 19, 5:30 p.m.

Thank you to everyone who attended the 2018 Women of Distinction Celebration!

Your support makes it possible for more girls in Northeast Florida to experience the life-changing leadership development of Girl Scouts!

Do you know a local woman who deserves to be honored for her professional accomplishments and community impact?
Nominate her today as a 2019 Woman of Distinction!

Women of Distinction 2018 Honorees

Martha Baker, Community Volunteer and Advocate
Martha Baker

Martha Baker is an active community volunteer who serves on the boards of Baptist Health Foundation, Cummer Museum of Art and Gardens, Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens, Christ Episcopal Church Foundation and the Women’s Board of Wolfson Children's Hospital.

She is First Vice President and a founding member of the Women's Giving Alliance, a member of the Beaches Habitat Advisory Council, and a Jacksonville Junior League Sustainer.

Formerly, she served on the boards of WJCT, Episcopal Children’s Services Foundation, Museum of Science and History, Jacksonville Museum of Contemporary Art and The Bolles School.

Martha is a graduate of Davidson College (BA) and Duke University (MA).

Tamara Baker, Baker Klein Engineering PL
Tamara Baker

If you told Tamara Baker’s younger self that she would one day own a business, she would have believed you. She has been an entrepreneur since the age of 12 when she started a dance camp for young girls. Her engineering and construction career began in 1992, and since then she has held many different positions including rodman on a survey crew, draftsman, drill-rig manager, truss designer, geotechnical engineer, structural engineer and business owner. She can run business meetings or crawl under dusty buildings — the point is, she’s not afraid of hard work or getting dirty.

After working at a national design-build firm, Tamara decided to start her own business in 2004, at the age of 32. She has never looked back. Today, Baker Klein is a successful design-build consulting firm with average annual revenues of $12 million. Baker Klein recently topped the Florida Fast 100, an annual list highlighting Florida’s growing businesses.

Tamara holds a bachelor’s degree in Civil Engineering and a master’s degree in Civil Engineering (Materials) from the University of Florida. She is in the process of completing her doctoral degree in Civil and Environmental Engineering at the University of Alabama-Huntsville.

One of Tamara’s engineering passions involves reviving historic structures and working within historic commercial zones. She has been involved in several cornerstone projects, and has won nine City of Jacksonville Historic Preservation Awards and a 2012 ABC Merit Award. In 2011 Tamara was a finalist for Entrepreneur of the Year for Jacksonville’s Women in Business list.

Tamara has been an adjunct professor at the University of North Florida, teaching Mechanical and Electrical Systems, Structures, Surveying, Drafting, and Estimating to students of the Building Construction Management Program. She is a member of the St. Nicholas Preservation Society, the Associated Builders and Contractors, and the Florida Structural Engineering Association. Tamara is actively involved with her church, Southside United Methodist. In 2014, she and her husband Bobby welcomed their daughter Olivia Bell. In 2015, Tamara won her fight against breast cancer. In May 2017, Tamara and Bobby welcomed their second child, Nathaniel Banks.

Giselle Carson, MarksGray PA
Giselle Carson

Giselle Carson is a recognized business immigration and compliance attorney. She helps employers hire and retain global talent and develop effective immigration strategies to remain competitive and compliant in a global economy.

She has been practicing law for more than 15 years, and for the last 10 years she has dedicated her practice to business immigration.

Professionally and personally, Giselle has crossed many finish lines. She is a two-time immigrant. She escaped from Cuba to Canada and later immigrated to the U.S. She is a 16-time marathon finisher and five-time Ironman finisher. She is the author of “Beyond the H-1B: A Guide to Work Visa Options,” which can be found on Amazon.

She serves on many local boards including Gen W, the JaxSports Council and as Chairwoman of the Jacksonville Aviation Authority. She is a graduate of Leadership Florida and Leadership Jacksonville. She is a Past President of the Jacksonville Bar Association. She has received many distinguished recognitions including Martindale-Hubbell AV Preeminent rated attorney and Lawyer of the Year distinction by the Jacksonville Financial News and Daily Record.

She uses her experience, determination and focus to help her clients achieve their goals and cross their finish lines.

Camille Harrison, Florida Blue
Camille Harrison

Camille Harrison is Florida Blue’s Chief Customer Officer. In the service organization, Camille is responsible for leading a team of approximately 3,400 people who provide services to more than 3.7 million customers each year. She oversees the company’s enterprise optimization and shared services, payment integrity office and deployment of Continuous Improvement and Six Sigma methodologies. She is also responsible for the enterprise customer experience strategy. In her role as Chief Customer Officer, Camille partners closely with Florida Blue’s executive team to drive a persistent focus on the most critical customer initiatives, investments and strategies. This includes establishing enterprise-wide metrics and analysis to better understand customer loyalty and developing a common approach for executing work across the organization.

Prior to her most recent appointment, Camille served as the chief of staff to the Chairman and CEO.

Before joining Florida Blue in 2011, she was the chief of staff to the Chairman and CEO at Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota. She has more than 23 years of health care industry experience with background in customer service, claims operations and general business operations, including government programs and client relations. She held a number of leadership positions at Horizon-Blue Cross Blue Shield of New Jersey.

While in her role as director of operations for the Federal Employee Program, Horizon-Blue Cross Blue Shield of New Jersey was the recipient of a number of awards including the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association Best of Blue Award and the BCBSA Plan Excellence Award. She serves on the boards for the Florida Blue Foundation (as Chair), GuideWell Allegiance and GuideWell Source and is a member of United Way’s Tocqueville Society Jacksonville Women’s Network. She previously served on the boards of The Early Learning Coalition of Duval County and Incepture.

Camille holds a Bachelor of Science in Business Education from Montclair State University in New Jersey.

Mary Kelli Palka, The Florida Times-Union

Mary Kelli Palka has been a journalist for more than 20 years. She became editor of The Florida Times-Union in January 2017.

A native of Jacksonville Beach, Mary Kelli started her journalism career as a reporter covering police and courts in Burlington, N.C. She went on to cover similar issues in the Lee County office of the Naples Daily News. In 2003, Mary Kelli returned to Jacksonville to cover the Mayor’s Office for the Florida Times-Union. She later covered a variety of government issues, as well as education, public utilities and projects.

She left journalism for one year, when she worked for UF Health Jacksonville in the communications office. She returned to the Times-Union in 2013 to lead its newly created investigative reporting team. Later that year, she began overseeing the Times-Union’s news and business reporters. Since then, she served in a variety of newsroom leadership roles before being named editor.

Today, Mary Kelli oversees a newsroom that tackles such diverse and complex issues as juvenile justice reform, police conduct, pension reform, dredging of the St. Johns River and struggling schools, as well as covers everything from nonprofits, the arts and health care to the most important changes in local businesses and sports.

Nicole Thomas, Baptist Health
Nicole Thomas

Nicole Thomas, FACHE, is Hospital President of Baptist Medical Center South, the first female to be named a hospital president in Baptist Health’s 62-year history. She is responsible for the operational and strategic direction of the second largest community hospital in the health system.

Previously, Nicole had executive responsibility for Baptist MD Anderson Cancer Center, a partnership between Baptist Health and the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, designed to transform oncology care in Jacksonville and the Southeastern United States. She also led the development of the Baptist Neurological Institute, which provides sub-specialty care in Neurology and Neurosurgery including the Stroke and Cerebrovascular Center and the Minimally Invasive Spine Center.

A Fellow in the American College of Healthcare Executives, she joined Baptist Health in 2011 as Vice President of Operations and Specialty Services. Prior to that, she served as Assistant Vice President of Physician Operations for St. Luke's Episcopal Health System in Houston, and as an operations administrator at Mayo Clinic Jacksonville.

Nicole earned a master’s degree in health care administration from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and holds a bachelor’s degree in public health administration from Dillard University in New Orleans.   

She is active in our community, most recently serving as the Chair of Women in Local Leadership for the United Way of Northeast Florida. She is a member of the Jacksonville Women’s Network, a member of the 2017 United Way Campaign Cabinet, a member of the Dillard University School of Public Health Community Advisory Board, a member of OneJax and a 2013 graduate of Leadership Jacksonville. Thomas was named a Woman of Influence by the Jacksonville Business Journal in 2014, received a Women in Business Award in 2015 from the Jacksonville Women’s Network, and was named a Woman with Heart by Volunteers in Medicine in 2017.

Penny Thompson, Consultant
Penny Thompson

Penny Thompson is proud to say she was both a Brownie and a Girl Scout.  One year she even sold the most cookies of anyone in her troop.  “I remember loving the older girls in their green uniforms and wanted to be just like them,” she says.

Penny is a Jacksonville native growing up in a wonderful family with just one brother, Coakley. “We spent so much time outdoors where my passion for wildlife only intensified.” This was the beginning of her love for animals, big and small.  Other than owning many dogs and cats over the years, she was also also to help raise a baby orangutan.  This stemmed from her work with the Jacksonville Zoo. She currently serves as an honorary board member for the zoo following her tonsure on the board where she served as president for two years.  Penny recently rotated off the board of the Jacksonville Humane Society. “Seeing the new facilities finally being built has been one of the greatest joys of my life.”

Penny attended Queens College in Charlotte, N.C., before transferring to the University of Florida where she became an entrenched life long member of the Gator Nation! Majoring in political science, her intention was to attend law school.  As the time approached she realized she wanted to start her career, which lasted 46 years.  

Penny was given the opportunity to work for The Charter Company, a Fortune 500 company then based in Jacksonville.  “Charter and its people were my home away from home. My leadership skills were nurtured and developed under the tutelage of Raymond Mason, chairman of Charter.” After Charter, Penny spent 31 years at what is today known as UF Health Jacksonville.  She retired at the end of December as VP of Government Affairs. “There really are no words to accurately describe just how much I grew, not only as a leader but as a person during those years.  Jacksonville is so fortunate to have a superb academic medical center providing state of the art medical care and training 40- 50 percent of the physicians who practice in the community.”

A number of entities have benefitted from Penny’s involvement.  Some of those include:

  • Jacksonville Chamber of Commerce Government Affairs Board, serving as a Chamber Trustee and member of the Chamber Board of Governors
  • Jacksonville Super Bowl host committee, chair of the VIP Services Committee
  • Leadership Jacksonville 
  • Leadership Florida
  • Children’s Miracle Network Governing Board
  • Greater Jacksonville Cultural Council Board, current chairman of the Cultural Services Grant Panel
  • Mayor John Delaney’s five-person transition team, in addition to many city boards and authorities
  • Junior League of Jacksonville 

Just beginning a new journey in retirement, Penny is looking forward to many opportunities to continue to support a city she truly loves.

Presented by


Hosting Sponsor


Gold Sponors




    Mr. and Mrs.
    Tom Baker


Silver Sponsors

  • Jan Healy & Chuck Hyman