After spending seven years as director of the Harford County Public Library Foundation, Vanessa Milio recently took over the reigns of the county's chamber of commerce earlier this year and became the organization's first female CEO.
"As a leader, it is important to remember who you are and what you stand for, both personally and professionally," Vanessa says. "As a woman in leadership, the level of scrutiny can be challenging, making it even more important to stay true to yourself and your values."
As CEO, Vanessa oversees the largest chamber of commerce in Maryland. Harford's chamber includes about 1,000 members and 800 businesses. "We need to make sure we're the voice of business, from the person working the farm in Jarrettsville to the storefront in Bel Air to the defense contractor at the Aberdeen Proving Ground gate," Vanessa says.
The chamber also has an education foundation, which awards scholarships every year to qualifying high school seniors and adults continuing their education. "We support education," says Vanessa. "It's not an end process. It's something we continue to do throughout our lives."
In her previous position with the library, Vanessa's job was to raise funds and increase awareness for the library throughout Harford County. "People value access to freedom of information," she says. "Libraries are good tenants of the community. Anyone can go and get the information they need-whether it's for pleasure, a good book, a newspaper or to educate their kids."
A big supporter of the arts, Vanessa graduated from the University of Hartford in Connecticut with a bachelor's degree in fine arts and later received her master's degree in fine arts from the University of Arts in Philadelphia.
"I'm a huge advocate for the Center for the Arts in Harford County," she says. "Arts and science are a great parallel to each other. Harford County is such a hub for science and math at Aberdeen Proving Ground. It would be nice to counterbalance that with a vibrant arts community."
In her spare time, Vanessa teaches Sunday school at Central Presbyterian Church in Towson. "My faith is a governing factor in how I run my life," she says. "I believe we are called to serve and service is very much a part of my life."
What is your favorite TV show?
I'm addicted to "American Pickers," it's a guilty pleasure. And I like "Modern Family," it makes me laugh out loud.
What is your favorite food?
Sushi. I have celiac disease, so Japanese food is easy for me to eat. And Broom's Bloom pistachio and caramel cashew ice cream.
If you could meet anyone in history, who would it be?
Historically, I've always wanted to meet Frederick Douglas because of his perseverance. Personally, I'd like to meet my paternal grandmother, she was an immigrant from Italy and I'm told I'm a lot like her.
What do you do to relax or have fun?
I'm a big yoga enthusiast and I also grow an organic garden with my 8-year-old son. We have a lot of adventures.