Meet Cary Magazine’s 2023 Women of Western Wake

From corporate success to selfless service, these dynamic leaders have accomplished great things in their chosen fields.

Here, our honorees share their stories about taking risks, finding rewards, following your heart, and working hard to better our world.

Leslie Covington


Leslie Covington’s desire to help others is a family affair. Her father was a pastor, one sister is a nurse, another a teacher, and the list goes on. As for Covington, she’s spent the past eight years serving the community as executive director of The Carying Place — and her commitment to service extends years before that.

The Carying Place helps working families who are experiencing homelessness secure independent housing and teaches them financial literacy.

“We’re about trajectory change — we want to eradicate homelessness,” she said. “My role is about leading the organization through the changes in the landscape and doing our work better and better.”

Inspired by her late father, dubbed the “social worker of Richmond County,” Covington builds partnerships for The Carying Place with other organizations and spends time advocating for affordable housing. Covington serves on the executive committee of the Western Regional Community Advocacy Committee (WRCAC) and co-chairs the Western Region’s Affordable Housing Action Group, a subgroup of the WRCAC.

“We cannot do this alone,” she said. “We are only as great as our community and our partners.”

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Sheri Erhart


As the executive vice president of CMC Hotels, a family-owned and operated hotel management firm, Sheri Erhart plays an integral part in operating many top branded hotels, including the new Westin at Brier Creek.

A well-respected innovator and hospitality industry champion, Erhart knows a thing or two about collaboration. Erhart serves on the executive board of directors for the Greater Raleigh Convention and Visitors Bureau and the North Carolina Restaurant and Lodging Association. She has also been a member of Marriott’s Owner Advisory Council since 2016.

“I’ve been able to meet a lot of industry leaders that I’ve been able to learn from,” said Erhart. “I feel like being involved in organizations has really given me the opportunity to grow and learn from other people.”

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Patsy Johnson


Patsy Johnson is no stranger to hard work — as a child in rural Wilson County, Johnson grew up in what she describes as a “typical rural upbringing back in the ’50s and ’60s,” barning tobacco and picking cotton and vegetables.

“I grew up dedicated to hard work and focused on the quality of my life,” Johnson said.

Acting on the advice of her mother, who “had a very strong focus on making sure I had a good education and that I understood the value of education,” Johnson received her bachelor’s degree from UNC-Chapel Hill and a master’s degree from NC State. In 1986, Johnson moved to Cary as a novice in the banking industry. Now, she is the president of TowneBank Cary.

“TowneBank is about relationships,” Johnson said. “It’s not about transactions. The clients that we deal with are those individuals that do indeed value relationships.”

A key element to building those relationships, Johnson believes, is compassion — with a side of business acumen, of course. “I don’t do compassion for just compassion’s sake, and I don’t do strategy just for strategy’s sake,” she revealed. “You can combine the two.”

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Dr. Rebecca Kitzmiller


Dr. Rebecca “Becky” Kitzmiller, an associate professor at the University of North Carolina School of Nursing, teaches in the master’s and doctoral programs and within the Carolina Health Informatics Program. She claims to be where she is today because when doors opened, she recognized the opportunities and chose to walk through them.

Her first opportunity — an encounter with the ROTC during her time at the University of Pennsylvania School of Nursing — would change the trajectory of her life. Dr. Kitzmiller applied for and received a three-year scholarship to pay for the rest of her undergraduate schooling. While in the military, Dr. Kitzmiller applied for the long-term health education program to pursue health care administration and was accepted to study at Duke University.

Dr. Kitzmiller retired from the US Army Reserves as a lieutenant colonel in 2009. After earning a PhD in nursing from Duke in 2012, Dr. Kitzmiller joined the faculty at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. She currently teaches leadership, change management, quality improvement, and informatics courses in the School of Nursing’s graduate programs. Her research continues to focus on effective use of technology in health care.

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Tamani Anderson Powell


As the director of marketing and recruitment for Wake County’s magnet schools, Tamani Anderson Powell says she constantly lives in an awareness campaign.

“I go wherever and talk to whomever about our magnet schools because I know they’re great places for students, and I just want to be sure that families, particularly those who are new to the area, are aware of them,” said Powell. “I work with magnets, create a diverse population, and help families be a part of these amazing programs.”

Powell credits her passion for diversity and education to her mother, a lifelong educator, and her father, an entrepreneur and staunch civil rights advocate.

“Now I’m mixing my dad’s desire for integration, because magnet schools are about creating diversity in populations, and I’m mixing doing good things for kids, which I love,” said Powell. “It’s kind of the best of all of the things that I’d been raised with, and I got to use my degrees to make all of that come together.”

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