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Lieutenant Governor Toland Congratulates Rhonda Harris on “Women of Influence” Award

Oct 29, 2021

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TOPEKA – Lieutenant Governor and Secretary of Commerce David Toland congratulated Rhonda Harris today on being named the Distinguished Mentor Honoree at the Seventh Annual Women of Influence Awards. Harris received the honor Thursday at the Capitol Plaza Hotel as part of an event presented by the Greater Topeka Partnership and The Women’s Initiative.

“Congratulations to our own Rhonda Harris for being recognized as the Distinguished Mentor,” Lieutenant Governor /Secretary Toland said. “Rhonda’s outstanding leadership and service to the people of Kansas, especially the women and minority business community, has not gone unrecognized. She is a distinct difference maker every day, and our state is extremely fortunate to have her leading these critical efforts at the Department of Commerce.”

Harris is the Director of the Office of Women and Minority Business Development at the Kansas Department of Commerce. She has served in this role for the last 22 years, with a total of 36 years with the State of Kansas. She currently serves on several committees and boards related to women and minority business development efforts, and recently was selected to serve as a charter member of the Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Advisory Board for NetWork Kansas.

Harris holds a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology and Sociology from Baker University and a Master’s in Industrial Psychology with an emphasis in Business from Emporia State University. She also is certified as an Economic Development Finance Professional (EDFP).

“I am truly grateful to be the recipient of this award, as it represents the importance and worth that we place on preparing our next generation,” Harris said. “Mentoring is one of many ways to assist growing entrepreneurs, especially women and minorities, reach their full potential, and I am honored to be a part of their journeys.”

The Women’s Initiative is an umbrella program under the Greater Topeka Partnership that promotes efforts to empower, educate and celebrate women. According to The Women’s Initiative, “A distinguished mentor is a woman who advises other women in order to help them advance and develop their own path to academic and professional success. She generously shares her time to be accessible to the mentees. A distinguished mentor imparts guidance and expertise in encouraging and critiquing the mentee’s leadership, training and other scholarly works. She encourages mentees in networking activities with other professionals, as well as promotes and makes others aware of the contributions and value of their mentees.” Every year, one or two honorees may receive the prestigious Distinguished Mentor award. Harris is the sole honoree of this year’s award.

Other honorees Thursday evening were Woman of Influence award winners Melissa Brunner from WIBW and Lucy Opit from Midwest Barber College; Outstanding Entrepreneur honoree, Cheryl Clark from Dare to Dream; the Breakthrough Business Award honorees, Leslie Fleuranges from Tender Loving Care Pet Nursing Hotel and Darlene Morgan from Milk & Honey Coffee Co.; the Community Service honoree, Lauren Tice Miller from the Office of Kansas State Treasurer Lynn Rogers; the Rising Star honoree, Grace Clinton from Helping Hands Humane Society; the Education honoree, Carla Pratt from Washburn University School of Law; and the Emeritus Award honoree, Kak Eli-Schneider from Washburn Rural High School.

About the Kansas Department of Commerce

As the state’s lead economic development agency, the Kansas Department of Commerce strives to empower individuals, businesses and communities to achieve prosperity in Kansas. Commerce accomplishes its mission by developing relationships with corporations, site location consultants and stakeholders in Kansas, nationwide and worldwide. Our strong partnerships allow us to help create an environment for existing Kansas businesses to grow and foster an innovative, competitive landscape for new businesses.