Judy Vossler, currently Senior Vice President of Administration of the Greater Palm Springs Convention & Visitors Bureau, has been a part of area development for over 35 years. She will receive the “WLF Desert Visionary Award” along with her talented daughter, Lisa Vossler Smith (to be profiled in my next Spotlight), at the WLF Women Who Rule luncheon on Friday, Jan. 29, 2016.
Kate Buckley: Judy, where are you from originally, and what brought you to the Palm Springs area?
Judy Vossler: I am the oldest and only girl in a family with 5 children. Fort Worth, Texas was our home until I was 11 years old. We then moved to Oklahoma City where I lived until I was 30. Lisa and I moved to La Quinta in 1980 to be close to my parents, brothers and maternal grandparents— all had already moved to La Quinta. Lisa was 10 then. My father, Ernie Vossler, was a developer of master-planned golf and resort communities after his career on the PGA Tour. That’s how and why he knew about the desert beauty, weather and lifestyle. Lisa and I visited the desert often, and in 1980 decided to make it our permanent home.
KB: Congratulations on your career and civic achievements and on receiving the prestigious WLF Desert Visionary Award, along with your daughter, Lisa Vossler Smith who currently serves as Executive Director of Modernism Week. Can you tell me about any mentors or role models who were instrumental on your journey?
JV: Certainly my parents and my grandparents were major influences. I was lucky to grow up in a home with a father and brothers who played sports and with a mother and granny who influenced me on how to work hard and run a household— lessons that were vital when I was a single working mother, managing a hotel. In my work life, I’ve had a wide variety of other mentors. Not a day goes by that I don’t think about or mention my high school English teacher Clarice Wiser. And early in my retail career, I worked with a Miss America contestant, Cheryl Semrad Haussmann, who was poised and powerful. As I began in hotel management, a client/meeting planner, Sherman Adler, taught me what attention to detail means—he’s still teaching me. From Jackie Lee Houston, I learned the art of being a gracious hostess and the importance of community involvement. From my 35 year relationship with Gloria Greer, I learned to smile when I didn’t feel like it and to make work fun—every day.
KB: It must be particularly meaningful to receive this award with your daughter. In fact, I hear Lisa got her start in business under your tutelage. Tell me more about that. Do you feel you’ve inspired Lisa in her own career?
JV: Your question is a high compliment. Thank you. My brothers and I went to work in our father’s golf shop at early ages. As an adult, I realized that it was one of the ways Daddy could keep an eye on us and teach us about the working world. I was fortunate to be a hotel manager when Lisa was in her formative years, and so there were countless opportunities for Lisa as soon as she could get a work permit. I wanted her to learn how to get to work on time, make a sale, balance a cash drawer, work in food and beverage, and develop myriad skills as a fallback if her big plans for life didn’t pan out. She worked hard, never complained about the jobs she had, never played the boss’s daughter card and she had fun meeting a lot of celebrities, AND she quickly learned that going to college would propel her into management. She’s great at telling people what to do—especially me! The joke has always been that Lisa was raising her mother!
KB: Judy, what do you see as your legacy for future women leaders as a whole?
JV: Oh geez, that’s a tough one. We don’t get to know our legacy, so I don’t think about it. I hope those around me can see that I believe in balancing “go with it,” and making smart decisions. Long range planning would not have worked out so well for me—I might have missed extraordinary opportunities and amazing people.
KB: What do you believe is your greatest strength and your greatest weakness?
JV: Probably they’re the same: my ability to multi-task, my attention to detail and need for planning—that’s all thanks to my mother and granny. By the way, Lisa has the same afflictions, although she’s kinder about it.
KB: What does a typical day look like for you?
JV: Up at 4:59 a.m. although the alarm never rings, click on the TV for cable and local news, check e-mails, texts and Facebook for clues about the day ahead, out the door at 7:30 with all home chores done, at 8:00 a.m. the CVB office opens and no two days are the same. I love being in operations because I never know what the day will bring. After 5 p.m. I have quiet time to catch up on the day, before 7 p.m. home or a community event after work, and wherever I am, I disappear by 9 p.m., ready to do it again the next day.
KB: You do quite a bit of work for some very important causes and organizations. Which is closest to your heart and why?
JV: Well, how would I pick a fave? (And I really don’t regard it as work.) My involvement with each is for a different reason. I like the national/international perspective of Desert Town Hall and I experience it as both a board member and as a 17-year working volunteer. The Boys & Girls Clubs of the Coachella Valley and The Ophelia Project pull at my heartstrings, La Quinta Historical Society touches my roots in the valley, the Palm Springs International Film Festival adds “Hollywood” to my life, and the Palm Springs Art Museum inspires me, just to mention a few.
KB: When you’re not hard at work, what activities do you enjoy in and around Greater Palm Springs?
JV: Work IS what I enjoy; it entertains me. Seriously, at my age and at this point in my career, what could be more fun than working in tourism/hospitality/special events in Greater Palm Springs? I’m privileged to work with bright, cutting edge people. Daily, we experience what the valley has to offer as we promote the area. I also appreciate times away from work to walk on the beach without my cell phone and to visit far-away places. It’s eye-opening for me to experience foreign cultures and hospitality.
KB: Are there any upcoming Palm Springs events you’re particularly excited about or would like for our readers to know about?
JV: Oh, thank you for asking! My talented son-in-law, Phillip K. Smith III, is an internationally recognized artist, and for the second time in only three years, Phillip will create an art installation for the Coachella Music and Arts Festival in April. I can’t wait to see what he produces!
KB: Judy Vossler, what is it you love most about the community of Palm Springs?
JV: For sure, the people or I would not have stayed here for 36 years! I am blessed with cherished friends and daily interactions with incredible, progressive people. I love everything about this very special place. I stepped out this morning and was awestruck by the snowcapped majestic mountains and thought—we have it all, and I’m so fortunate to be in a business that sells it all.
I can’t let this interview conclude without mentioning Lisa’s father, Bob Gingrich, and his parents—who all have been equally instrumental in her life. I believe their consistent involvement and our sharing the responsibilities and joys of raising Lisa has led to the balance and smart choices in her life.
And thank you for not asking me to describe my daughter, Lisa! Writer’s block would set in. I am in awe of her. For years, I was busy working to support a lifestyle that would be her foundation and her security net—just in case—and until she reached her 30s, I didn’t really know she was absorbing it all… At this time in our mother-daughter relationship, I just stand back, thank God, and in my heart I know Mother and Granny are looking down on us.