September 2022 | Getting to know our President & President-Elect

League President, Kate Fortlage offers insight into what inspires her within the League and her personal life. The candid interview with Kate shares a causal side of her. Kate is a thoughtful person, who has made time to let us into her world.

What are some highlights of your time as the 2022-2023 president?
This year is flying by fast. We had a great two-part leadership retreat over the summer where we developed a strong annual plan together. We voted on the new mission statement and created a set of shared values. Some of the training – for Family Nurturing Center, in advocacy, in women’s healthcare – has been inspiring for me personally and I hope for our members. There have been a couple of leadership challenges too and while not fun, I can’t tell you how much it means to me to know that there are so many members who care and will be there for this organization through it all – especially in a challenge. Many women in the League inspire me and it’s truly been a highlight being surrounded by them.

How do you spend your free time when you are not helping with Junior League or working?
I love the water. I’ve gotten really into boating and would love to have my boat captain’s license one day. We enjoy going to Lake Cumberland in the summer and to the Lower Keys whenever we can. When we are in the Keys, Michael and I like to scuba dive, fish, or relax on a sandbar. We love it when our friends can join us.

Who or what Inspires you to be a better person?
I’m blessed to have a philanthropic mom, Cindy, who taught me the meaning of volunteerism. When I see others doing good for our community – like when 8 women showed up on a Saturday morning for a neighborhood CandO clean up – I’m inspired because they showed up to help and wanted to do something good with their time on a Saturday morning.

When you are needing advice or guidance, who or what do you turn to for help?
I have a “kitchen cabinet” within the League of women I go to for trusted support and advice. There are so many brilliant, capable women in our organization that my cabinet has expanded even more in this role as I’ve gotten to know a few new gems. My mom, Cindy, and partner, Michael, are also great sounding boards for life stuff. I have some smart friends in the professional world and I’m a proponent of having work mentors – the solutions are always better when you brainstorm them with wise friends.

What is your favorite JLC project that you have participated in?
I’ve gone over the 20 year mark in the League so there are so many that it’s hard to choose. One of the most memorable – probably because it really hit home how meaningful JL work can be and what propelled me into more leadership in this organization- is when I was the Vice Chair of a Community Impact committee in the Dayton League. We were giving away free bike helmets to children and teaching them how to wear them and why it was important. The project was born out of a fellow League member having a deadly injury on a bike. I really loved helping the children with something so meaningful.

René Robers is the President’s Elect this year and she has a lot to say about life in the Junior League, as well as her life outside the League. She answered a series of questions,providing a well-rounded perspective of her. René is an ambitious person who looks to improve on whatever she is a part of.

What are some priorities for you as the 2022-2023 president elect?
Our President, Kate Fortlage, has tasked me with leading an Ad Hoc committee composed of board members and leaders to identify opportunities for community support, including the connections we have within the community, and how we can impact the community in the future, through our projects, partnerships and area of focus. I am also supporting Kelly Barber, who is developing a strategy for our leadership pipeline, and our Strategic Planning Director, Katie May in developing the renewal of the JLC’s Strategic Plan for 2023-2026. My core responsibilities also include supporting the Nominating Committee in slating our incoming leaders for 2023-2024.

How do you spend your free time when you are not helping with Junior League or working?
I love to read and I’m working towards a goal of reading 75 books in 2022! I also enjoy playing tennis with a group of JLC friends, decorating & entertaining and checking out new restaurants & parks with my husband Matt and our 3.5 year old daughter, Mari-Kate.

When you are needing advice or guidance, who or what do you turn to for help?
With nearly a dozen years of experience as a member of and leader in the JLC, I am grateful to have built a strong bench of supporters who have guided me through my membership & leadership journey. My sponsor, Meredith Comin, Sustainer Saralou Durham and my presidential advisor, Tara Noland, have always made themselves available to listen and lend advice. My husband is also an amazing sounding board and is a great people leader, so I lean on him a lot.

What is your favorite JLC project that you have participated in?
I absolutely loved participating in the program development cycle for our partnership with Sweet Cheeks Diaper Bank. Working shoulder to shoulder with incredibly smart women and leaders in the JLC, we learned so much about our community and helped guide our organization and members to make a key decision in our history, which has made a considerable impact on families in Cincinnati. The experience inspired me to sit on the committee again for our last cycle leading to our partnership with Family Nurturing Center; it is also informing the Ad Hoc I am currently leading with the board, and I am looking forward to contributing to this process again next year.