Chappelle Gwendolyn Broome Stevenson says she got a sign that it was time to retire from her position as Director of Human Resources and Diversity at the Columbia Metro Airport. When told that she was eligible to retire on February 2, 2022, she says that the date 2/2/2022 was the perfect time to begin the next chapter of her life.
After 24 years after committed service, Mrs. Broome Stevenson retires.
Growing up in the segregated South, Chappelle recalls “taking the bus in Winnsboro there was one side for us and one side for non-minority. And if you wanted a hamburger you went up to the window, you didn’t go into the restaurant.”
Despite these obstacles, her parents told her “You are going to do great things.” So when Chappelle was promoted as the first minority to ever hold a director-level position in the 60+ year history of the Columbia Metropolitan Airport, it was no surprise.
Chappelle was serial entrepreneur before the term was invented. She had numerous jobs: working as an office manager, taking pictures at school, lugging around a backdrop; and coming to the airport to work on the weekends. She also worked the Information desk in the airport’s terminal part-time on the weekend. Chappelle says it was nothing for her to roll up her sleeves to work in any capacity needed. That included cleaning restrooms to dealing with irate customers cursing her out.
Despite this, Chappelle learned that she loved the airport environment. Every time a job opening became available, she would apply for it. She went from customer service desk to airport receptionist, then she landed a job as an airport administrative assistant.
Over the years, Chappelle wore many hats at the Airport. She was responsible for all aspects of the Human Resource activities of the Airport, including hiring, retention, discipline, termination, training, diversity/inclusion, Equal Employment Opportunity Compliance (EEOC), Affirmative Action, disability, HIPPA, legal compliance, compensation and industrial organization. She also served as the Airport’s Title VI Coordinator for the nearly 3000 acres of airport property: the Chief Diversity Official and the Airport’s designated Disadvantaged Business Enterprise (DBE) Liaison Officer with the responsibility of overseeing airport compliance in providing opportunities to DBE/minority, women-owned and small/local businesses.
Chappelle credits her success to her grandparents.
“I was raised by a 104-year-old grandmother who instilled in me a strong work ethic. She said that whatever degrees you have do not matter – when you show up do the best job you can do. Both my grandparents were janitors. They raised me and my two brothers to do everything to the best of your ability.
Chappelle credits her being ready for opportunities with having the right people in her life.
Chappelle liked HR and had a degree, but did not have a background in HR. Her Director of Administration encouraged Chappelle to get the degrees and certifications she needed so that she would be ready when the opportunity presented itself.
“Be prepared for the opportunity of a lifetime,” Chappelle says. “When were they looking to promote me to the director, one of the things they asked was do you have your certifications? I responded ‘Yes, sir.’ Do you have a degree in HR? I said ‘Yes, sir. I have two masters.’”
Had someone told Chappelle she would be the first minority Executive Level Director in history at the Airport, she would never have guessed it. She had always secretly wanted someone of color to be on the executive staff, but never ever guessed it would be her.
Chappelle says there are three more African Americans who have come behind her, so she is leaving the airport in good hands.
“My goal was that there has to be others,” she said. “That probably pleases me more than anything. There’s been TaKaela Bailey, Anthony Gilmer, and now there’s Kim Crafton.”
So what is Chapelle going to do now?
“I have a small business called Elevation Services LLC, so I’m going to concentrate on that. My goal is to elevate your business, whether it be in HR arena or the diversity arena to get you to the next level. My husband has a business, and I’m going to work with him. My experience is working with DBEs, and my husband’s a certified DBE. His business is Genesis and Genesis Energy Development LLC. He works with solar appliances and solar charging stations,” said Chappelle.
Chappelle says her proudest accomplishments is being a mother to a daughter who works in insurance and has just completed her doctoral degree, and her son, who works as a Director of Software Engineering.
Chappelle says her career and life have been guided by these words: “If it is not immoral or illegal; never say it is not my job!”
She also believes “Don’t despise small beginnings and more importantly “God will dream bigger dreams for you then you ever dream for yourself…Trust HIM!!”
In her spare time, Chappelle likes to travel internationally and has visited Nassau, Montreal, Dubai, Australia, and Israel. She can’t wait for her next adventure!