2011-06-02 / News

Islander awarded highest honor from secretary of state

By Margo Sullivan

From left, Secretary of State A. Ralph Mollis presents Cindy Butler with the National Association of Secretaries of State’s 2010 Medallion Award. Lisa Kilduff, president of the Society of Human Resource Management Rhode Island, and Diane Buerger look on. Photo courtesy of Chris Barnett From left, Secretary of State A. Ralph Mollis presents Cindy Butler with the National Association of Secretaries of State’s 2010 Medallion Award. Lisa Kilduff, president of the Society of Human Resource Management Rhode Island, and Diane Buerger look on. Photo courtesy of Chris Barnett Jamestown’s Cindy Butler is a Medallion Award winner.

Butler, 57, received the national award for supporting the Voters in the Workplace campaign, according to Chris Barnett, communications director for Secretary of State A. Ralph Mollis.

Butler is originally from Kenmore, N.Y., outside Buffalo. She moved to Rhode Island 30 years ago and has called Jamestown home for 12 years. She lives in town with her cat Missy, 18.

“I was always drawn here for vacation,” she said. “I love being by the water. I love the outdoors and I love the community.” She spent two years trying to buy a house on the island, but she was determined to live here, she said. Jamestown has both the ocean and the woods, and Butler savors it all.

Butler said the recognition took her by surprise.

“I have been working with his office for several years,” she said. “It’s a great, great honor.”

She helped Mollis launch the program, Barnett said, by persuading managers at Bank of America, Cox Communications, Blue Cross Blue Shield and other Rhode Island companies to back the voter drive.

“From her leadership positions in the state’s two major corporate human resource organizations, Cindy helped us recruit companies for Voters in the Workplace beginning in 2008,” Barnett said. The program brought the state’s voter registration drive into the workplace.

Butler said her role with the statewide voter drive came as a little bit of serendipity because she just happened to be working on registration issues, as part of her volunteer work. Butler, a human resources consultant, owns her own business, Butler & Associates in Jamestown. She also serves as government affairs director for the Society for Human Resource Management.

The society, known as SHRM, has two state chapters, totaling about 800 members, all interested in the way government regulations will impact their business. Butler’s job has been as a federal and state legislation watchdog. She has focused on labor relations, immigration and health care, and working with legislative leaders on “grass roots” issues, she said.

Because of that political experience, she started to stress at SHRM meetings the value when a workplace votes. Butler several years ago suggested human resources managers should remind employees to get to the polls. Then she heard about Voters in the Workplace, which, she said, “really tied in well with our initiative.”

Barnett could not say exactly how many Rhode Islanders signed up to vote at work because of Butler’s efforts; the database does not show that information, he said. But the secretary of state has estimated the figure is in the tens of thousands.

“We do know that 126,000 Rhode Islanders registered for the first time or re-registered because they had moved within the state during this time period,” Barnett said. “Our Voters in the Workplace campaign targeted both types of voters.”

Mollis presented the plaque at a May 25 joint meeting of the Human Resource Management Association of Rhode Island and the Society of Human Resources Management, Barnett said.

“She’s a fabulous person. She has so much energy and she does great work in our community,” state Rep. Deb Ruggiero said. “This is the highest honor the secretary of state’s office awards and it’s so deserving that Cindy is the recipient. She is such a focused and results-oriented advocate evident in her ability to organize a convenient way for people in the workplace to register to vote or update their records.”

Butler made her mark in the corporate world by showing companies how the human resources professionals can grow and build their business.

“I was in management, and I really felt HR could work closer on the operations of the business and make a larger impact,” she said. Butler acted on her hunch and took a labor relations class at Cornell University. Part of the class work called for the managers to role-play as workers and vice versa. The experience opened her eyes to the ways HR could become part of a company strategy.

In 1996, she left her Stride Rite management job and started Butler

& Associates. Her consulting firm helps senior managers find strategies to grow and develop their business, she said. For example, she helps them figure out the right compensation and benefi ts packages to attract and keep talent.

Among her top accomplishments, she put her work at a shipyard, which was changing over from working with hands and tools to high technology. Butler created training and a manual showing how management could effect the “culture change,” which required workers to “take more ownership” and make decisions.

Butler has also faced the hard jobs, such as closing down a plant. She went the extra mile to find displaced employees new jobs. Even though it was a tough assignment, she felt she had succeeded when the union boss sent her a thank you note, she said.

Butler also volunteers for the homeless with Crossroads Rhode Island and as a Save the Bay board member. One of her favorite events is the annual Newport to Jamestown swim.

“I’m not a swimmer. I hand out the medals,” she said.

Butler has racked up many achievements since she found her niche in the business world. In her spare time, she enjoys traveling and working in her garden but said her passion probably has been hiking the Grand Canyon. She hiked it “rim to rim,” she said. She also enjoys traveling and trips with her niece.

“I just love spending time with my 11-year-old niece Megan,” she said. “We often vacation together. Last year it was San Francisco and Yosemite. She is such a joy.”

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