Occupation: Community volunteer
Family:Married to John Wilbanks. They have three daughters, Brooke Swart, Jessica Wilds and Mindy Jernigan, and five grandchildren.
Kathy Wilbanks compared herself to the pink Energizer Bunny…she keeps going and going and going. That’s not an exaggeration, and anyone who knows her agrees. Wilbanks works tirelessly for organizations such as the Little River Watershed Association, the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Experience Your Smokies and the Great Smoky Mountain Institute at Tremont.
Wilbanks is from Kodak in Sevier County. “I was born and raised on the French Broad River. I met and married John and moved to Blount County. I’ve been here the last 16 or 17 years, so I’m a full-fledged Blount Countian.”
The community volunteer has had different careers throughout the years. Wilbanks said she worked in sales at the Knoxville Glove Co., started a state-licensed daycare that was successful for several years while her daughters were young, went back to school and got into the Metal Sales and Trading Division with Alcoa, Inc. Since leaving the aluminum company, Wilbanks has dedicated her time to her family and her varied volunteer opportunities.
“I feel fortunate I can give my time to organizations I care about. I truly believe if we do something and give back to community in some form or fashion, we are truly making a difference. Everyone can make a difference,” she said. “You have to pick and choose what you do. Unfortunately, I’m not good at that word ‘No,’ so I’m often at my limit as to what I can get involved with.”
Wilbanks said she enjoys the Little River Watershed Association because it is a resource people take for granted. “In East Tennessee we have lot of water sources and when we don’t have it, we start screaming. We shouldn’t wait. We should all be very conscious that this is a very precious resource.”
Wilbanks said she also enjoys participating in the Experience the Smokies class because she simply loves the National Park. “It just makes me so proud to be an American. National parks really were America’s best idea. We’ve come along and set aside these pieces of land. Had that not happened, our children and grandchildren and certainly generations of Americans would never get to experience these things.”
Also an avid hiker, she said also enjoys reading but really likes being outside more than anything. “If it is outside, I’m happy whatever the activity is.”
Here is Kathy Wilbanks:
Who are you most like, your mother or your father and why?
“My mother. I am a strong person with a strong personality. I am passionate, and my mother was passionate. She was almost fearless. She raised six children by herself almost singlehandedly because my father died when I was 10. She was very private and didn’t share an awful lot about herself. She had vision and knew what life was supposed to be like.”
How do you like your steak cooked?
“Medium rare. I enjoy cooking. When you cook a piece of meat until it’s done, you’re losing the flavor.”
What are you guilty of?
“I tend to overextend myself with life in general.”
What is your favorite material possession?
“My antiques - antique furniture, particularly. If you go for higher end items, they are well built, and the lines are absolutely beautiful. They have history. I have a sofa that dates back to late 1800s.”
Who has been the most influential person in the 20th Century?
“President Ronald Reagan. He put the United States on a more conservative course, restored confidence in the presidency and forged a relationship with Soviet Leader Gorbachev that was instrumental in ending the Cold War.”
What was your most embarrassing moment?
“I sold industrial work gloves when employed by Knox Glove. One of my customers asked if I dealt in rubber gloves, and my response was. ‘I don’t, and really know very little about rubbers.’ As soon as the words were out of my mouth, I realized it was a slip of the tongue. There was total silence. I cleared my throat, we both laughed, and I responded, ‘That didn’t sound quite right.’ From that moment forward we had a well-rounded working relationship and never discussed rubber gloves again.”
If you only had a week to live, what would you do and why?
“Travel with my best friend, my husband, John Ernest. John is the most supportive man in the whole world. I drag him from one end of Blount County to the other and even outside Blount County. He listens to me, he encourages me. He’s just my best friend. He’s the best thing that ever happened to me.”
What is one word others often use to describe you and why?
“Energetic. The pink Energizer Bunny. I tend to attack life at full speed.”
If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?
“Stop and smell the roses more frequently.”
What is your passion?
“The Great Smoky Mountain National Park, Experience Your Smokies, Little River Watershed Association, Great Smoky Mountain Institute at Tremont and any good cause that makes a difference in our world.”
With whom, living or dead, would you most like to have a long lunch?
“My mother, Margaret Hodges. She has been gone almost 20 years, and I still miss her.”
If a movie were made about your life, who would play you and why?
“Meryl Streep. She’s passionate, a perfectionist and exerts all her energy in the role she takes on.”
If you could go back in time for a week, what time period or year would you visit?
“The early 1920s, just following the 1st World War. What an exciting time with Flappers, liberalism, social and political turbulence, jazz, the end of prohibition - change.”
What is the best advice your mother ever gave you?
“Be true to yourself, and if you can’t put your whole heart in it, take yourself out.”
In the workplace, would you rather be powerful or popular?
“Powerful. A powerful person is effective in making things happen and has influence over others while popularity brings friends. It takes a balance of both but power turns the world.”
Who is your hero?
“My mom. She was a survivor and one of the strongest, bravest people I have ever known.”
Do you Myspace, Facebook or Twitter?
“Facebook with a technical challenge.”
Are you a cat person or a dog person?
“Cat. They are self-cleaning, slobber-free and handy when you’ve got a mouse problem. And they don’t have to be walked.”
What’s the worst job you have ever had?
“A volunteer job washing lots of cars - alone.”
What is your theme song that best describes you?
‘“Don’t Hold Me Down.’ I want to be a part of and experience the wonders of the world.”