Candidate For First Vice President: Chris LaFleur Martinelli

Chris Martinelli
Chris Martinelli

Name:  Chris LaFleur Martinelli
Pledge Class/Year: Fall 1983
Officer Position: First Vice President

As a prospective officer & leader of the ODPAA, what do you consider your greatest strengths? Weaknesses?

Some of my greatest strengths are also my greatest weaknesses.

Strength:  I find value in all opinions and suggestions. I often put myself in another person’s shoes to better understand their perspective.

Weakness:   This desire to seek understanding of others can sometimes create indecision in my own opinion.

Strength:  I am a perfectionist. I have high expectations of the work that I produce and the way it is presented.

Weakness:    I am a perfectionist. I tend to take on extra work to add the “bells and whistles” to a project or a presentation, when it’s not always necessary.


Strength:        I seek harmony and will use facilitation experience to find consensus, if possible.

Weakness:    I avoid conflict, although sometimes it may be necessary.

If elected or re-elected to the position you seek, what is your commitment to serving out the full term?

Barring any unforeseen medical emergencies (my own or my immediate family’s), I am fully committed to serving out the full term of this position.

Please describe accomplishments in your career and personal life that would benefit the ODPAA.

I have been with the same employer for over 30 years. During this time, I worked my way up from my first job as a Receptionist/Typist to my current position as Manager of Employee Benefits. I broke the invisible barrier between “clerical” and “professional” labels, although I had a previous boss who said it couldn’t be done. I also continued my education, as I believe in lifelong learning. I finished my undergraduate degree (after 3 years at SUNY Potsdam), received my MBA and several professional certifications.

During this time, I also was married, had my son, was divorced when my son was 4, remarried, and, together, we raised my son and 2 step-children (who are 25, 26 and 27 now).

My personal life has not been overly tumultuous, and can be described by some as downright boring (!), but I have overcome obstacles, both personal and professional, that have strengthened my self-confidence and taught me the importance of establishing priorities.

Professionally, my accomplishments include the establishment of a Labor Management Health Care Committee that oversees the City of Rochester’s self-funded health plan. The Committee, comprised of the Presidents of our 4 Unions, the Deputy Mayor, Director of HR, Benefits Manager, and Labor Manager, saved the City $30 million in 2009 through implementation of self-designed health plans and shifting the way we fund employee health coverage. Since 2009, together, we have managed our plans and kept annual increases well below the national average, which is skyrocketing. My role, in addition to acting as a Subject Matter Expert, includes facilitation of the Committee that is made up of naturally opposing groups – Labor and Management. Through education and open communication, the Committee members understand that an alliance for this purpose is far more important and productive than the day-to-day conflicts that historically defined their roles.

Although this is a simplified overview of our Committee’s structure, it is an example of how communication, transparency, and education have created trust among diverse participants who, together, gained mutual understanding and moved forward.

What is your vision for the future of the ODPAA? What changes would you advocate and why?

The future of ODPAA should include a clear understanding of what the organization is and what it isn’t. Similar to when we were actives in the house, ODPAA will always have individual meaning and purpose for each sister. However, we have a shared understanding that binds us together – the love for Omega Delta Phi and the importance of her success for the future.

I would advocate that we develop a vision and mission statement. From that we would be able to identify our key focus areas and determine what specific measures would indicate whether our strategies, projects, teams, etc., are impacting the measures.

I would advocate for completion of a clearly-written and uniformly understood Constitution. Content may or may not change, that is up to the members, but the document itself must be clearly written so that it can be understood by all.

If elected or re-elected, please describe what you seek to accomplish:

  • Within your first 90 days

The first 90 days should consist of an onboarding period for all officers (elected and appointed, including those who are new and those who are continuing from a previous term).   During this time, I would expect to see establishment of a meeting schedule, discussion of expectations from ourselves, from each other and from the membership, and development of ground rules to promote effective and productive meetings.

  • Within your first year

The first year should include development of a mission/vision, short term and long-term goals, and identification of strategies on how to reach our goals.

  • Within your full term

Within the term of my office I would like to see an increase of alumni participation in ODPAA.   I would like alumni to participate because they believe the Association provides value to them and to future sisters. I want to rebuild the trust we need to succeed as an organization.

What does Omega Delta Phi mean to you? Please describe your experience as both an active member and an alumni.

Omega Delta Phi means inclusiveness, acceptance, support, connection, pride, dependability, eternal, generous, laughter, joy, tradition, and future.

As an active, I was so proud of my letters. I was active for only one semester after I pledged. I so wished that I had made the decision to become part of Omega before I was a Junior. I lived in the house for that semester – first I started in the peak room, then moved to the second floor in the hidden bedroom next to the bathroom to the right of the stairs. Does that room have a name? I’m not even sure, but it’s an awesome location!

As an alumni, I feel as if it is time for me to give back and take a more active role in supporting the sisterhood than I did when I was an active member. I am in awe of the young women who are joining our sisterhood. They are self-confident, intelligent, and avidly supportive of each other. We were them. We are them. They should be able to enjoy the continued bonds and heritage of ODP and ODPAA when they are us.

How would your sisters describe you?

Well, they would probably say that I am quiet, but funny.

Please describe your approach to communicating and working with the active membership.

My approach to communicating with the active membership would be to first reintroduce ourselves. We are a part of their life like no other is. We are not parents, teachers, or college representatives. We can offer unique guidance from a mutual perspective.

In order to build a foundation of trust, we need to be honest, consistent with communication, and follow-up on our commitments. We need to offer the big picture when they are only familiar with the part of the picture they are in. We need to enhance their understanding rather than promote our own.

I can’t pretend to be 20 years old, but I do work with plenty of young professionals and we successfully communicate because we have mutual respect for each other.

What are the top 3 things you would like the ODPAA and active membership to accomplish together?

Having open and regular communication; building trust.

Restoring the house so that it is the envy of all Greeks.

Creating a foundation for continued growth and success of all sisters and both organizations (ODP and ODPAA)

How do you deal with difficult people & situations? Please describe a situation in which you took a position that upset someone else, and explain how you handled it.

When it comes to difficult people, I try not to become defensive or difficult in return. I will ask questions to try to understand their point of view. I also depend on facts, especially when it is necessary to respond in a way that is contrary to what the other person wants to hear. I gather all the facts so that I have a clear understanding of a situation before I respond.

In my job, I must deal with grieving spouses when a retiree passes away. It is at this most difficult time in their life that I must inform them they are losing health care benefits that were provided to them through the retiree. They often become angry as they feel it is not the correct information. I take time to listen to them and validate their feelings. Empathy, compassion and listening go a long way. It is after they feel sufficiently understood that I begin to provide information on options and recommendations.

How do you motivate others?

I encourage others to offer their ideas and be a part of the solution. By including them, they can see how their contribution to a project is valued. It increases their buy-in when they feel valued.

How do you handle criticism?

I must admit, I have a hard time taking criticism in stride. It’s a process with me. I need to think about it, put it into perspective, then either thoughtfully respond or let it go. It depends on if a response is necessary. I can say that I normally do not have an immediate and emotional response that I later regret. It’s usually the opposite and I miss my opportunity to defend myself because I’m busy thinking!

What top 3 qualities do you think a leader should have?

A leader should be a good listener, have a high level of integrity, and support their team.

How do you spend your free time?

I am an avid knitter and have many projects lined up. I also enjoy sewing and machine embroidery. We have a second home outside of Pulaski that we go to on weekends. During the summer, we enjoy the lake and getting away from the hot City. During the winter, we are vrooming around on snowmobiles.

For Fun: What’s your ‘superpower’ or ‘spirit animal’ and why?

I wasn’t sure how to answer this, so I Googled it and took a quiz! At first glance I thought it was fairly accurate. Then I read more and was totally hooked!

I am the Deer.

“When you have the deer as spirit animal, you are highly sensitive and have a strong intuition. By affinity with this animal, you have the power to deal with challenges with grace. You master the art of being both determined and gentle in your approach.

The deer totem wisdom imparts those with a special connection with this animal with the ability to be vigilant, move quickly, and trust their instincts to get out the trickiest situations.

By inspiration from the deer’s qualities, you can achieve ambitious goals and tackle difficult situation smoothly with a touch of gentleness and grace.

The deer spirit animal will remind you to be gentle with yourself and others. The grace and gentleness characteristic of this spirit animal echo the qualities brought forth when living from the heart. For example, the traditional symbol used for the heart chakra has the deer (sometimes also represented as an antelope) as emblematic animal of the energy of love and harmony with oneself and others.”

Is there anything else you would you like to share with your sisters?

I wish that everyone had to fill out one of these questionnaires! We’d sure learn a lot about each other.