APCO 2023: Distinguished Achievers Breakfast

APCO 2023’s Distinguished Achievers Breakfast recognized APCO members and contributors on Tuesday, and the Nashville, Tennessee, Music City Center audience heard from Olympic gymnast and business owner Dominique Dawes about the value of setting aside one’s ego. The breakfast was sponsored by L3Harris.

APCO Chief Executive Officer Derek Poarch thanked corporate sponsors of APCO 2023, including L3Harris, FirstNet built with AT&T, Comtech, Intrado, JVC Kenwood, On Star, Tyler Technologies, CentralSquare Technologies and Verizon Frontline.

Poarch introduced graduates of APCO’s professional development program, the Certified Public-Safety Executive Program. “Drawing on resources from renowned leadership professionals and distinguished academic sources, the CPE Program allows participants to explore the difference between management and leadership, models and theories of leadership, leadership styles, public safety leadership issues, organized culture and leading change,” Poarch said.

Maya Mitchell, communications/organizational development manager for the Commission for Accreditation of Law Enforcement Agencies (CALEA), announced the 22 emergency communications centers (ECCs) that have earned accreditation from the program.

Mitchell was followed on the stage by Brenda Brown and Fred Miller, representatives of the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children (NCMEC). Brown and Miller recognized new member agencies of the Missing Kids Readiness Program.

Vice president of business strategy with L3Harris, Jayne Leighton, came next to introduce the featured speaker.

Dominique Dawes is an Olympic Gold medalist who scored two perfect 10s during her career. The first thing she told the APCO 2024 breakfast crowd is that now, at the age of 46 going on 47, she can’t do back flips anymore and that she is no longer striving for perfect 10s. Most importantly, she’s happier as a result.

Dawes said the life of a goal-oriented, driven Olympic gymnast has its drawbacks, including constantly focusing on what has gone wrong and comparing oneself to others. “Each and every time I did not achieve that perfect 10, I was made to feel less than.”

She said she wishes she had kept the certificate for her 19th place all-around finish in the 1996 Olympics because that achievement is more important to her than the gold medal she won as part of the “Magnificent Seven” Team USA.

“My Olympic gold medal resides in my kitchen junk drawer next to duck sauce, spare keys, my health insurance cards. My gold medal is right there,” Dawes said.
Dawes’ failure to win the all-around medal in Atlanta meant fewer endorsements, but she said it made her current life possible with her husband and four children.

She did learn from her Olympic career that teamwork and setting aside egos is what leads to success. Starting out as “seven of the most egotistical gymnasts,” Dawes said she and her teammates began pulling for each other to succeed. Working for each other was how they won the tournament.

“If you want your team to achieve all that it can achieve, you have to put your ego aside,’’ Dawes said. “Ego makes you forget your greatest gift that you have in front of you. Don’t let your ego get in the way and steal your joy and happiness. We have one life to live.”

And Dawes reminded APCO members that, whatever insights she had about elite athletics, their work has life and death consequences in the real world. “I hope you know that you all are our unsung heroes each and every day.”

By Richard Goldstein