Connie Hulse Ford is a born-and-raised Woman of Wilson. She grew up and still resides on Lebanon's north side in the community of Hunters Point.
Relocating to another city or state was never a thought, she said. "I love the small, hometown feel of Wilson County, and I love the state of Tennessee."
Ford has worked with Judge Clara Byrd for 26 years, and currently serves as a judicial administrative assistant. She also prepares taxes from January to April every year with Jackson Hewitt.
"I started with Judge Byrd when she was an attorney and while I was still in high school I worked through the Co-Op program," she said.
The most rewarding part of her job is knowing that she has helped someone get through life's difficult times. "The most joyful part is helping a child get to a loving home through an adoption," Ford added.
Ford has been married to husband, Donnie, for 16 years. Donnie works with Wilson County Probation Services. He was born in Evansville, Ind. - but also grew up in Lebanon.
Ford is step-mother to Thomas Ford, who works for the Wilson County Sheriff's Department and resides in Lebanon with his wife, Chelsea. "Thomas has been in my life since he was nine years old, and I consider him like my own," she said. "I also have a stepdaughter, Carroll Sanford, who lives in Franklin, Tenn. with her husband, Michael. Carroll has blessed our family with two wonderful twin grandbabies, Harper and Hudson."
In her spare time, Ford is a University of Tennessee football fan. "My family and I try to go to several home games every season. But if we are not at the game you can bet we are in front of the TV. Go Vols," she said.
She also enjoys time with her nieces and great-nieces.
She is a member of Cedar Grove Baptist Church, which burned to the ground in 2015. She said with the help of God, along with the community, they rebuilt the church and reopened it in July 2016.
Ford found it hard to pick just one woman whom she admires.
She first named her mother, Elaine Hulse, calling her "the strongest woman that I know."
"She is the backbone of our family," Ford said. "She gives unselfishly of her time, money and love. My mom would work two to three jobs to help support our family, and we always had what we needed growing up. Then she went out on a limb and opened Elaine's Restaurant, and it stayed in business under her ownership for 26 years. She would work six to seven days per week from 2 a.m. to 5 p.m. and then come home to take care of her family."
Ford added that her mom and dad, Hank, have been married for 50 years.
"I have the best mom and can never say enough thanks to her for doing everything for her family over the years."
Ford next named her boss, Judge Byrd, as another inspirational lady.
"She took a chance on a 17-year-old that barely knew how to type. Along the way, she encouraged me to be the very best person I could be, to never give up and to keep striving for my goals in life," she said. "She has also taught me patience and kindness to others ... I have gone on a wonderful journey with her over the years and have learned so much from her. Not only from work but as a true friend."