Since she was 16 years old Teresa Boutwell has known she wanted to work in the human resources profession. It’s a career path she hasn’t regretted.
It all began when the Pearl native was a sophomore in high school and went to work with her mother, Billie Hunter, who worked in HR for the Jackson Public Schools where some part-time help was needed.
“It became my passion and I worked after school, holidays and summers,” Boutwell recalls. “My mother took her lunch hour at three o’clock so she could pick me up at school and take me back to work with her.”
From the ground up
Boutwell learned everything about HR from the ground up in a time when all paperwork was done manually. After graduation from Pearl High School and Hinds Community College, she went into HR full time, working as a personnel assistant, employee manager and other positions. She spent nine years working in recruiting for a bank but missed the full range of HR duties.
One year ago, Boutwell became HR director for 121-employee American Healthtech, a Jackson-based company offering technology solutions for long-term care providers.
She was recently honored with her profession’s highest award, the Jim Wilkins Distinguished Mississippi Human Resource Professional of the Year for 2007. The award was presented to her at the state conference of the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) in which she has been active for a long time. The award is presented annually to a SHRM member who best represents the spirit of SHRM in Mississippi. Winners are outstanding leaders within and outside their companies and exhibit enthusiasm and love of the profession.
“It was very much a surprise and is greatly appreciated,” Boutwell said. “I have tried to display commitment and service to HR over the years.”
During her 26 years as an HR professional, Boutwell has served the Capital Area HR Association as secretary, president-elect and president along with serving on the state council of the state chapter of SHRM. She has also availed herself of the many SHRM learning opportunities through seminars and conferences.
“SHRM has a wonderful network with 200,000 members worldwide and gives members many opportunities to learn. I moved up through the ranks of HR and it has meant the world to me,” she says. “I’ve learned a lot and grown professionally.”
Of course, her mother was a mentor but Boutwell also lists Tracy Robinson Woods at Regions Bank as a valuable mentor and one of several great bosses in her career.
“They told me to always go for what I wanted, and I give that advice to my children and other young people,” she said. “I encourage students that HR is a great career to get involved with, especially if they like people and dealing with them. I strongly encourage them to get a degree and learn all they can about HR.”
Boutwell has seen many changes in HR. The most notable is the plethora of regulations and guidelines that exist today. “Twenty-five years ago we didn’t have to worry about lawsuits,” she says. “It’s quite a challenge, and we must be more careful to have good fits with jobs.”
Still, Boutwell continues to love HR and see great opportunities in the profession. Her greatest reward is seeing people happy in what they do and feeling good about coming to work every day.
“Putting the right person in the right job is a task, but it’s truly rewarding. It makes me feel good,” she said.
Although she can’t imagine doing anything else if she did not work in HR, Boutwell would probably own a business of some kind. “Owning my own business has always been a dream — being my own boss,” she muses. “I looked at opening a florist, something that makes people happy and makes their day when they receive flowers.”
Asked if she might follow that dream when she retires, Boutwell responds with a laugh, “When I retire, I’ll retire” then hedges with “or maybe I’ll do consulting in HR.”
She and husband Michael, an employee of Gulf Eagle Supply, live at the Ross Barnett Reservoir and enjoy camping with family and friends. The family includes son Kevin, who’s about to move back to Jackson from Dallas, and daughters Lindsey and Kelly, and her parents, Charles and Billie Hunter, now residents of Philadelphia.
“I enjoy spending my free time with my family and camping during long weekends and holidays,” she said.
Contact MBJ contributing writer Lynn Lofton at email@example.com.