In New Mexico, the land of the red and green, Jenny Zappone can always find a place she belongs or just the right words to say. But in her mind, there’s always the yellow and black of home and the deep, patient voice of Johnny Cash.

Zappone, a Las Cruces resident, serves District 23 this year as its District Director. It’s a position the Latrobe, Pennsylvania, native views as CEO of the district, which includes clubs in Texas, New Mexico, and Oklahoma.

“My responsibility is to oversee the operation of the district, including finances, membership growth, membership retention, any assets we have,” Zappone said. “Anything dealing with the district, (a director’s job is) making sure it runs smoothly.”

Zappone first did Toastmasters in her college days, when she did undergraduate work at the University of Pittsburgh in 1991. She picked it up again in New Mexico, with Gene’s Gesters as her home club.

Her first Johnny Cash song, she’s been told, was “Folsom Prison Blues” when she was 2. Her first Cash concert came at the age of 3.

Zappone is a certified life and well-being coach and is working on launching her own coaching and consulting business. She also served in the U.S. Army Reserves for 12 years which she credits for building her understanding of the immense value of teamwork.

How did you find out about Toastmasters, and what brought you into that first meeting?

I was in my college class in Pennsylvania when the professor said we had to evaluate five live speeches. She suggested either going to church or visiting a Toastmasters club. I went to a Toastmasters club and got hooked.

What was it that brought you to your second meeting?

There was a sense of belonging. It was a corporate club, so there were salary and hourly people there. But in Toastmasters, it felt like everybody was one.

How are you using your Toastmasters skills outside of the organization?

For training purposes … (it helps) to be able to deliver a training in 45 minutes. Also, not using my uhs and ums.

What was the light-switch moment where you realized what you did in Toastmasters had a tangible effect on what you did outside of Toastmasters?

I think that moment would be when somebody told me after I responded to a question that I would make a great public speaker. I realized I wasn’t just in my club. I realized that the club could be my audience, but also that the world could be my audience.

If you could go back in time and see yourself attending that first meeting, what would you tell yourself?

It’s been a great journey. That first meeting was back in 1991, so I was a pretty young pup. When I moved down to New Mexico, I would have told myself to get involved in a club then instead of waiting four years.

What would you like to do with this office in the coming year?

I would like to see a cohesive district that reaches President’s Distinguished and creates a culture of excellence. With teamwork, whether in the military or Toastmasters, there comes a sense of loyalty to the organization. That loyalty is a core component of a culture of excellence.

Photo of Jenny is from approximately 1995.