20 under 40: Katie Neff | 20 Under 40


Family: Husband, Steven Neff, married 14 years; daughter, Kenedi Neff, 13; son, Parker Neff, 9. Two crazy dogs, Miley and Sammie, and MJ, our new cat.

Education: Degree in early childhood education, Moberly Area Community College and Ashford University.

Community involvement: Member of Early Bird Kiwanis, LBB, advisory board member for Child Advocacy Center, Hannibal Chamber of Commerce, Childcare Aware. I’ve also helped raise money and run Hannibal to Peoria for St Jude’s.

What is your job, what do you do and what do you like best about it?

I am the director at WEeCare Preschool and Childcare Center.

What is a typical workweek like?

In child care the workday or work week can change. I’ve learned at times to go with the flow; just when you feel like you are on top of something you will have something new comes up. Most day’s I’m at the center by 6 a.m. to open and have everything ready for families by 6:30 a.m. Help greet parents and children as they come in, get breakfast going and take children to public schools if needed. My day is full of answering phone calls, helping staff – I’m also the center nurse and handle all behaviors that may arise. I have a weekly meeting in person and at times a Zoom meeting. I take care of all the paperwork and always strive to provide a safe and healthy environment for staff and families.

What was your first job, and what do you remember about it?

Was at 13 for Burrus Seed Farms in Illinois. It was hard work yet, fun and rewarding! Plus, I was able to do it with friends. I did this every summer from age 13-18.

How do you balance everything?

Work and life balance as a working mom with two active children can be hard at times. I have learned I cannot do everything, and I need to rely on others at times. My mother and father in-law have helped so much. With my husband being a fireman for Hannibal Fire Department at times all of the duties fall on me and that can be stressful. My in-laws are there to help when needed and I’m grateful for that.

Who has influenced you the most, and why?

My grandma! This year was one of the hardest years. Losing her was a lot. She made me into the person I am today. She taught me to never give up; she pushed me when I did not want to be pushed and was honest with me when I wanted to be right; she loved me when I was wrong no matter what it was. This has influenced me to be the leader I am today. I’m grateful and thankful she was a big part of my life.

Have you ever failed at something? What happened? How did you recover?

Um… Too many to count I’m sure. What is life without learning from your mistakes? If you never fail at something you haven’t pushed yourself enough. When I fail at something, I recover the same way each time – see what was the issue and fix it so it doesn’t happen again.

What does success mean to you?

Success means to me, knowing daily that I have given my best effort and I can see the growth from it.

What was your proudest professional moment-

I was able to be part of the Council of Professional Recognition group and be a CDA Advocate; where I was on a Zoom call with congressional staff for Virtual Hill Day. This to me was very exciting and I was happy to advocate for local childcare centers in my area.

What is your favorite stress buster/leisure time diversion?

My favorite thing to do when I am feeling overwhelmed is go for a long run. I put in some ear buds and just let my feet go! Sometimes it may be just a couple of miles where there are times I run and run and may end with 13-plus miles in a night. Running calms me and lets me clear all the thoughts I have and be able to tackle an issue or problem or just relax from the day.

What gives you optimism in your community?

The kindness and support from other leaders in the community. I love that I have resources within the community that are always willing to help. Hannibal is a great place to live and to me it is amazing to see our community come together when needed.

If you could go back in time and give advice to yourself when you were in high school, what would it be?

I would say slow down! Take that silly picture, love yourself for who you are.

If you could add a few more hours to the day, how would you spend them?

I would spend time with my children. I am with them a lot at sporting events, but I love one-on-one time with them. So that little extra time would be amazing.

Do you live by any mantra or saying?

Know your limitations, and defy them. When you know what you are weak at, you are able to come up with a plan to overcome those weaknesses. Do not be scared of weakness; overcome all that you may struggle with.

Career aspirations aside, name one thing you definitely want to accomplish in your lifetime.

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