It was Harrisburg, 1972.
The floodwaters of Tropical Storm Agnes rose through the city. Five-year-old Tina Nixon asked her mother why she was making an enormous pot of soup for the people sheltering at the former Edison Junior High School on Allison Hill.
“My mom said, ‘If people are in need, and you can do something to help them, whatever little you have, then that’s what you should do,” Nixon recalled.
Mom’s example stayed with her, inspiring her to focus her career on helping people in need.
Though born and raised in Harrisburg, Nixon hasn’t always lived in the city.
She attended college in East Stroudsburg and sometimes accepted work opportunities that took her away. But she always boomeranged back. She currently works as vice president, mission effectiveness, diversity and inclusion, at UPMC Pinnacle and serves on numerous community boards.
Most recently and visibly, she was appointed to the Intergovernmental Cooperation Authority (ICA) for Harrisburg, a state entity tasked with overseeing Harrisburg’s finances. In this role, Nixon brings expertise like identifying grant money, building budgets and cutting excess spending.
“I just hope that whatever I contribute and whatever I can do will be seen as helping and continuing to build financially stable and transparent policies for the city,” Nixon said. “It’s not about me. It’s about making life good for all who live in the city.”
Nixon’s résumé represents almost three decades of assignments with the end goal of helping people through advocacy, fundraising, communications, organizing, human services and leadership.
“Whatever job I took, I always wanted to learn more, to figure out how to help solve the problem and help people,” she said.
Her skills have come both from her education and her practical experience. In her current role at UPMC, she interacts and connects with people on a variety of levels.
“I treat everyone as an individual, and I respect the path they took to get there,” she said. “Early in life, that was fascinating to me. I wanted to learn and understand more about where people were coming from.”
Within a long CV of both paid and volunteer work, Nixon cited two opportunities that contributed significantly to her growth.
The first was an early-career summer internship with the Pennsylvania state legislature, which offered an “educational opportunity, seeing how people on different sides of the aisle can come together and compromise on a number of different issues.”
The second was her lengthy tenure with the YWCA of Greater Harrisburg, which included more than a decade as CEO.
“My tenure at YWCA allowed me to live my purpose and passion of helping women and children in need,” she said.
Nixon credits her grandmother as a mentor who foot-stomped the importance of a college education and community leadership.
“She was a wonderful role model in leadership, business, compassion and gave me great overall advice when entering into the workforce,” she said.
The Best City
Those who have worked with Nixon have seen those same leadership qualities in her.
Messiah College President Kim Phipps has known Nixon for nine years, having met when they worked together on strategic planning and community engagement on the YWCA board.
“As a leader, she often has to make difficult decisions and be courageous in moments of crisis,” Phipps said. “Her quick wit and laugh often diffuse many tension-filled moments.”
Rev. Dr. Brenda Alton, the former director of the city’s Department of Parks, Recreation and Cultural Enrichment, met Nixon in 2000 when she served as a pastor. They re-engaged when Alton joined Nixon’s staff at UPMC.
Alton described Nixon as an “advocate and life-long diversity champion” and a “giving person who adores her family and fights for those she leads.” And, like Phipps, Alton also talked about Nixon’s great laugh and her ability to be her authentic self.
When Nixon isn’t working or volunteering, she spends time with friends and family, which includes her husband, James, and their 21-year-old twins.
“His resilience keeps me going,” she said of James, who has had recent health challenges. “He is teaching me something about perseverance on another level. He amazes me.”
Nixon also enjoys window shopping for antiques and reading cookbooks, which relax her. She now looks forward to joining four colleagues on the ICA, helping to guide the next phase of Harrisburg’s financial recovery.
“I’m hoping we can continue to move forward to make Harrisburg the best city it can be,” she said.
To learn more about UPMC Pinnacle, visit www.UPMCPinnacle.com.