Leadership Chattanooga Alumni Spotlight: Judge Christie Sell

By Natalie Martin

Leadership Chattanooga is a 10-month leadership development program that allows local professionals opportunities to learn more about and engage with the community where they live and work.

Nominations are open now.

Leadership Chattanooga has been a launch pad for the careers and civic impact of some of Chattanooga’s most prominent professionals. We’re here to share their stories and catch up on what’s happened since they completed the program.

This month, Christie Sell, a judge for Hamilton County General Sessions Court, shares insights.

Trend: When did you graduate from Leadership Chattanooga?

Sell: 2002

Trend: Tell us a little bit about yourself. What do you do (for work and for fun)?

Sell: I am a mother of a 21-year-old daughter and 19-year-old son, which has been both work and fun, but is mostly fun. I have been a judge for over 14 years and a lifelong volunteer in Chattanooga. My husband and I enjoy boating, biking, traveling and anything outdoors.

Trend: Name one way you think you have impacted the community.

Sell: I don’t know that the things I have done are measurable in a specific way. I hope I have been a mentor to young people, especially women. Although you cannot be all things at once (or at least not do all things well at the same time in my experience), I hope I have demonstrated you can be a mother, a wife, a friend, a volunteer, have a career and enjoy life. I strive to impact our community every day as a judge by helping people so they do not reoffend and can make a better life for themselves.

One thing I accomplished a long time ago when I was a student at Notre Dame High School was petitioning the city to put a traffic light at the intersection of Glenwood and 3d Streets because there had been so many wrecks of students coming and going from school. It taught me that you’re never too young to see a problem and figure out how to fix it.

Trend: What drew you to the Leadership Chattanooga program when you applied?

Sell: I had known so many graduates whom I respected and looked to for guidance in my career that I wanted to participate.

Trend: How has your career been impacted by the program?

Sell: Had I not participated in the program, I do not believe I would have run for office. When a friend and mentor told me I should run for judge, I had the program lessons in mind, especially 'if not me, then who?' The program gave me confidence to run, and I had made a lot of friends both from my class and other graduation classes who were there to support me. The program encourages us to be a part of and support local government and elections.

Trend: What practices do you follow (personally or professionally) that help you achieve success?

Sell: I try to be very present wherever I am. If I am with family or friends, I try not to be distracted and I try to reach out if it feels like it has been a while since we’ve visited. Every day on my way to work and as I go through the day, I remind myself that what we do in court impacts people’s lives now and in the future. This helps me to focus on each person individually and, again, to be present. Finally, I make sure I have time for myself to exercise and/or to 'just be.'

Trend: What advice would you give someone who is looking for ways to become more connected to the community?

Sell: Get out of the office and get out of the house! There are so many opportunities to volunteer. Go to Chamber meetings… Everyone is so friendly and welcoming. Also, Chattanooga Women’s Leadership Institute (CWLI) is awesome if you are a woman. Unlike a lot of networking groups, both the Chamber and CWLI are people of all different ages and professions. One of my best everyday ways of staying connected is the Sportsbarn — it’s a community of its own, not just a workout facility.


Nominations for Leadership Chattanooga opened Feb. 3. If someone you know would benefit from this award-winning program, nominate them today.