Highlighting the 77th Annual Federation of Insurance Women of Texas Convention was the presentation of the association’s annual awards for leadership and community service. The FIWT also conferred its CIPT designation on seven candidates who made up the fifth class of those earning the Certified Insurance Professional of Texas designation.

The FIWT honored Gigi Heffernan, Heffernan Insurance Agency, for exemplary leadership and Linda Saupp, Texas Specialty Underwriters, for outstanding community service. FIWT added these recognitions to its annual convention nine years ago, with award recipients kept secret until their names were announced.


Heffernan became the first FIWT member in the history of the association to be honored with both the leadership and community service awards. She received the community service award in 2019.

Heffernan has been a driving force in FIWT on both the local and state level since 2000, when she became a member of the Insurance Professionals of Galveston County. She was FIWT president in 2014-2015.

Heffernan, who is owner of Heffernan Insurance Agency, is quiet by nature, but a strong advocate of her beliefs, said JoAnna Ringel, who announced the awards. Heffernan’s style is characterized by grace, dignity, concise and logical thought, and a loving approach to others, said Ringel. Heffernan cultivates leadership in others and willingly stands backstage in support of those around her.

To her core, Heffernan loves FIWT. As a leader, said Ringel, Heffernan is one who encourages all sides to be heard. Heffernan’s business style is one she inherited from her father, Jack Heffernan, who was a beloved business owner and leader in Galveston.

In announcing the award, Ringel applied to Heffernan a quotation from Dolly Parton, “If your actions create a legacy that inspires others to dream more, do more and become more, then you are an excellent leader.”

While Ringel read the award presentations from the dais, Past President Cindy Jordan, retired, waited offstage to present the awards. Jordan, still recovering from a serious bout with Covid, did not miss this high-point past president’s duty despite her continuing rehab.

Community Service

Saupp, who served as FIWT president in 2010-2011, previously served as president of the Insurance Women of the Metroplex and the Tarrant County Insurance Professionals. On the state level, she also held office as president-elect and vice president.

Saupp has been a leader on Metroplex community service projects, including providing gifts for low income families, Christmas parties for local senior living centers, and raising funds for Wounded Warriors, which served as the state community service project during her term as president.

Ringel said that Saupp’s volunteerism extends beyond the FIWT’s community service, as she delivers meals to Ronald McDonald House, volunteers for the Texas Health Resources in Stephenville, provides Fort Hood soldiers with Thanksgiving dinners and is an active member of the Morgan Mill Baptist Church and its projects. Saupp is also a booster for local schools’ athletic teams, and extends help to family, friends and neighbors in their time of need.

  Litchfield Special Risks sponsored the Leadership Award, and the Houston Insurance Professionals sponsored the Community Service Award. Both honorees received $200 and a glass trophy.

CIPT designees

  Certified Insurance Professional of Texas designations were awarded to Katherine “Katie” Bennett, Alliant Insurance Services; Sue Finke, Blue Lime Insurance Group; Susan Schmidt, Gulf Coast Claims; Willa Veal, Texas Mutual Insurance; Judy Walker, Texas Specialty Underwriters; Sheryl Watkins, Insurica, and Amy Weimer, Hotchkiss Insurance Agency. All received certificates and pins.

To date, 58 FIWT members have completed the CIPT designation program, consisting of six core subject courses that focus on customer service, problem solving, professionalism, professional etiquette, time management and business writing. Once the designation is earned, candidates gain additional knowledge on negotiation skills, public speaking, and calming upset clients through CIPT Update courses.


During the business meeting, several scholarships sponsored by The National Alliance were also announced. Winners of CIC scholarships were Cheryl Ramirez, Alacrity Solutions, and Daisy Villa, Insurica. CISR winners were Susan Meissner, Highpoint Insurance Group, and Tamela Gutierrez, Higginbotham.

Gutierrez, a first time attendee at the FIWT annual convention, returned to work following the convention, having attended all the available continuing education classes. Gutierrez touted the experience to her boss, “I understand the difference between a job and a career in insurance. I want a career.”