A fear of public speaking sent Dana Opsincs, community bank president for M&I Bank’s five Manatee County offices, to a novel cure: she competed for—and won—the title of Mrs. United States.
“I’ve always had this fear of making presentations in front of a crowd, and I knew this was an essential piece of being successful within the banking industry,” says Opsincs, a Manatee County native who started her banking career with Barnett Bank as a teller at 19. “Competing gave me the confidence to talk about things that are important to me.”
Opsincs’s first competition, in 2000 at the age of 36, was for the title of Mrs. Manatee County, and then Mrs. Florida. She traveled to Las Vegas for the national pageant, where she placed sixth. The next year, she returned to Las Vegas “very focused, trained and prepared,” as Mrs. West Virginia (pageant rules allow contestants to represent another state to which they have an employment or educational tie, and at one time Opsincs had done public relations work for NASCAR driver Bill Elliott). “I really had to come back next year and give it another shot,” she says. “And I won.”
Opsincs and her fellow contestants were judged in evening gown, swimsuit and interview competitions, including a six-minute judges’ panel interview that ranged from her career accomplishments to her community involvement.
The year of her win, Opsincs traveled around the Southeast as Mrs. U.S.A. while maintaining her banking career. She met Gen. Colin Powell at the annual Boys & Girls Clubs national conference and competed on The Weakest Link television show, where she won $100,000 for her chosen charity, the National Physicians Center in Birmingham, Ala.
Now Opsincs stays connected to the Mrs. United States pageant as a coach. “I use a lot of the same attributes I use daily in my coaching with my bank branch managers,” she says. Her best advice for pageant competitors? “I tell them you’ve got to be focused on a goal, whether that’s winning a crown or being a voice for a particular cause.”