Audreya Parks, president of the Greenbrier Chamber of Commerce, exudes the motto “Keep calm and carry on.”
Growing up with a father who was an Illinois state trooper and a mother who was a paramedic, Parks and her sister “were taught not to panic,” she said.
Once when her grandmother needed medical attention, a then-teenage Parks called 911.
“I thought I did pretty well,” she said.
Her mother, also a dispatcher, reviewed the 911 tape and critiqued her daughter’s call.
“She said, ‘Now, you did pretty good, … but you didn’t give the address first.’ She gave me like a B,’” Parks recalled, laughing.
Parks grew up in Sterling, Ill., in Whiteside County, from where Razorback football coach Brett Bielema hails.
“There are tons of Arkansas connections there,” she said.
Parks had her own.
A grandmother was born in Enola and moved to Illinois for work at a steel mill, and relatives lived throughout Faulkner County.
Parks’ family made a trip to Arkansas every summer, so she didn’t expect much culture shock when she decided to attend Harding University in Searcy in 1997.
“I had the Southern grandma, so I had the fried potatoes and all that down. I thought that I was prepared,” she said.
She had to learn some semantics, though.
“I kept hearing that White County was dry, and Faulkner County was dry, but Pulaski County was wet. I thought, ‘How can it rain so much in Pulaski County, and it doesn’t rain right here?’”
Someone finally pointed out that “dry” meant no liquor stores.
Then there was a little name-calling that she didn’t quite get.
“People kept saying I was a Yankee, and I said, ‘No, I’m a Cubs fan — I’m not a Yankees fan.”
After graduating in 2001 from Harding, where she majored in economics, she moved to Conway and worked as a teller at First Security Bank.
That’s where she met her husband, David, a customer.
“He came through my drive-through line and put a note in my drawer to ask me out,” she said.
He asked if she was seeing someone, and she wrote, “Sort of.”
“I had a date coming up, and he was a customer, so I didn’t want to be rude.”
She also noticed that he had another name on his account — a woman with a different last name.
“I thought, ‘This guy is a creep,’” she said.
As soon as he drove off, the other tellers asked if he had asked her out, and she explained the other woman.
“They said, ‘That’s his sister!’”
Her co-workers were determined to straighten out the misunderstanding.
So, the next time he drove through, another teller slipped him a note with Audreya’s name and phone number on it.
More confusion ensued. Audreya didn’t wear a name tag, so he thought the other teller was asking him out.
When he called and heard Audreya’s voice, he realized who she was immediately.
They had a good laugh about it.
“We have a similar sense of humor,” she said.
The 33-year-old and her husband will have been married nine years in April.
He’s the K-9 officer for the Greenbrier Police Department, which is in familiar territory for her because of her parents’ occupations.
“I’ve always been in that emergency-response community,” she said.
Parks moved from teller to mortgage lender at the bank, and Lenders Title Co. asked her to come work for that company in Conway, which she did.
She was hired as manager of administration, a new corporate position, but she successfully made her case to work in the Greenbrier office rather than drive to Little Rock.
Parks said the company is supportive of her work with the chamber and allows her to do some of her chamber work during the day.
She was on the chamber board for a year before filling the unexpired term in January of the previous president, a volunteer position.
Rhonda Rowlett, the owner of Rowlett Realty in Greenbrier and a chamber board member, said Parks is doing a good job.
“She’s organized,” Rowlett said. “She already talked to the Faulkner County Board of Realtors. I think she’s dedicated.”
Parks said she and her husband previously lived in Conway, but “we never really found our niche in Conway; it’s so big.”
When they moved in 2004 to Greenbrier, population 4,700, she said it was easier to connect.
Through her chamber position, she wants to tout the advantages of the city and help businesses thrive.
“We want people to like living
here,” she said. “In a community like this, you can’t separate [living and working].
“That’s why we focus on community activities, as well as business activities.
“It’s a lot of family businesses, so it’s not just a business — it’s your neighbor’s business.”
Parks said she wants to promote the chamber “and let people know we’re working for them” and show tangible benefits.
“We want to be a resource for people if they need directing, perking up their business or getting started.
Parks said that could be offering “something as simple as a Lunch and Learn seminar on marketing your business, and you don’t have to go to Conway for it.”
The chamber’s annual meeting will be March 28 at Greenbrier Junior High School’s cafetorium. At the event, the community and business awards will be presented.
“We’re hoping to make it an even bigger deal, not just a plaque on the wall,” she said.
The chamber also sponsors the Christmas parade, a back-to-school breakfast for teachers and a golf tournament to fund student scholarships.
The Greenbrier School District is the city’s largest employer, Parks said, and the chamber appreciates the teachers and staff, who do so much for the community.
“I just talked to a Realtors group last week, and I did some research. Greenbrier High School was ranked by The Washington Post as one of the 10 most challenging schools,” she said.
Parks takes on every challenge, even though she has one of her own — lupus. She was diagnosed with the disease when she was 18 and goes to a doctor in Chicago once a year.
“We’ve gotten it very well controlled. Most days, it really doesn’t impact me,” she said.
Parks’ parents and sister now live in Greenbrier, and she said being around them has “reactivated” her Northern accent.
Don’t call her a Yankee, though. She’s a Cubs fan, remember.
More than that, though, she’s a Greenbrier fan.
Senior writer Tammy Keith can be reached at (501) 327-0370 or email@example.com.