New chamber director hopes to help Fairfield Bay businesses grow, work together

Carol Rolf/Contributing Writer Published April 6, 2014 at 12:00 a.m.
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PHOTO BY: Nick Hillemann

Heather Dunn, 41, is the new executive director of the Fairfield Bay Area Chamber of Commerce. Dunn was born in Cape Girardeau, Mo., but said that as a child, she and her parents visited the Fairfield Bay area every year for at least 10 years.

As the only child of parents who were missionaries, Heather Dunn has lived a lot of places across the United States.

Now grown with a family of her own, she calls Fairfield Bay home and has accepted a leadership role in the community. As of March 1, she is the executive director of the Fairfield Bay Area Chamber of Commerce.

“Heather is a joy to work with and will help the chamber and city move to the next level,” said Jack Weeks, president of the chamber’s board of directors.

Dunn, 41, was born in Cape Girardeau, Mo.

“I only lived there for two weeks,” she said with a laugh. “My parents were there as missionaries. We then made a 1,000-mile trip to Plant City, Fla., which is where we had a home when not traveling.”

Her parents, Keith and Dwin Barron, retired to Fairfield Bay, although they still make mission trips.

“We followed them here about three years ago,” Dunn said. “We love it here.”

Dunn said her father is affiliated with the Church of God in Tennessee.

Dunn and her husband, Casey, have been married for 16 years. Casey Dunn is from Ocala, Fla., and works for F.L. Davis Ace Building Center in Greers Ferry.

Dunn is the mother of two children — son Blain Lassiter, 23, who is stationed with the Navy in Pensacola, Fla., and daughter Alexus Dunn, 8, who attends Shirley Elementary School.

She said that as a child, she and her parents visited the Fairfield Bay area every year for at least 10 years.

“My parents always wanted to retire here,” she said, “so when the opportunity came for us to move here, we took it.”

Dunn said that because her parents moved so frequently, she was home-schooled by her mother.

“I couldn’t go to a regular school because we might not stay in one place more than two or three weeks,” Dunn said. “So my mother taught me. She had some teachers in Baltimore, Md., who helped her with my lessons, so I say I graduated from high school in Baltimore.

“There were always young people in the communities where my father ministered. I would always attach myself to them. But for the most part, I was raised around adults.”

Dunn said her parents also had a home on a lake in Gantt, Ala.

“We would spend the month of December there,” she said.

Dunn has worked for several nonprofit organizations in the past, developing some of the same skills she will utilize as the new chamber of commerce executive director.

“I’ve worked with community development, and program and special-events planning,” she said.

“I’ve spent the first few weeks on the job getting everything in order here in the office,” she said. “I’m an orderly person. Everything has to be in its place.”

She said one of her biggest tasks at the chamber is redesigning its website. She is working on a degree in computer science through online courses offered by Webster University and hopes that will help with her website endeavor.

Dunn said she has been working in the office during the mornings and spending the afternoons out in the community, getting to know the businesses.

“I’m working closely with the Fairfield Bay Community Club and the Our Towne Conference and Visitor Center boards to try to integrate with them and set some goals for the community,” she said. “We are a retiree community of about 3,000. We have the Wyndham Resort timeshare community here, and we have a lot of traffic with them.”

Dunn said her office is currently involved in planning two big events this spring.

The chamber will sponsor the annual Easter egg hunt from 2-4 p.m. Saturday in Woodland Mead Park. More than 4,000 eggs filled with candy will be hidden. The event will also feature hot dogs, firetruck rides and photos with the Easter Bunny.

On May 24, the chamber will sponsor a car show, Cruzin the Bay.

“This is the first time we will have done this,” Dunn said. “It will be an annual event and will be held on Memorial Day weekend.”

Cruzin the Bay will take place from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. May 24 at the Town Square Mall. Preregistration will begin April 21. Trophies will be awarded in all categories.

The registration fee is $30 with a T-shirt and $25 without the T-shirt. For more information, contact the Fairfield Bay Area Chamber of Commerce at (501) 884-3324.

Not long after she arrived in Fairfield Bay, Dunn went to work as manager of Classic Cars and Cookie Jars in nearby Shirley.

“I immediately found a job here,” she said with a smile.

She worked at Classic Cars and Cookie Jars for almost two years before the business closed because of the owner’s health problems.

“My goal for the chamber of commerce is to create a relationship with the businesses and for all businesses to be able to utilize each other’s strengths,” Dunn said. “I hope we can use synergy, or teamwork, to create something more for all of the businesses.

“We have members from Mountain View, Heber Springs, Greers Ferry, Clinton and Shirley, just to mention a few. We have a lot of members from all areas, especially Van Buren and Cleburne counties.”

Dunn said the chamber’s website gets 4 million hits a year.

“Businesses like that,” she said. “I hope to create a separate page on the website for each individual business, which will include photos and all of their contact information.”

Dunn said one way for business owners to get to know each other is to attend the quarterly Business After Hours event that is held at various businesses. The next event will be at 5 p.m. May 29 at a business yet to be determined.

“We are growing here in Fairfield Bay,” Dunn said. “We have had several new restaurants to open. The Conference and Visitor Center is doing great. We invite everyone to take a look at our community.”

In addition to her work with the chamber, Dunn is active in the nonprofit organization Faith Based Bread Inc. She serves as vice president of the organization, and her father is its president.

“We do community work and mostly work with churches and food banks,” she said. “We serve the United States, as well as places such as Trinidad, the Dominican Republic and Africa.

“Each December we sponsor A December to Remember and take truckloads of food and clothing to the Navajo Indians in Arizona,” she said. “I have been there several times, but I have not been out of the country. I don’t like to fly.”

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