In an office decorated with Eiffel Towers, Arkansas State University fan gear and a seemingly out-of-place Chicago Cubs jersey, Amy Mattison acts out her duties as CEO for the Jacksonville Chamber of Commerce. Her job includes meeting with local politicians and Pentagon officials, promoting business in the city and supporting local schools — all in an effort to make Jacksonville the best it can be.
“My dreams and aspirations are to grow the chamber and grow the community,” Mattison said.
Mattison grew up in Jacksonville, the daughter of a military man from Chicago. She majored in political science at Arkansas State and spent a summer in France, where she studied French for her minor.
“At first I really thought I wanted to be an attorney,” Mattison said, and she worked at a law firm after college as a case coordinator.
In 2004, she attended an event at the Little Rock Air Force Base in Jacksonville and was talking with a woman whose children Mattison used to baby-sit.
“I thought I was just chatting with a friend,” she said. “Not long after that, she offered me a job.”
Mattison accepted the job as events coordinator for the Jacksonville Chamber of Commerce and has worked there ever since, saying she has “loved every minute of it.”
Some of the skills she learned working at the law firm translated to her new job, but her work moved from law offices and courtrooms to event spaces and luncheons.
“I still had to be very particular,” she said. “There was a timeline. I had to know who to introduce first and what their title was. And it’s the same feeling when I’m finished with an event. I’m seeing things getting done.”
Mattison said she has a level of “OCD-ness” from a combination of working at a law firm and growing up in a military family.
“In my family, everything has a place, and every place has a thing,” she said.
After 3 1/2 years as the chamber’s events coordinator, Mattison was made interim CEO of the chamber. In November 2007, the “interim” part of her title was dropped, and she was officially installed as the new CEO.
Being chamber of commerce CEO in a city with an Air Force base, Mattison deals with many situations other chamber leaders may not have to approach. Taking care of the men in women in uniform — as well as their families — is all part of Mattison’s role. She meets with Pentagon officials to make sure the airmen continue to have a job here, and works “to make sure our airmen are at the top of their minds.
“I consider this Arkansas’ base,” Mattison said of the Little Rock Air Force Base. “I want to take care of the men and women in uniform.”
As for the families that come with the men and women in uniform, Mattison makes it a point to reach out and let wives, husbands and kids know what Jacksonville has to offer them. She offers “spouses tours” and provides information about the local library, museum, community center and community garden.
“Some of them might not know what’s behind the fence line,” she said. “It gives them a whole new different light that they don’t have to go to Little Rock or North Little Rock for some of those things.”
One of Mattison’s favorite things as chamber CEO is to go to schools and mentor students, she said.
“Today is so different from when I went to school,” she said. “It is just a reward to me to honor the academic scholars here.”
Like other chamber executives, Mattison also works with industries, trying to get new businesses to settle in the city. She said she has 12 projects going on and is talking with different operations about why Jacksonville might be a good place for them. Some of the projects have been more than two years in the making.
“It’s not a snap judgment,” she said of attracting businesses to the area.
Working with all of the moving parts of the chamber — the Air Force base, a potential new school district, businesses coming to town — Mattison said it can be a challenge to keep everything in order.
“But who doesn’t have that problem?” she asked.
Her “OCD-ness” that she has picked up over the years has helped, she said. Lists litter her desk, each with a particular project accompanied by steps necessary to make the project come to fruition. Some are checked off as completed, and some are not, but there is a definite system keeping Mattison up to date with all of the working parts of the chamber.
Ultimately, all of the work done in that office decorated with Eiffel towers and Red Wolves and Cubs gear is dedicated to helping Jacksonville succeed.
“We’re on the right track,” she said of the city. “We’re moving forward. No rear mirrors. No looking back.”
Staff writer Angela Spencer can be reached at (501) 244-4307 or firstname.lastname@example.org.