Jacksonville chamber seeking new director

Dana Guthrie Published April 13, 2017 at 12:00 a.m.
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— The search is on for a new director of the Jacksonville Chamber of Commerce, following longtime leader Amy Mattison’s departure to take a new position, said Richard Moss, chamber board president.

“She took a position with Sig Sauer,” Moss said. “Now we have the opportunity to fill this position.”

Former chamber chairman Roger Sundermeier said Mattison served in the position for seven years.

“She followed in the footsteps of [former director] Bonita Rownd …. Amy left to pursue other opportunities with Sig Sauer,” Sundermeier said. “It’s [big for our community] to get a global cooperation to open up in our town. It’s a great opportunity for her to do something different in her career and [for] her life and family. We wish her the best for that.”

Sundermeier said the chamber is actively looking for a new candidate who will take the community to the next level.

“We have a new school district coming on board and new highway construction that is coming through,” he said. “It’s going to open up a lot of visibility for businesses. We have the Little Rock Air Force Base, which puts several hundred million dollars of impact into central Arkansas. There is a phenomenal story to tell in Jacksonville, and we are looking for a great storyteller and someone who can use every tool in their arsenal to sell Jacksonville to the business community to be the best it can be.”

Moss said the position has been open for a little over a month, and the chamber will continue to receive applications through April.

“We will sit down at the end of the month and see what we have gathered thus far and begin the process of seeing how many viable candidates we have,” Moss said, “and decide if we will continue the [application] process or … begin interviewing with the candidates that we have.”

Laura Walker will serve as the chamber’s interim director.

“Laura has been very involved in the community ever since I’ve know her,” Sundermeier said. “She has been plugged in and community-minded. When you look at an interim person, she gives you everything that you would want as far as a familiar face. … She’s going to be someone who can bring people together in the interim while we are conducting the search.”

Both Moss and Sundermeier said day-to-day activities of the director vary greatly, and they are looking for someone who can wear many hats.

“The number of hats that you wear in the course of a day are so many and so varied,” Sundermeier said. “The person should have very strong adaptability and flexibility — the need to be used to not having everything be the exact same every day. There is going to be a different issue to address. It involves legislation in Congress. It involves the [Air Force] base relations. It involves the business community.

“There are so many different challenges and opportunities during the course of a day; I think to limit ourselves to say the job looks like ‘this’ would be doing an injustice to how broad and vast that job really is.”

“To that same point,” Moss said, “one hour you may be at a meeting with officials at the air base, and the next minute you will be with city officials, and the next hour you will be meeting with officials at the governor’s office. You may then be meeting with officials from the Lighthouse [Charter School] or from the Jacksonville School District. Or then you may visit a chamber member just to say ‘hi.’ You are going to do a myriad of things every single day.”

In addition to being able to tell the story of Jacksonville, the chamber is looking for someone who can really sell the benefits of Jacksonville.

“We have a plethora of opportunities,” Moss said. “We have great single-family housing. We have two great schools between Lighthouse Charter School and Jacksonville North Pulaski. Sig Sauer has moved into town. We have great parks. We have quite a bit to offer for a community. We need someone who can tell that story. We want someone who can go out and tell a business or somebody moving in that this is why they should come here.”

Sundermeier added that the candidate also really needs to “understand the very changing world of commerce.”

“Richard and I have had this conversation before about what does the chamber of commerce look like?” Sundermeier said. “It’s different now from what it had been in the past. When you are trying to sell a young business owner on the benefits of being a chamber member, it’s very difficult to quantify that now because you can build your own following on social media. … You can tell your own story.

“Where is the true value of chamber of commerce membership at? And we need that person to be able to think quick on their feet and navigate these waters and give the answers that business leaders are looking for that not only help attract new business members, but also retain the existing members that we have.”

Moss said interested candidates should have a four-year college degree. The chamber prefers the degree to be in marketing, economics, public administration, business administration or a similar field. They should also have at least three years’ experience in civic or community engagement and supervisory experience.

To apply for the director position, candidates may send a letter of interest and a list of qualifications to rlmoss12@gmail.com or call (501) 960-1704.

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