Heber Springs native to lead chamber’s board of directors

Carol Rolf/Contributing Writer Published January 15, 2017 at 12:00 a.m.
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Brett Graham, 33, is the 2017 president of the Heber Springs Area Chamber of Commerce. He is a native of Heber Springs and has been a member of the chamber for three years. Graham is a loan officer at First Security Bank in Heber Springs.

Brett Graham loved growing up in Heber Springs.

The middle child of Mike and Melissa Graham, Brett Graham said his childhood here was great.

“We spent most of our time outside playing in the woods, being on the water, … which is what this place is all about,” he said.

Now 33, Graham wants to continue to promote his hometown. He is the 2017 president of the Heber Springs Area Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors.

“I think the chamber of commerce is vital to the community,” he said. “Our mission statement is to promote and grow business while enhancing the community. I want to help fulfill that mission.”

Graham has been a member of the chamber for three years. As the board president, he will work closely with Julie Murray, executive director of the chamber of commerce, and her staff, as well as with his fellow board members. He served as vice president of the board in 2016 and rolled over to the office of president Jan. 1.

“Brett brings a unique and highly valued perspective to the chamber in that he grew up in Heber Springs but has lived in other cities and traveled globally,” Murray said. “He is skilled in navigating significant change while maintaining his sensitivity to local customs and traditions.

“The chamber has relied heavily on his guidance over the past few years, and we are thrilled he is serving as the 2017 board president.”

Jim Adams, president of GAR/BRO Manufacturing Co. in Heber Springs and the 2016 president of the Heber Springs Chamber Board, said, “I think Brett will make an excellent chamber president.

“He possesses the honesty, integrity and business knowledge to lead and grow any organization. As the vice president, he was a wealth of knowledge and someone I often turned to for advice. I feel that the chamber will be in competent hands with Brett at the helm.”

The chamber sponsors many special events during the year, including Springfest, which is held during the last week of April; the World Championship Cardboard Boat Races, which are held the last Saturday in July; and the Fireworks Extravaganza,

which is held during the Fourth of July holiday.

“My favorite event is the fireworks. It doesn’t get any better than being on the water watching this,” Graham said.

“I haven’t ever entered or been in a cardboard boat, but I have been to see them many times over the years,” he said.

“As a chamber member, I have always helped set up and take down for various events.”

Graham will serve a one-year term as board president.

“I hope to just improve on what we’ve accomplished last year,” Graham said. “We want to continue to improve and move forward, making changes as needed. Change doesn’t come easily.

“Heber Springs is different from how it was when I was a kid. It was different when I moved back here after being away at college, and the people are different. I have a great group of friends now who live here but are not from here originally.”

Graham said he is excited about the new wave of board members.

“Everybody on-board is committed,” he said. “They all come from different lines of work. We can take their ideas and all work together to do good for the community. Our goals are all the same. The chamber has changed direction in the past few years, but the goal is the same — to grow business and enhance the community.”

Five new members of the chamber board of directors were announced in

December 2016. They include Cathey Cox, executive vice president and chief loan officer at Eagle Bank and Trust Co.; Cody Davis, director of information technology and marketing for the Davis, Hull and Rowden (DHR) Sonic Drive-In Group; Toi Logan, branch manager of Eagle Pest Management; Dr. Ryan Sartin, owner and veterinarian, Sartin Animal Care Clinic; and Rick Skinner, CEO, Automotive Collision Specialists.

In addition to Adams, who is still on the board as past president, the remaining chamber board members and their business affiliations are Jeremy Bivins, Aromatique Inc.; Paula Sporn, ReMax real estate company; Cheryl Shook, ReMax; Tina Moore, AllState Insurance Co.; Heber Springs Mayor Jimmy Clark; Cleburne County Judge Jerry Holmes; Kathy Phillips, Cleburne County Community Foundation and Downtown Heber Springs; and Rena Kelley, ASU at Heber Springs.

Graham graduated from Heber Springs High School in 2001.

“I really didn’t know what I wanted to do when I was a kid. I ran cross country in high school but was not involved in any other sport,” he said.

“I was involved in the [Future Business Leaders Association] and was in the Spanish Club. I wasn’t a top student or anything like that. I spent most of my time outdoors,” Graham said.

“At one time, I thought about [getting into] the hospitality business. … I remember somebody talking about hotels, … but I really had no idea what I wanted to do. I went to the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville and studied business. I graduated in 2005 with a bachelor’s degree in finance and insurance from the Sam M. Walton College of Business,” he said.

“I was a member of the Student Government Association, but I mostly just worked and went to class,” Graham said when asked if he had been involved in extracurricular activities during college.

After college graduation, Graham said he did a little insurance underwriting.

“Then my dad introduced me to a man who talked to me about a career in banking, and, as they say, ‘The rest is history,’” Graham said.

“I worked for a community bank based in Northwest Arkansas in accounting, bookkeeping, retail, information technology and business development,” he said. “In 2010, I took a job at a local bank in Heber Springs, where I was the compliance officer for five years.”

Graham joined First Security Bank in Heber Springs in May 2015.

“I was able to work in loan review for six months there prior to moving into a lending and business-development role in Heber Springs,” he said.

Graham is now a loan officer at First Security Bank.

“I help people, and businesses, get loans of all types,” he said. “I am happy doing what I do. It is definitely a changing industry, and when I started, it was on a downside slide. I’ve often told my boss, ‘I don’t know about the good ole days.’

“But it is satisfying to help people.”

Graham is involved in other community organizations, as well as the chamber of commerce.

He has been a member of the Rotary Club of Cleburne County since 2010. He has been a member of the Heber Springs Future Fund since 2013 and has served on its board of directors since then as well. He is a member and treasurer of the Heber Springs Area Chamber Foundation, which was formed in 2016.

Graham is also a member of First United Methodist Church in Heber Springs, where he served three years as a member of the Staff Parish Relations Committee and is currently on the Finance Committee.

Graham and his fiancee, Melissa Johns, plan to be married later this year.

Graham’s mother, Melissa Graham, is retired from the Heber Springs School District, where she taught kindergarten and the sixth grade. His father, Mike Graham, is retired from the Robert Bosch Tool Corp.

“Dad grew up in Pocahontas, and Mom was from Pine Bluff,” Brett Graham said. “They met in Jonesboro when they were students at

Arkansas State University.”

Graham’s older brother, Mitch Graham, 35, lives in the Washington, D.C., area with his wife, Katy, and their 3-year-old daughter, Charli, and 5-month-old daughter, Mariclaire.

Brett Graham’s younger sister, Leah Beauchamp, lives in Fort Smith with her husband, Ricky, and their 2-year-old daughter, Halle, and 2-month-old son, Graham.

Brett Graham said he does enjoy traveling.

“None for business, just for fun,” he said. “I’ve been to China and Europe and just got back from the [United Arab Emirates].

“In China, I went to Hong Kong, Shanghai, Hangzhou and Beijing. In Europe, I went to the [United Kingdom], Ireland and Germany. In the UAE, I went to Abu Dhabi, Dubai and some surrounding areas.

“I love to travel and see other cultures and sights.”