When Amber Walker found out she was going to be honored with this year’s Leadership Award by the Searcy Regional Chamber of Commerce, she said it was difficult for her to form a response.
“I was silently freaking out to myself: ‘Me? How? How could I have stood out among my Leadership Searcy class when there are others who have achieved more, experienced more, sacrificed more for our community than I did?’” Walker asked. “My classmates are community heroes — policemen, firemen, nurses, administrative support for medical and educational organizations in Searcy.
“I’m a social-media marketer — that’s not exactly a ‘front lines’ occupation that comes to mind when considering the leaders among us.”
The award recipient is selected by the Leadership Searcy Committee through the chamber. Leadership Searcy is a series of eight full-day sessions “that are planned to focus on issues, people and opportunities for leadership,” according to the chamber’s website, searcychamber.com. The chamber held its annual awards ceremony virtually through its Facebook page on Dec. 11. In the video, Tina Novak, with First Security Bank, said that each year, the Leadership Searcy Committee recognizes a class member who displays great leadership qualities and uses his or her gifts to grow the community.
“After that initial shockwave passed, receiving this award fills me with deep gratitude,” Walker said. “I truly love my city and my people. Awards are an opportunity for a body to tell its members that their devotion has been recognized and appreciated. … Such sentiments have gravity to them, and that gravity is meant to be felt, not dismissed lightly.”
Walker said Leadership Searcy provides an opportunity to meet, connect and learn from others who have vital roles in the community.
“Leadership Searcy takes you on a tour of the inner workings of our community and puts you face to face with those who make Searcy what it is,” Walker said. “Leadership Searcy is connection, education and a level of transformation.”
Walker has been the social-media marketer and marketing coordinator at First Security Bank since June 2019. Before she joined Security Bank’s “teal team,” she worked for a few years at a local real estate agency, Dalrymple Real Estate.
“For nearly six years, I’ve been learning and sharing with my co-workers on how to became an influence in their circles and how to leverage social media to build their credibility,” Walker said. “And for fun, I have a hand in making sure First Security teal is somewhere in every Arkansas home.”
Susie DuBose of Searcy has known Walker since she was in high school. The two of them attended Romance Church of Christ, where DuBose served as Walker’s mentor for a time. DuBose said the two of them taught Bible classes together.
“Amber is a woman of integrity and is very responsible,” DuBose said. “She is just a very mature young woman, always has been, and from my observation has made wise choices and has made Searcy home.
“She has always wanted to give her best in everything she has ever been involved in.”
DuBose said Walker has always been very inclusive in everything she does, making sure no one is left out.
“She is really good in the community in finding where people can fit in, and she doesn’t build walls against people. … That is a great asset to have in building community involvement,” DuBose said. “She is also very talented and artistic.”
Walker graduated from Beebe High School in 2011 and from Harding University in 2015. In 2013, she married Will Walker, whom she met at school. Will is a former Harding Bison and an alum of the Leadership Searcy Committee.
“After we completed our finals that December, we had a big family sobfest in a beautiful historic church while we vowed ourselves to each other and to God,” Amber Walker said. “In 2015, we graduated together. There’s a bachelor’s degree in psychology with two minors with my new name on it on one side of our living room and a bachelor’s in history with his name on the other.
“We both use our degrees every single day.”
Will Walker owns Yesteryear in downtown Searcy. He is a personal historian and helps individuals preserve, archive and share their stories and memories for future generations.
“Sometimes that looks like a printed book, and other times it looks like a USB drive with some converted home videos and scanned, digitally repaired photos on it,” Amber said. “When I clock out from the bank, I go to Yesteryear to help him edit and transcribe interviews, edit videos, generate marketing materials or facilitate a sort of ‘brain dump’ meeting with him.”
Amber is a member of Highway Church and helps organize Entrepreneurial Women of Searcy, a network of 82 women business owners who, pre-COVID-19, met for mentoring, brainstorming and prayer for each other’s endeavors twice per month. She also volunteers as event-marketing and social-media support for Beats and Eats, ThinkART Project and Searcy Holiday of Lights, and she serves on the committee behind “Small Business Revolution.”
“My example of service is Christ himself,” Walker said. “He met the needs of those around him, those he met face to face while walking about, and that impact changed the world.
“Christ made many sacrifices before ‘the big one,’ and it was all about the people right there in his presence.
“If I sacrifice my time, skills and life to serve those who I pass in the street, those that I share the grocery store with, those I stand 6 feet away from, so they can enter the doorway first, then I can impact my community like Jesus and, ultimately, for him.”
Walker said she hopes her story sounds practical and relatable.
“Intention and influence are concepts anyone can grasp and are practices anyone can add to their life,” she said. “Leadership is not at all about having a title and being a boss. I’ve worked for some sorry bosses in my short life, and I wouldn’t trust them to lead me out of a burning building.”
Staff writer Sam Pierce can be reached at (501) 244-4314 or firstname.lastname@example.org.