02/01/11 — Wayne County Chamber of Commerce chooses president

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Wayne County Chamber of Commerce chooses president

By Matthew Whittle
Published in News on February 1, 2011 1:49 PM

On Steve Hicks' last day with the Wayne County Chamber of Commerce, the board of directors named his replacement Monday.

Marian Mason, the former president of the Central Baldwin Chamber of Commerce in Robertsdale, Ala., in Baldwin County, is expected to be in place by end of the month, Wayne County Chamber board chairman Ben Seegars said.

"She really was head and shoulders above the rest," he said.

Julie Daniels, the 2010 board chairwoman, said the search committee received about 20 applications for the position and that they narrowed the candidates down through a process of phone and face-to-face interviews.

She said the "No. 1 narrowing down qualification" was whether or not a candidate had previous chamber experience -- something the board felt was important to look for in its search.

Seegars said one thing that attracted them to Mrs. Mason in particular was her experience turning around the Central Baldwin Chamber during her four years there -- improving its membership, retention and services, in a situation similar to what Wayne County is facing now.

"She had a very positive impact on that chamber, Seegars said.

"It sounds like a lot of the same challenges we've had," Mrs. Daniels added.

They explained that during the interview process they were very open about the chamber's current financial and membership situation, as well as about where they are at in year two of their five-year strategic plan.

"She was very complimentary of the plan -- that she thought it was moving in a positive direction," Mrs. Daniels said. 'We felt she has what we're looking for to help guide us into the future."

"She was very impressed with all the Chamber does with such a limited staff -- especially with the extraordinary nature of our volunteers who are passionate about what they're doing," Seegars added. "There's no question we may tweak the plan but she definitely has embraced it."

He also said that her background, which includes executive level private industry work, as well as a bachelor's degree in communication from the University of Texas and graduate work with the University of South Alabama in Communications and Public Administration, should prove to be a plus in her new position.

"We're looking forward to her fresh ideas about how to market Goldsboro and Wayne County as a good place for businesses and families. She really knows how to communicate with the membership on the value of their membership," Seegars said. "Members don't always understand the value of their membership because nobody has told them. That will be vital going forward -- meeting with our members and educating them.

Additionally, Mrs. Daniels added, because Mrs. Mason has had some experience with the military community -- her husband is ex-Navy -- they believe she will be able to understand Goldsboro's unique dynamic and relationship with Seymour Johnson Air Force Base.

Now, Chamber officials said, all that is left to do is to get through the next four weeks or so until Mrs. Mason is in place and can hit the ground running, focusing to start with on the goals Seegars outlined at the annual banquet last Wednesday, including developing a business mentoring program, hosting the Wayne County Dancing with the Stars competition, focusing on the upcoming Wings Over Wayne Air Show and completing renovations to the Chamber building.