By Morgan Bryce
The Opelika Chamber of Commerce board announced during its meeting today that Pam-Powers Smith, the current director of Opelika Main Street, will become its new president, effective Jan. 2. Powers-Smith will replace Barbara Patton, who has served as the president since 2010.
Patton said she decided earlier this fall that she had wanted to retire, and that it would be a move that would be beneficial for both her and the chamber to make a change in leadership.
“There’s just been a nagging in the back of my mind that it’s time to move on to somebody new coming in, and somebody with some new ideas,” Patton said.
Bill Trant, chairman of the board, said that the search for a new president began four weeks ago. The chamber formed a five-member committee and relied on assistance from another private individual in selecting Patton’s replacement.
“We interviewed everybody … so it was a process we went through. We telephone interviewed, and we picked out the five best-qualified and brought them in and interviewed them person-to-person,” Trant said. “She will bring energy … she’s young, and has a lot of contacts … and start running when she hits the ground.”
Powers-Smith said the job offer came as a surprise. “I was in shock at first … when they called me I was so quiet they had to ask me if I was still on the phone. It’s been a really crazy couple of weeks,” Powers-Smith said.
The process of finding a new director of Opelika Main Street began today, and she said that she is confident that both the organization and downtown area will continue to prosper in her absence.
“I just hope downtown keeps growing like it is now, and that there is someone to take care of it,” Powers-Smith said.
She said that she has some goals set for when she becomes the chamber’s new president, but said she will not be able to do it alone.
“I really want to do a lot of talking to the members … I want to do a lot of listening … I want to really capture what we need to be doing and have some goals set in place, and then tackle those goals,” Powers-Smith said. “I really consider January and the beginning months as a huge learning period. I certainly have a lot to learn, and Barbara will be here to help me during the month of January, which will be amazing.”
Patton said she will miss working with her staff at the chamber and connections made through being the president, but is excited about the future of the organization under Power-Smith’s leadership going forward.
“I’m going to miss the people that I work with and connections you have and the fact that you won’t see those people as often … I like seeing businesses grow and the community prosper … but I’m excited for the future of the chamber,” Patton said. “I think the chamber of commerce will be a lot more visible with Pam, and I think she’s got a lot of high energy and she’ll look at new things to do. There’s lots of things that the chamber can be involved with and do … it’s going to mean a lot for the chamber to have someone like her to step in and lead.”