Blakely Williams, a four-year veteran of the Beaufort Regional Chamber of Commerce and its interim president since April, became the full-time president and CEO of the local business organization following approval by the Board of Directors.
Williams, formerly director of member services for the chamber, assumes her new role immediately. She succeeds Carlotta Ungaro, who left the chamber in April to take a similar post in North Carolina.
“We are thrilled to have Blakely Williams continue her leadership role with the Beaufort Regional Chamber of Commerce. She brings unmatched experience with our local business community, boundless energy and enthusiasm, and has a great feel for where we need to take this chamber in coming years,” said Jon Rembold, chairman of the search committee and incoming chairman of the Chamber Board of Directors.
Williams recently organized and led the annual meeting and Civitas Awards recognizing exceptional business and community leaders, and she and her team helped increase new memberships and boost retention rates of existing members.
“I am honored and humbled to be selected,” Williams said. “With the Joint Strike Fighters coming to the air station and the $70 million in base construction that is starting soon, plus the improving local economy, the chamber is poised to make great strides. It’s an exciting time and I am proud to step into this new leadership role.”
Williams and her team, with the board’s leadership, will work throughout 2011-12 to transition apart from the Visitor and Convention Bureau. The change will better allow the chamber to focus on its core functions, which center on building a better business climate and actively supporting member businesses.
“With her background in member services for our chamber, Blakely was the ideal candidate. She is the right person in the right place at the right time to lead us into the future,” said Jimmy Boozer, outgoing chairman of the chamber board who participated in the search committee.
Williams graduated from Presbyterian College and participates locally on the YMCA Board of Directors, the Junior Service League of Beaufort and the Rotary Club of the Lowcountry. In addition to her chamber experience, she also worked in human resources with the Waffle House company where she coordinated personnel matters for 12 restaurants and 240 employees.
The Beaufort Regional Chamber of Commerce supports more than 700 active members. Their offices are in the historic Carnegie Building at the corner of Carteret and Craven streets in downtown Beaufort.
There were 19 applicants for the position and the search committee interviewed three.
For more information, visit www.beaufortchamber.org .
A Q&A WITH BLAKELY WILLIAMS
By Wendy Nilsen Pollitzer
WP: How long have you lived in Beaufort?
BW: 5 years.
WP: What about Beaufort do you enjoy the most?
BW: What’s not to love about Beaufort? I love the beauty of this place, the people and the inclusion of the community.
WP: Tell me a little about your husband.
BW: Blair Williams is a good man! We’ve been married for five years, this year. He’s a hunter, fisherman, gardener and a great dad to our daughter, Quinn. Blair, born and raised in Charleston, is the Wetlands Section Manager for the eight coastal counties of South Carolina for DHEC’s Ocean & Coastal Resource Management division.
WP: What are your hobbies?
BW: Most of my hobbies revolve around food and family. When I am not working, I love farmers markets, cooking, dining out and being with my family.
WP: You are a member of several local nonprofits. Do you believe Beaufort to
be a giving town?
BW: I do. Presbyterian College’s motto is “Dum Vivimus Servimus,” meaning, while we live, we serve. These words are so important to me. I find Beaufort to be an unbelievably generous, supportive community.
WP: What strengths will you bring to the chamber?
BW: I work with a seasoned and tenured staff and engaged board of directors. I’ll complement the work of the staff and the direction of the board with energy and enthusiasm. I’m a bridge builder, relationship grower, constant communicator and servant leader.
WP: What are your short-term goals for the chamber?
BW: We’ve got lots of big plans for the chamber. In the next few weeks, we’re launching a new website, updating logos and rolling out a new image for the chamber. The new “look” is tied to the Richard V. Woods swing bridge. This iconic image represents the connection between the chamber and members, between the chamber and businesses, between the chamber and local governments, and between the chamber and the community. Bridges are our Lowcountry link from past to future, and the chamber is a bridge to economic growth. Looking forward, this chamber will be a strong advocate for business. We’ll be focusing our efforts to advocate for an improved business climate and provide programs to help businesses thrive.
WP: What other organizations are important to the chamber’s success?
BW: The chamber’s success is dependent on the solid and established relationships we have with our community partners. Beaufort County School District, USCB and TCL are outstanding educational partners. The city of Beaufort, Town of Port Royal and Beaufort County governments are supportive of the work of our chamber. Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort, Marine Corps Recruit Depot-Parris Island and the Naval Hospital are all engaged and instrumental in our programs of work.
WP: What is the current percentage of members based on number of businesses in Northern Beaufort County?
BW: Currently, we have over 700 members. Approximately 72% of our members are located in Northern Beaufort County.
WP: Why should a business join the chamber, especially now, in this recession?
BW: The chamber is here to serve businesses with programs and services to assist in their success. As the most influential and successful business organization in the Beaufort region, our members are informed about the local business environment through newsletters, bid notifications, new business opportunities. Our members have opportunities to meet other professionals through our networking programs, as well as have access to elected officials through our candidates forums and legislative receptions. The chamber provides marketing opportunities for businesses to have additional exposure to a local market. We’re an affordable support system, marketing arm, advocate for local businesses.