By Anne Christnovich
On her first day of work at the Beaufort Regional Chamber of Commerce, Jaime Dailey-Vergara looked out her new office window and relished the simple pleasure of seeing her car in the same parking spot for the whole day.
As a veteran of the broadcast news world, it was a luxury well earned.
Dailey-Vergara was the Lowcountry reporter for WTOC Channel 11 for more than 10 years, and rarely had a day of work that didn’t include rushing from story to story between Jasper, Hampton and Beaufort counties.
She started as the chamber’s communications manager in January and now manages the chamber’s social media, writes a weekly newsletter sent to about 650 chamber members and helps alert the community to local events and visits from state and national politicians. She’s also on the chamber’s Military Enhancement Committee, composed of volunteers working to protect the area’s military bases and promotes the $1.5 million impact the bases have on the local economy.
Dailey-Vergara loved her job at WTOC and said leaving reporting was a difficult decision, but after a lot of thought and prayer she said she knew taking the communications management position was the right move.
“I always thought if I left (WTOC), it wasn’t going to be for just a job — it was going to be for something I’m passionate about,” she said. “I see this chamber really going far and I’m proud to be part of it.”
Dailey-Vergara and her husband, Jose Vergara, were newlyweds when she got her job at WTOC and moved to the area 11 years ago. The couple — both from Indiana — were high school sweethearts, went to Indiana University together (Dailey-Vergara got her broadcast journalism degree there) and plan to call Beaufort County their home for many years to come.
“I think we’d been living here for something like two months when we looked at each other and said ‘Yep, we’re staying,’ ” she said.
The two will celebrate 12 years of marriage and 20 total years together on June 23.
Chatting with Jamie Dailey-Vergara gives the impression of a woman who has boundless energy and enthusiasm, which are attributes handy and necessary for both her current and former jobs. She said jokingly that her demeanor should partly be credited to a steady supply of coffee.
“There are a lot of things I can go without but coffee is not one of them,” she said, laughing.
A caffeine dependency seems perfectly reasonable after hearing about her schedule for the past decade.
As a reporter, Dailey-Vergara would go to a special event at a school, hustle to the scene of a structure fire and then cover a football game in a single day. Her car, she said, was like a mobile office where she often ate meals and lined up interviews at a moment’s notice.
Her reporter badge allowed her to witness things she never dreamed she would, she said, including covering military homecomings and flying with the Blue Angels in 2011.
Of the homecomings, Dailey-Vergara said she would often tear up during the assignment because she would recognize men and women whom she’d covered when they were deployed.
“You really come to understand the daily sacrifice these men and women make,” she said. “Seeing them come home safe was … amazing.”
As for her ride with the Blue Angels, she admits they didn’t get up to 7 Gs but said they reached the “respectable” level of 5.5 Gs, she said, according to her military friends.
“Something happened where we were delayed …. we ended up flying at sunset,” she said. “It was gorgeous.”
On the flip side, Dailey-Vergara said she worked long hours and often got called out of bed in the middle of the night for breaking news. With her rapidly growing daughters — Lilly, 9, and Ava Grace, 5 — it was a task that was getting harder and harder to do, she said.
Her reporting skills, she said, have transferred fluidly to her new role and although she isn’t called out of bed in the middle of the night anymore, she’s still been plenty busy. And, she said, she’s enjoying the new challenge of trying to find answers for the questions media reporters toss her way.
During an hour-long interview Dailey-Vergara’s iPhone rang, beeped and vibrated several times — in much the way the phone of a busy reporter would sound — but she said workload is welcome.
“There are still deadlines, but just a different type,” she said. “There’s still pressure, but it’s a different kind of pressure.”
When St. Helena Island native Candice Glover was competing for her American Idol title, the chamber took on the responsibility of organizing the hometown concert and fielding a flock of reporters following Glover’s fairytale-like story.
When it came to setting up where the media would be for the performance, Dailey-Vergara said she took the reins in setting up where reporters would be set up.
“It was so funny … a few members were like, ‘We could set up the media over here,’ and I was like, ‘No they have to be over here … they have to have a good spot,’ ” she said. “I know what I would want and so I can kind of help with those kinds of things.”
The chamber also recently lobbied to pass the film rebate bill and is currently organizing the Civitas Awards, given to various members of the Beaufort community for leadership, volunteerism and making the area a better place to live. The award ceremony will take place 6 to 9 p.m., June 28, at the Dataw Island Club.
She and the other members of the Military Enhancement Committee also have a weekly conference call with representatives in Washington, D.C.
The committee members, Dailey-Vergara said, are people whom she interviewed several times over the years, but now she knows them on a new level.
“I did stories on some of them and now I’m working along with them on the same team,” she said. “It’s a good environment. Everyone has passion about what they do.”
Despite the new schedule and responsibilities, Dailey-Vergara still decided she has the time and energy to start training for her second marathon, too. She ran her first two years ago while juggling parenting and reporting. The run, scheduled for November, will be with a group from her church, Water’s Edge. They’re raising money through Team in Training for a 6-year-old member who has leukemia.
“I like to have a lot on my plate,” she said. “I always have to have new challenges.”