If we laid out a map to trace the path that’s brought Annette Medlin, the new President and CEO of the Greater Augusta Regional Chamber of Commerce, to the Shenandoah Valley we’d see many roads filled with adventure, reinvention, and creativity converging at this new destination in her journey.
Born and raised in Missouri, Annette comes from a long line of farmers. One of six girls, she’s familiar with what it takes to hoe cotton, tend crops, and make a living from the land. When not tending the fields, she thrived in creative pursuits like music and singing – another family legacy. Her interest in the arts led her to Arkansas State University with the goal of becoming a music teacher. After earning her bachelor’s degree in music education, she headed to Tennessee where she did master’s level studies in vocal performance.
For eighteen years after graduation, you could find Annette teaching from her studio, traveling with national and regional opera companies, and performing in shows like the Pirates of Penzance and Chocolate Solider. However, when a position opened at Brookgreen Gardens, a large non-profit outdoor sculpture garden in South Carolina, the opportunity intrigued her. It turns out she had a talent for combining her creativity and business acumen – eventually becoming the Vice President of Public Operations. “I found a way to combine creativity and my management skills. This helped me make it all work,” Annette reflects.
“I found a way to combine my creativity and my management skills.
This helped me make it all work.”
Eventually, a membership director position with the Georgetown County Chamber of Commerce in South Carolina piqued her interest. More than a new job position, the Chamber of Commerce was destined to become Annette’s long-term career path. “I fell in love with the industry, the people, and the public service it offers,” Annette explains. She was so inspired by her work with her local Chamber that she began volunteering with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce – eventually starting her own Chamber consulting company.
“I fell in love the industry, the people, and the public service it offers.”
One intriguing consulting assignment took her around the world to Karachi, Pakistan; Kabul Afghanistan; and Dubai. Working with all male business leaders, Annette navigated not only cultural differences but traditional gender role ideologies. “The fundamentals of Chamber work are very similar even across different cultures. My focus was understanding the people, how they work, and what’s unique to them. It was a life-changing experience.”
“The fundamentals of Chamber work are very similar even across different cultures. My focus was understanding the people, how they work, and what’s unique to them. It was a life changing experience.”
A few year later, Annette dovetailed her international experience into a position as the President and CEO of the Corpus Christi Texas Chamber of Commerce. One of her first tasks was facilitating a merger between the long-standing but separate Hispanic Chamber of Commerce and Corpus Christi Texas Chamber of Commerce.
Prior to Annette’s arrival, the organizations had sorted through social justice issues and human rights challenges, eventually voting unanimously to join forces. “Ultimately, both parties realized they needed one voice for business that has a sensitivity and thoughtfulness about the culture and its uniqueness,” Annette explains. As President and CEO, Annette helped see the merger through to completion.
“Ultimately, both parties realized they needed one voice for business that has a sensitivity and thoughtfulness about the culture and its uniqueness.”
While Annette’s Chamber work kept her busy, she also found time for some exploration and adventure. As fate would have it, during one of her trips she stumbled upon Blackfriars Playhouse in Staunton, Virginia – a natural draw for her artistic passion. She loved the town so much that she added it to her running list of, “Top Places to Retire,” along with Northwest Arkansas; Franklin, Tennessee; Helen, Georgia; and several towns in North Carolina. When the President and CEO position for the Greater Augusta Chamber of Commerce opened up, Annette knew it could be a great match.
When asked what her philosophy is for her new role, Annette adheres to the “four C’s of Chamber work,” – convene, collaborate, coordinate, and connect. The Chamber convenes groups to take on issues affecting the community and business, collaborates with other groups on projects that business can be part of, coordinates initiatives with the community, and connects businesses with people and resources.
Her goals include developing a creative Chamber model that can serve as a best practice example in the wider industry. This would include becoming a certified Chamber through the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. It would also mean being on the cutting edge of business and community development.
It’s clear Annette’s path has been one of great adventure, leadership, and artistic expression. It’s not every day you find someone that embodies both the creativity and strategic acumen to think outside of the box in business. Now that Augusta County is part of her journey, we’re excited to welcome her into the community and see what comes next!