BY MELANIE BUCK –
Matt Thomas, President of the Mena/Polk County Chamber of Commerce, has announced Ashley Smith as the new Executive Director, following Paula Bailey’s resignation. Bailey had served as the Chamber’s Director from October 2013 to June 2017, but recently relocated to another state due to her husband’s employment.
Smith is a hometown Mena girl and is excited to be a big part of promoting the community that she grew up in and is so proud of.
Over the last few years, Smith has helped her husband, Warren, with his family’s business, Smith’s Grocery in Cove. The couple has three children, Eli, Cash, and Stella, that all attend Mena Public Schools.
Smith graduated from Mena High School in 2001, completed two years at Northwest Arkansas Community College, and is currently seeking a Bachelor’s Degree in Communications, which would compliment her new position. She can’t wait to apply her vast knowledge of community and small business. “I’ve been working for our family business for around seven or eight years, and when I decided to finish my degree, I wanted to start a career of my own. When this job came open, that was God talking to me. That was God saying, ‘ok, this is your skill set, this is what you’re suppose to be doing,’ and this is a job that I can do while I finish my degree and that’s very exciting to me.”
Already, Smith has hit the ground running and spent her first day soaking up as much information as she could. “Paula left the place in really good shape. She was really organized, and I have already called her once today,” said Smith of the help Bailey has extended while during this transition.
She wants to keep the tradition running at the Chamber and also said she hopes to be here for a very long time. “Mena is a beautiful town and I know almost everybody from growing up here. Already knowing people, them knowing my face, and being familiar with me, will help me in my job.”
Smith said her previous job at Smith’s Grocery gave her experience dealing with the public, learning advertising and marketing, how to use social media in a small business setting, and many more attributes. “I feel like working at the store gave me a lot of the skills required for this. It definitely trained and prepared me for a position such as this. I also understand some of the unique challenges small businesses owners can face. That’s what I’m here to do right now… to help the businesses, to connect them with the community, help them relocate here and the details that come with that. I have a heart for small businesses, coming from a small business.”
As for her new position, Smith said the Chamber is always looking to recruit new members. She wants to carry on tradition at the Chamber and also place an emphasis on promoting local businesses online through social media, Facebook live events, video spotlights, and other new ideas. “I urge anyone who has ever considered joining the Chamber to come visit with us.”
Smith said she loves to network and visit. “I’ve got time for people. Stop by. My door is always open.”
To learn more of the benefits of Chamber membership, check out their website, www.menapolkchamber.com.