It can sometimes be hard to measure if a career has been successful.
But Julia Kyle, vice president of membership for the Blount County Chamber of Commerce, just has to let the numbers do the talking.
Kyle’s retirement from the Chamber was announced on Friday at the monthly Coffee Club that Kyle organizes. Not one for fanfare, Kyle wanted to combine any goodbyes with the monthly networking event, so Chamber president and CEO of Blount Partnership Bryan Daniels announced her retirement at the Coffee Club, held at Camellia Trace Apartments.
In the 27 years Kyle has been with the Chamber, the number of members has grown from 400 to more than 1,300. What started as a part-time position grew into the vice president of membership job.
“We wanted to recognize Ms. Julia,” Daniels said. “She has been with the Partnership for 27 years, and it is the end of an era for the Partnership. We appreciate Julia’s service over the years, and she will truly be missed.”
Kyle said she appreciated the turnout as folks dropped by the Chamber coffee to network and give her quick hugs. “I think it is great. It’s is wonderful to see so many volunteers. I’m seeing some old faces and some new faces today,” she said. “That is what I will miss is the friendships.”
Kyle said she has enjoyed her job over the years. “I’ve always had a passion for the Chamber. I’ve never had burnout,” she said.
Kyle said it was the people she worked with - the volunteers, staff and business people - who have made the difference “To be able to meet new people just starting businesses or be able to help those who have been with the Chamber for years has been the joy of this job.”
Tammy Ford, vice president of operations, said Kyle’s efforts throughout the years have been successful. “Even when she started part-time, she worked full time,” Ford said, adding that Kyle developed the benefits packages offered new members and prospective members.
“Membership has been her life, and it is obvious from her numbers, she had tremendous impact on the Chamber and on the community,” Ford said.
Ford said Kyle is a very giving person, and it shows in how she treats people. “Every time she meets with a new member or a potential new member, she really feels what they are up against in trying to start up their business, and she’s as passionate about them as they are about their new business,” Ford said. “She shares in that passion with them, and that is what has made her so unique in her position. She is awesome, and we’re going to miss her.”
“The Chamber has come from a small community chamber into a regional chamber dealing with a variety of issues,” Daniels said. “Julia has had a very positive impact on our organization.”
Daniels said Kyle’s position will not be replaced. “As a part of our whole reorganization, we’ll probably deploy a sales force,” he said.
In the last 18 to 24 months, the Chamber has seen several changes. Bookkeeper Deborah Buckner died suddenly in July of 2010 and in November of 2010, longtime president and CEO Fred Forster, who had retired from the Chamber, passed away after a battle with cancer. Daniels assumed the role of president and CEO and the bookkeeper position transitioned into a Chief Financial Officer role and Paul Monroe was hired, Daniels said.
Daniels said Tammy Ford moved from vice president of communications to vice president of operations, and Jeff Muir was recently hired on as director of communications.
“Bill Eanes’ role changed into Economic and Workforce Development, and Kathy DeLozier’s role changed to director of partnership programs for all three (Chamber) agencies handling government affairs and some Workforce Development,” Daniels said.
Herb Handly, vice president of the Smoky Mountain Convention and Visitors Bureau, retired in June. Daniels said interviews are being finalizing now and a decision on who will be hired for that position should be made soon.
Daniels said a “generational transition” is happening within the Chamber. “We’re losing a lot of experience, but we’re also gaining a lot of enthusiasm,” he said. “We are still heavily relying on our people who are leaving or retiring. We hope to be able to call on them about issues. Julia will be one of those people we will keep reaching out to and asking for her advice.”