After working her way up the Franklin County Chamber of Commerce staff ladder, Kayla Doney has been named the organization’s new executive director.
Doney replaces Michelle Earle who recently moved on to become FirstBank’s manager of training but remains active as a Chamber board director.
Doney said she is excited to be leading the organization where she started out as an administrative assistant in March 2017 and became director of operations in July 2018. She became the interim director after Earle announced in October that she had accepted the FirstBank position.
Chamber President Jonas Harmond said giving Doney the employment nod was the right step.
“We’ve had quite a bit of change at the Chamber in the past two years, and Kayla brings solidity and has a good work ethic,” he said. “She has a good working knowledge of the Chamber’s functions, and she knows everybody from Franklin County.”
Doney said Earle had led the Chamber on a very positive, progressive path that she wants to continue and enhance as the new director.
She paid tribute to the Chamber board for extending her the job offer.
“I’m very honored that the board has complete faith in me to transition into this role,” Doney said. “I’m thankful that they have seen me fit to lead the day-to-day operations of the Chamber.”
Doney also paid tribute to Earle for serving as a mentor for the inner workings of the Chamber and doing what it takes to keep the organization on a successful path.
“I learned to always ask why things happen and the way they happen,” she said, referring to the attention to detail Earle exemplified that she absorbed and adapted into her approach toward management.
Doney said the Chamber is an ideal entity for her to lead because she is a Franklin County native, and her heart lies in promoting her home county’s opportunities for business and economic development.
The daughter of Myron and Stacie Bates, the new executive director is a 2006 Franklin County High School graduate who was born at what is now Southern Tennessee Regional Health System-Winchester.
She initially lived in Cowan, and the family had moved to Decherd when she was 12.
Doney said her extensive connection to Franklin County’s roots should pay huge dividends in leading the Chamber.
“I feel like I already know so many business owners, and I’m very familiar with all the businesses in the county,” she said. “I will strive to blur the lines between the cities and the county so that we can be more unified.”
Doney said there’s a common perception that the organization more strongly promotes Winchester.
“That’s something people get confused about because the Chamber is in Winchester, but the Chamber serves the entire county — Sewanee, Cowan, Huntland Estill Springs, Decherd and the unincorporated communities as well,” she said.
Doney said Earle had planted a promotional seed that the organization is going to continue with in 2020 which depicts the Chamber’s focus — “established, engaged and evolving.”
She said a goal is to engage businesses more with how they can improve their operations by using social media. She added that she plans to have a gathering where a social media expert can explain approaches in detail to Chamber members.
Another line of focus will be to improve opportunities for women in business.
Doney said something as simple as proper attire is often taken for granted, and knowing what to wear and not to wear can make a big difference in business operational paths.
She also referred to Tims Ford Lake and how it can serve as a catalyst to promote recreational events that will offer residents outdoor entertainment avenues and simultaneously promote tourism.
Doney also highlighted how important it is for residents to fill out their census forms.
She said the county receives federal appropriations based on population, and an accurate head count means more money to promote quality of life and economic-development initiatives.
She added that the Chamber is playing an active role in getting the public informed about how important it is to answer the nine simple questions on the census form.
On a personal note, Kayla is married to Jimmy Doney, and the couple has three children — daughters Kinzlie, 7, and Briley, 4, and 2-year-old son Jaxen.