Tami North’s job is clear to her: She works on behalf of local business owners. And in that role, she’s made quick work of building up membership at the Rogersville Area Chamber of Commerce.
During her first 18 months as executive director, the chamber’s membership grew by nearly 40 percent. North quickly added 20 members to its roster in the first 10 months, and six months later, another 14 members joined.
“My board was worn out before I came in,” North says. “They needed someone who was willing to take the lead, do the work and move things forward.”
North got to work updating the procedure manual and bylaws, refreshing the website and streamlining day-to-day operations.
“I’ve also encouraged, from day one, that we concentrate our efforts on those things that bring value to the member.”
“My daily focus is to bring attention to the wealth of goods and services our corner of southwest Missouri has to offer,” North says. “I do this every place my feet may go, or my fingers may type or my voice may carry.”
It hasn’t been easy, though. North says an early initiative was repairing a history of disconnect between the chamber and Rogersville city staff.
“The chamber of commerce and the city simply didn’t play well together,” she says.
She spent six months building lines of communication and relationships. Now, chamber representatives attend council meetings, and city officials are asking, “What can we do better for the business community?”
“Our residents are beginning to see efforts on both sides, and the community is unearthing gems,” she says. “Even though we may not agree 100 percent of the time, each side is willing to actively participate in strategies that help us work and grow better together.”
However, North says her hardest work came during a six-year period of caring for her ill husband Gary.
“I was his 24/7 caregiver while he fought ALS,” she says of his amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, aka Lou Gehrig’s disease. “His particular battle was very intense, and our insurance did not pay for any home health care. I had to help him, the hardest worker I’d ever know, close his successful business, and shortly after, could no longer work as I cared for his extremely critical and intensive needs.”
Together, they owned and operated North Homes and Wood Products in Rogersville between 1993 and 2008. Gary died in December 2014.
“The six-year hole in my resume is possibly the most challenging, rewarding and emotional work of my life,” she says.
Though there are still moments of grief and loss, North says she’s chosen to stay positive and move forward in her career. And that’s led her to building the business community in Rogersville.
“Having been a business owner myself, prior to my husband’s illness, I have a relatable vision and share purpose with our business owners,” she says. “I get to be a co-dreamer, life coach and cheerleader for that person.”
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