An aim of Sheila Thomas’ career has been to leave the Branson area better off.
She’s done so currently as president and CEO of the Table Rock Lake Chamber of Commerce & Visitors Bureau.
Her varied resume includes time serving as executive director of the Ozarks Rivers Heritage Foundation; project director for grants from the Walmart Foundation and the U.S. Small Business Administration; 16 years as a real estate broker and manager; and director of marketing and public relations for Cox Medical Center Branson.
“Throughout my career, I have been charged with developing a new program or position or with leading organizations that were either struggling or growing rapidly,” Thomas says. “Producing movement or change was critical to success in all of those situations.”
Such was the case for her role at the Table Rock Lake Chamber of Commerce.
Prior to joining the organization as its leader in 2014, Thomas says the chamber had struggled financially with declining membership and support levels.
Thomas has led the chamber to grow its membership by 33 percent to more than 450 members.
“The Table Rock Lake community in southwest Missouri is thriving, thanks to Ms. Thomas’ devotion to growth and renovation,” says Chad Connell, immediate past chairman of the Table Rock Lake Chamber Board of Directors and a sales consultant at Connell Insurance Inc. “I have witnessed Ms. Thomas demonstrate her ability to lead through innovative ideas and actions, all for the betterment of the communities she serves.”
On the tourism side of the chamber and visitors bureau, Thomas leads the organization to generate $65 million-$75 million in incremental revenue for the Branson area annually. Toward that effort, she led the launch of a new website three years ago, and through marketing initiatives, the online portal has experienced traffic growth of 60 percent.
As an advocate for tourism funding, Thomas makes legislative visits to Jefferson City a couple of times per year, and she attends a monthly legislative roundtable with local legislators.
Yet Thomas considers her work on a recent GoFundMe crowdfunding campaign to be her most influential to date.
Following the summertime Ride the Ducks accident that left 17 people dead, Thomas rallied the chamber to partner with the Branson/Lakes Area Chamber of Commerce & CVB and Skaggs Foundation to promote fundraising efforts for survivors and the family members of victims.
The crowdfunding campaign ultimately raised more than $52,000.
“I’m not sure I would use the word ‘proud’ or describe this as an accomplishment, but it has sure helped me personally navigate through this heartbreak,” Thomas says.
Beyond her chamber work, Thomas also keeps herself busy attending meetings of the Kimberling City Economic Development Committee and aldermen meetings in Kimberling City and Branson West.
The Forward SGF comprehensive plan was born from the input of residents, and one message that came through loud and clear was their desire for connection.