Chamber manager leaving Monday

By Kevin Wilson: PNT Managing Editor

Over her three years with the Roosevelt County Chamber of Commerce, Pat Willis wore many hats as manager, and even got the chance to be a nun and a bed and breakfast operator on the side.
Citing a “lifestyle change,” Willis will be leaving those opportunities to work in the accounts payable department for the county, effective Tuesday.
Willis said she is leaving the position to spend more time with family, but noted that she’ll miss the unpredictability of the job.
“It’s never boring, it’s never dull,” Willis said. “You get up and think you know what’s going to happen, but that’s not the case.”
Willis will work her final day Monday for the Chamber of Commerce, where she has been since 2002.
Willis’ replacement, Sharon King, will join the chamber in June. King recently retired from Eastern New Mexico University after 25 years. She left as a special assistant to the president and coordinator of grant activities.
“The first year, I want to be status quo and see how it goes,” King said. “One of my biggest aspects is that I’ve been here all my life. I understand the city and its people.”
King’s first major event with the chamber will be Heritage Days, scheduled for June 18-19. King said that thanks to the planning of Willis and Amy Ainsworth of the chamber, “I think I just get to walk in and smile and have a good time.”
Heritage Days is one of six major annual events the chamber does — the other are the Christmas Jubilee, the Ag Expo, the chamber banquet, the Fourth of July fireworks show and the Great American Cleanup with the city. In addition, the chamber also does several smaller events throughout the year.
Willis said that the focus is to make annual improvements on each event.
“Four years ago, the Heritage Days consisted of (a parade) and a car show,” Willis said. “We’ve just tried to make (the events) all bigger and better.”
During Willis’ time, the chamber has moved from the Memorial Building to the downtown square, and Portales and Clovis have seen many new businesses arrive with the microplex status that allows the city populations to be combined for business recruitment.
“Our working relationship with Clovis has definitely improved,” Chamber Director Kim Huffman said, “even with day-to-day operations with what’s going on, like the movie (“Believe in Me”), like BRAC (Base Realignments and Closures). We’ve worked really well with Clovis to foster the microplex.”
Willis said a few strange opportunities came about through her representation of the chamber. During filming in Portales for “Believe in Me,” she played a nun. Once, she let an actress performing at Eastern New Mexico University stay with her family because all of the hotels were booked for the night.
Those are situations and opportunities that King will now inherit. Another situation King inherits will be work on BRAC. City and county officials have been actively spreading the word for Operation Keep Cannon since Cannon Air Force Base was recommended for closure Friday.
“We’re going to have to try to band the community together and be one loud voice to Washington,” King said.
Willis said that Ainsworth will fill in approximate week-long stretch between her departure and King’s arrival.