Wasden to retire, Salter named new executive director

Published 11:58 am Wednesday, April 11, 2018

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After 11 years at the helm of the Greenville Area Chamber of Commerce, Francine Wasden is set to retire as its executive director at the end of April. Her replacement will, however, be a very familiar face to most Camellia City residents.

Tracy Salter, president of Greenville Newspapers, LLC, and a long-time chamber board member, has been named as the GACoC’s new executive director by the chamber’s executive board of directors. Salter resigned her position with the Advocate effective Friday so she could accept the chamber director’s position.

“I know Tracy is going to do a fabulous job. She is so well thought of in our community and has been such a great asset to our board,” Wasden said.

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Looking back at her tenure as executive director, Wasden says the position just felt like “the perfect fit for me.”

“I love meeting new people and this job gave me the chance to do just that. And of course, I couldn’t have done it without our wonderful board of directors,” Wasden said.

During her tenure the Monroeville native has also left her stamp on the community by initiating several new events and programs.

The first membership banquet honoring businesses and individuals for their contributions to the city and county was Wasden’s brainchild. She also initiated the annual Independence Day event and fireworks display, Celebrate America; Trick or Treat on Commerce Street each Halloween, and Camellia City Fest, a downtown festival with crafts, music and food held each March.

“I feel as if we as a chamber are an arm of the city and the city employees have really helped us with so many events—we couldn’t have done it all without them,” Wasden said.

One of the things that delights Wasden most is knowing she had a hand in restoring the prominence of the camellia to the Camellia City.

“I truly love our chamber logo. Mr. Shirley Roberson was so gracious to let us use his original camellia artwork in the center of it,” Wasden said. “And now our garden club has also adopted it. I knew it was something people were really interested in seeing happen and I’m glad we made it so.”

Another one of her proudest accomplishments is the chamber’s accreditation as part of the Accredited Alabama Chamber of Commerce (AACC), one of the most prestigious programs of the Chamber of Commerce Association of Alabama (CCAA). The Alabama Certified Chamber Program sets standards of excellence for chambers in the State of Alabama. It recognizes chambers that have achieved those standards while offering guidelines for those to improve their effectiveness.

The outgoing chamber director, who has served on the Chamber of Commerce Association of Alabama board of directors, has also been active in other facets of the local community, including serving on the YMCA of Greenville board of directors and as a member of the Greenville Rotary Club.

“Every board on which I have served has been so genuinely interested in our community and ways they could support it. It just goes to show the kind of place Greenville is,” Wasden said.

The outgoing director says she and Salter are already working together to prepare for a smooth transition at the end of the month.

“For me, it’s truly been a fun ride, but now I am ready for my next chapter. I’ve told Tracy I will be available to help her out from time to time as she needs it,” Wasden said. “I do want to enjoy spending more time with my kids and grandkids, but I’m certain some other door of opportunity is going to open for me along the same lines. And I know this position is going to be filled by exactly the right person.”

Salter has been president of Greenville Newspapers, LLC, since 2012, which publishes The Greenville Advocate, Butler County News, Luverne Journal, Lowndes Signal, Camellia Magazine and their affiliated websites.

“I am excited to collaborate with the top-flight group making up our board of directors, a group that is already working so hard to make Greenville a successful, thriving community,” Salter said. “Francine has done an excellent job during her tenure at the chamber and she’s built a solid foundation, one of which the community is proud to be a part of.

“I look forward to the opportunities that are ahead for the city, as well as the chance to implement new ideas as we continue to work hard and strive to bring value to our existing members, future members and the community as a whole. Our goal is to continue to make Greenville and Butler County a better place to live, work, play, shop and study.”

Josh Simmons, president of the chamber board, says he appreciates Wasden for her decade-plus of service.

“I want to thank Francine for the way she has promoted local businesses in a such a positive manner,” Simmons said. “She’s increased membership during her tenure to more than 300 businesses and individuals and has been a real asset to our community.

“I know that Tracy will also do a fine job.  She’s been with the Advocate for many years and has done an excellent job. All the experience she brings—well, it was a no-brainer to make her our choice.”

Salter began her career with GNL in 1999 as an inside classified sales representative, working her way up to advertising director before being named general manager in 2011 and president and publisher in 2012.

During Salter’s tenure, The Greenville Advocate has been named one of Alabama’s top three small weekly newspapers for ten consecutive years, earning top honors in the Alabama Press Association’s Better Newspaper Contest.

Salter has played an active part in the community for a number of years, serving on various boards and committees such as the Greenville Area Chamber of Commerce executive board, the L.V. Stabler Hospital Healthy Woman Advisory Council, the Achiever Award Scholarship committee, and the Alabama Press Association’s advertising and journalism foundation board.

Simmons says he and the board are looking forward to working with their new executive director.

“It’s going to be a great thing for the community, businesses and any new and potential businesses,” Simmons said. “It’s great to have a local person like Tracy who knows everyone.”

Both Wasden and Simmons express their belief Salter will take an already strong chamber “to the next level.”

“Greenville is a special place, a great town—and Tracy is someone who appreciates all it has to offer,” Wasden said. “I know I am leaving the chamber in very capable hands.”

Salter will officially assume the executive director position of the GACoC April 30.