Liberty County Chamber of Commerce interim director Leah Poole officially accepted the permanent position as executive director of the chamber on Thursday morning.
“It means a lot to me [to get this position],” Poole said. “I’ve been on the board for a really long time and I would like to think I’ve been instrumental to where it is today.”
Poole, who currently works as United Way of Coastal Georgia area director, said the position is effective as of Jan. 1.
“I hate to leave United Way. I can do many things, but I can’t do everything,” she said of her involvement several community organizations.
The position has been vacant for four months since Kenny Smiley resigned after working with the chamber for 11 years. Smiley took a job in Northeast Georgia for a regional magazine.
Poole and Chamber Chairman Toby Mahan refused to disclose what the new director’s salary will be, even though the chamber is partially funded with government money.
The city and the county each contribute $21,000 to the chamber, according to the city of Hinesville’s website and County Finance Officer Kim McGlothlin.
Currently, the Chamber rents space from the Liberty County Development Authority. They are exempted from paying utilities but do pay a subsidized rent of $1,132 per month; $13,584 for the year, said Carmen Cole, director of administration and finance for the LCDA. Cole said the space would normally rent for $22-$25 per square foot, but the authority allows the chamber to rent it for $16 per square foot.
The newly selected executive director said she will continue to support the United Way any way she can, even after she jumps into her role with the chamber.
“I strongly believe in what they do,” she said. “I’ve been giving to them for 10 years now.”
As for what she is most looking forward to, Poole said working with the people she has worked with for years as a board member will be the best part of her job.
“I think the chamber is an integral part of our community and it can continue to be and we need people to be involved,” she said. “I think we’ll have a really good year.”