Beckley-Raleigh County Chamber of Commerce President Ellen Taylor is retiring to her hometown of Nitro, taking 26 years of Beckley memories and leaving behind a legacy that will continue to enrich her "second home" and the Chamber.
"I'm just retiring because it's time for me to retire," Taylor said Tuesday evening, in the straightforward manner that her friends, colleagues and those at the Chamber know well. "It's time for somebody new to take over.
"They will have a great organization to work with, good staff, so it should be absolutely no problem with that," Taylor said. "I basically plan to play with my grandkids and great-grandchild and shop and read and do nothing sometimes.
"Do nothing," she emphasized. "Sleep late."
Taylor, who has sold her home in Beckley, will move to her second house in Nitro.
"That's where my family is," she explained. "They're all close by, so I wanted to be close to my sister and my brothers."
Taylor was not known to sleep late in the 26 years she worked for the Chamber. She came to Beckley in October 1993 from the Charleston Chamber of Commerce. She had a no-nonsense demeanor and strong leadership abilities, and she immediately went to work to build the Chamber.
Taylor was gifted at forging liaisons with state and local groups, partnering on initiatives that otherwise would have found little funding or interest.
In 1998, she worked with the West Virginia Center on Aging and West Virginia Development Office to attract seniors to the area. She promoted tourism, and worked with Beckley Area Foundation to secure improved signage.
She organized the annual Business Show, growing it larger each year.
Chamber member Pete Torrico noted, “With Ellen’s leadership, our Chamber not only has much respect in our community, but around the state of West Virginia.
"Ellen has set the bar high for the future of our Chamber," Torrico was quoted in a press release from the Chamber. "What a pleasure it has been working with her.”
She fit into Beckley — which she said she thinks of as her "second home" — effortlessly. She even dabbled in local politics, securing a seat on Beckley Common Council as a representative of Ward II.
Along the way, Taylor made many friends. Some of her most special memories of Beckley involve the years that she and her friends, Peggy Haga and the late Theresa Riggs, would go out together after work.
"I used to go out in the evenings with Peggy and Theresa," she remembered. "We just absolutely had the most fun you could ever have.
"Those were special times."
She said people like Torrico and Charlie Houck at the Chamber are also good friends.
"There's just a ton of them I've known for a long time," she said. "The hope would be that I could come back and visit, see people I haven't seen for awhile after I'm away and keep in touch with people I worked with.
"We've all worked together a long time."
In a press release from the Chamber, long-time Chamber board member Houck commented regarding Taylor and her service to the Chamber.
“I, as a member of the Chamber Board of Directors during all of Ellen’s tenure, witnessed major membership growth, fiscal responsibility and substantial increase in the product offering to our membership," said Houck. "In summary, Ellen is one of the finest individuals I have ever met.”
Current Board Chair Mike Tyree said that Taylor is leaving the Chamber with a strong legacy.
“After twenty-six years of dedicated and selfless service, Ellen leaves the Chamber with a legacy of financial stability, good community relations and an unwavering support of the business community of Beckley and Raleigh County," Tyree stated in the Chamber press release.
Along with Ellen’s Chamber work, she is a member of several different clubs and committees. She was awarded the 2019 Paul Harris Fellow from Beckley Rotary Club, where she is a member.
The Chamber is searching forTaylor’s successor as the future President and CEO, Chamber Search Committee Chairperson Richard Jarrell reported.
“These are big shoes to fill to find someone with the knowledge and passion that Ellen has served us with, but she has earned this retirement and we wish her well and say 'thank you for 26 great years,' ” Jarrell said in the press release.
Jarrell said Taylor's position is posted on several internet sites, including Indeed, Glassdoor and Ziprecruiter.
Resumes may also be mailed to: BRCCC Employment, P.O. Box 855, Beckley WV 25802 or emailed to EMPLOYMENT@BRCCC.COM.
Taylor had a word of advice for her successor.
"The one thing that is extremely important is to build the friendships with other organizations and work collaboratively with other entities," she advised. "I just can't say enough about how important it is to go, reach out and get to know other partners in the community.
"The city and the county both have been just fabulous for the Chamber. I would say building those coalitions among those groups is very important."