Beale honored for 35 years of service in the chamber industry

Published 7:07 pm Saturday, April 23, 2022

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Franklin-Southampton Area Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Teresa Beale was recently recognized by the Virginia Association of Chamber of Commerce Executives for 35 years of service with the chamber industry.

VACCE press release stated that it highlighted its 2022 Service Award recipients during their Staff Development Conference held March 4 at the Hotel 24 South in Staunton. The service awards recognize those members in Virginia who have achieved significant years of service in the chamber of commerce industry, and the VACCE presents a certificate of service for each five-year increment of service. Service includes a combination of executive and/or staff employment time in all chambers of commerce.

Beale was one of only two professionals recognized this year for reaching the 35-year mark.

She said she was honored to receive the award. 

“VACCE programs and peers have played a vital support role during my career,” she said. “Chamber work is so rewarding, and serving the Franklin-Southampton Area Chamber in the community where I grew up is a privilege. Dedicated colleagues, board of directors, members and volunteers have made this job a pleasure and fostered lifelong friendships. The best part of our community is truly the wonderful people that enhance the Franklin and Southampton area.”

Beale joined the chamber in 1987 and has served as its executive director since 2004.

Donna McCullough was Beale’s immediate predecessor in the executive director role, and she remembered hiring Beale back in 1987.

“Teresa called the chamber to apply for a position of office manager for the newly created economic development department, so I was taking applications for that position, because the economic development department was working out of the chamber,” McCullough said. “Teresa didn’t know that the position had already been filled.”

McCullough said one of the luckiest days of her life was the day Beale called.

McCullough needed an office manager of her own, and she asked Beale if she would be willing to come in and talk about that position.

“She said,’Yes,’ and we had a wonderful afternoon, and I was so impressed with her the day that I met her, and my admiration for her has just continued to grow,” McCullough said. “It was just a joy to work with someone who is clever, skillful, thoughtful and loved the community just like I did at the time, so we had just great times together, and she has been like my daughter now, really and truly. We’re very, very close, and it started as I didn’t know who in the world she was.”

McCullough served as executive director from 1976-2004, and she was not interested in leaving the chamber in anyone but Beale’s hands.

“Frankly, I would never have left the chamber if they hadn’t have hired her,” McCullough said. “I knew they would do the right thing by giving her the job, and they did.”

Brian Hedgepeth has been a member of the chamber since 1982, but his friendship with Beale goes back to their childhoods when they were neighbors.

“I’ve known Teresa since I was 4 years old,” he said. “We grew up together, and then of course, we both left home at the appropriate time we’re supposed to leave home and went about our careers. And then, lo and behold, after her mother passed away and went on, she moved back into the family house. And when my parents moved to the village, I bought the family house, so now we’re neighbors again.”

He said he cannot think of a better neighbor to have, and that neighborliness has served Beale well in her role with the chamber.

“I think it goes without saying, Teresa has a great love for Franklin-Southampton County, and you have to (in order) to work in that (chamber) business, I think, because I think it’s a thankless job,” Hedgepeth said. “It takes a special person that can work for the community the way she does, because trying to keep everybody happy is not an easy thing to do, but I think she does a great job at understanding that it takes a lot of partners to make all this stuff work.”

He said that she has a great understanding and great relationship with area delegates and county and city leaders. She has been well-respected by her peers, and this has helped give her a great networking group to bounce ideas off of and to help her find out what is working in other communities so she could learn to make Franklin-Southampton County better.

Warren Beale said, “I have worked with Teresa and observed her for her whole time she’s been (at the chamber), and under her leadership, the chamber’s grown, has adapted to so many changes and been an important force in the progress our community has had during her tenure.

“For example, the chamber played a critical role after Hurricane Floyd devastated the downtown area, and she was very important in organizing and helping with the recovery effort, she and the chamber,” he added.

He said that also after International Paper closed, the chamber — under her leadership — had a large role in helping the area recover.

He noted that the Franklin Business Center is one of the model business centers in the state and the country.

“Many businesses have graduated and become important parts of our community, and she’s been involved with (the center) from the start,” he said. “So her impact has been great, and we’re very lucky to have her as a part of our community.”

Vernie Francis Jr., who has been a member of the chamber since the mid-to-late 1980s, said Teresa Beale has followed in McCullough’s footsteps.

“She’s done an outstanding job for the chamber,” Francis said. “She’s tireless, she’s extremely dedicated, and she’s totally focused on the mission of the chamber and that is to promote our business community and promote our economic development and to make Franklin-Southampton a really great place to live.”

Randolph Cook was with the chamber when McCullough was the director, and he remembered when Teresa Beale came to work there.

“I can’t say enough good things about her,” Cook said. “She’s so energetic, so good with people. She’s done so much for our community in coming up with programs, Brewing Up Business, just doing things to try to help our businesses and keep business local and keep people shopping local. It just goes on and on.”

He said he thinks she has aimed to make the chamber the focal point of activities in the Franklin-Southampton area, “and I think she’s done that.”

“I could say so many good things,” he said. “I think she is just a catalyst for bringing things together in our community and having events. We’ve had the governor here, we’ve had senators here, we’ve had delegates here, and all of that Teresa was a part of, making that happen.”