Story By: Karlee Anderson
Photos By: Shelia Scott
Pam Southard works diligently at her desk each day with the mission of promoting and growing the businesses and community of Pooler. As Executive Director of the Pooler Chamber of Commerce and Visitors Bureau, Inc., Pam feels excited each morning that her average day is spent improving a city that she has grown to love so dearly. “The chamber is my passion,” she says, and there is evidence to show that her passionate work is creating a better Pooler.
Since Pam came to work for the Chamber of Commerce, the memberships have skyrocketed from around 90 to over 350 in less than five years. Pam says, “I was determined to increase the membership and have the Chamber shine. My efforts truly paid off.”
For Pam, the journey in business began in her early years. She worked as director of development of the National Heart Association, owned her own assisted living home and worked for Black and Decker. All of these jobs happened prior to her move down south. Pam and her husband were living in Maryland when they decided to “retire” to a warmer climate. “We got sort of tired of shoveling snow and ice,” she shares.
Of all the cities in Georgia, Pam and her husband chose and fell in love with the city of Pooler. After spending time connecting in their newfound city, Pam was asked by the Chamber to begin working for them part-time. “I started as an office assistant, managed the office under the guidance of the previous executive director, moved into full time real fast as the Chamber grew,” she says. “I was offered this position as Executive Director for the Chamber, took it, and never looked back.” Coming from the “corporate world,” she graced Pooler with her successful business style.
Pam’s success is found in her everyday activities. Her responsibilities include choosing the best advertising opportunities to promote Pooler, overseeing her staff and planning community events. “It doesn’t sound like it fills a day. It doesn’t fill a day; it fills a week,” she shares. The overall theme of her job is to “sell Pooler,” which she finds easy to do because of her own belief in the value of the city. “I think one of the challenging aspects that I’m faced with is coming up with new events,” she says. “The existing Pooler events are great, but as the city grows, the events need to increase.” She continues, “We need the opportunity for more businesses to be able to network their business and more events that focus on the people that live in Pooler because they are Pooler,” she explains. As she creates the events, the work is divided among the staff. Pam says, “The challenge is to make sure the staff isn’t overwhelmed one or the other, that we share the responsibility all around.” She feels that managing her staff is easy because they are built like a team.
“You can’t shine by yourself. You always need somebody around you to flip that little light. It’s team,” Pam shares. She is confident in her small team of Pooler-lovers to help her shine, and she helps them shine as well! “If you give back to your staff, it’s going to come back to you tenfold,” she explains. “You have to embrace the fact that they’re part of the reason you’re successful.” Pam puts in many hours of hard work, sets the same expectation for her staff, and reaps successful growth. “For this little bedroom community of Pooler to grow like it has, it’s a reflection…of the work of the Chamber, not just me, but the entire staff,” she explains.
Pam is proud of the work that she and her team at the Chamber of Commerce have accomplished in promoting Pooler as a destination city, but she says that the Chamber cannot take all of the credit: “The best part of the job for me was seeing the relationship grow between the chamber and Pooler City Hall, City Council, Mayor Lamb, and City Manager Robbie Byrd. That is so important.” Pam believes that without all these components working together, Pooler would not be able to grow as beautifully and successfully as it has. She expresses great appreciation for the support that she receives from the city and is thankful that the Chamber is able to return that support.
Team, hard work, support and passion are themes that run throughout Pam’s success in her business. She has learned, practiced, and developed these values to drive her toward success. “There’s always room for improvement in any business, in any job, regardless of your position, and if you’re willing to realize that and struggle through those challenges, you’re going to shine,” she says. “Do the best you can and give one hundred percent, and it’ll be successful. I felt the same way all through my career path, but I can honestly tell you that this business, this job right here, has just consumed me 100% in a good way.”
As she continually seeks to improve herself and her work, her tireless efforts bloom into a more beautiful and diverse Pooler. “I’ve just always been taught that you work hard, and it may take a while, but the value of that and the end result of that is going to come back,” she says. She credits her mother and father and leaders from her past work experience as those that have inspired her and taught her how to do well, regardless of what kind of work she does.
Currently, Pam works toward projects that will increase the visibility of Pooler to the tourist world. Upcoming Pooler kiosks, with a replica of the historical caboose, will be located at visitor centers as people enter the state from the north or south. “It gives tourists and travelers a chance to see that Pooler is not to be forgotten,” she shares.
In addition, Pam has a dream of seeing her city gain a conference center. “That was never even a thought and a whisper ten years ago, but now when you see Pooler growing, there needs to be a bigger center,” she says. The tourists “stay in Pooler and take advantage of places like Fun Zone, Surf Lagoon, our IMAX theaters, the bowling centers, Sk8 City” and the great variety of food and shopping options, all while being close enough to some other great tourist destinations and at a much better price. Pam wants to make sure that folks know it is “Cooler in Pooler.”
Pam believes strongly in Pooler, and that excitement is visible in her speech and the work she does. She is a woman that takes her business seriously and makes her success by a passion that is worth modeling. “At my age, I never would’ve thought that I’d be in this position. I keep thinking about retirement, but it’s way out there because I want to see the Chamber continue,” she shares. “I want to be part of that celebration of where the Chamber and Pooler were, to where we could be in ten or fifteen years.”
With Pam Southard on the Pooler team, the celebration is going to be well-deserved!