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Pooler Magazine

If You Think It’s Cooler in Pooler, You Can Thank Pam Southard

If You Think It’s Cooler in Pooler, You Can Thank Pam Southard

It’s hard to imagine Pooler in its early days—a small, sleepy railroad town that served as the last stop before Savannah on the Central of Georgia Railway.

These days, Pooler is home to close to 27,000 residents and more than 2,000 businesses, according to the latest census data. Who really knows whether “it’s cooler in Pooler,” as the saying goes, but it is a thing and the place to be for residents wanting a 31322 zip code and businesses looking to attract an upscale clientele.

Much of Pooler’s business growth over the last decade has been aided by The Greater Pooler Area Chamber of Commerce and Visitor’s Bureau—the organization whose job it is to promote the city as a tourist destination and its business-friendly environment. The chamber markets Pooler’s assets and serves as the connective tissue, binding businesses together through outreach and its popular networking events.

Pooler has now become a destination city and home to those who want the small-town feel, southern charm and the convenience of urban amenities, the chamber’s website touts. “The future seems brighter than ever.”

Pooler’s promising economic future and success over the last decade can be attributed, in part, to Pam Southard, who has been at the helm of the chamber, serving as its executive director, where she has nurtured and watched the chamber’s membership grow from dozens to hundreds, and businesses in Pooler grow to the thousands under her chamber watch.

This past January, Southard announced she was retiring after leading the chamber through its growth and most recently through a pandemic that has held a strangle hold on area businesses and tourism for the past couple years.

From Maryland to Georgia

Southard took the chamber post after leaving a corporate job in a Baltimore suburb. She said when she moved to the area, she wasn’t ready to give up working, and took a part-time job with what was then the Pooler Chamber of Commerce. Before she knew it, she was working full time and later took on the role as its executive director.

“I love the job, I love the people, I love Pooler,” Southard said a few months ago in a podcast, “It’s ALL Marketing,” where she discussed the chamber, its future and her role. She said she has enjoyed working with businesses that come to Pooler, “knowing we can support them.” The other joy, she said, is the staff with whom she works, emphasizing the word with. “I use the word with because nobody stands alone. They all have their specialties, and we just support each other and we make the chamber great.”

Imagining Pooler’s Future

In reflecting on Pooler’s future, Southard said she has enjoyed seeing the explosion in residential and business growth. “For people who are considering moving into the area, the one thing that impresses me is that our communities are still tucked back so that you don’t hear the hustle and bustle of the traffic on Pooler Parkway.”

The business growth and lure to Pooler, she said, is because everything is here. “You don’t have to leave Pooler at all unless you want the historic feel and historic district of Savannah. Pooler is now booming with restaurants, hotels, retail stores, entertainment venues and small businesses. We are a place to eat, shop, play, and stay,” she said.

Reflections on her Time with the Chamber

During Southard’s time with the chamber, she oversaw a number of initiatives including shuttles to and from Savannah for the city’s annual St. Patrick’s celebration, an annual Hearts for Heroes gala, a black-tie fundraising event and a successful food truck festival.

“Pam’s contributions, work ethic, and focus have had a significant impact on the Chamber’s growth,” said Ben Anderson, president of the chamber’s board of directors. "She has been a valuable part of the Pooler community and the Board thanks her for her meaningful leadership over the years."

“I was so honored to be asked to serve as the executive director. I had a vision for the growth of the chamber’s membership, working with a tremendous board of directors, and starting an ambassador council. That all fell into place,” Southard said.

“This has been an amazing journey and one that I am so proud to have been a part of,” Southard said. “When I started with the chamber, there were 90 members, now there are over 400 members. We’ve come a long way.” 

As Southard prepares to walk out the chamber’s doors, she said she hopes members thought she did the best job she could. “If at least one person can say that I made the chamber and Pooler better places, I will have done my job,” Southard said, as she wiped away tears, realizing her time at the chamber is coming to an end.

A search for Southard’s replacement is underway.

When Pam Southard announced in January she was stepping down from her role as executive director of The Greater Pooler Area Chamber of Commerce and Visitor’s Bureau, her decision was met with sadness from members who would miss her within the organization with which she is inextricably linked. At the same time, members were also supportive of her decision and excited to see where her next journey would take here. Below is a snapshot of some of their comments:

•  •  •  •

When I think about Pam Southard, I think about the legacy she is leaving behind for transforming the chamber into the successful organization it is today. Whomever our next executive director is will have huge shoes to fill! Pam is certainly a huge reason why it’s cooler in Pooler and I am so grateful to call her my friend.

–​​Trisha Cook,
The Trisha Cook Team - Keller Williams Realty

•  •  •  •

When I met Pam Southard six years ago, it was easy to instantly be impressed with her professionalism and true love for Pooler and its businesses. Her welcoming spirit extends to all who meet her. 

Pam has served the Pooler community for 12 years with the Chamber, with 10 of those years as the Executive Director. During her tenure, the Chamber membership has grown exponentially under her leadership. She is a true friend to all and I personally revere our friendship. Pam’s presence will be missed by both the Chamber and the City of Pooler. Upon her retirement, we honor her years of excellent service to our city and celebrate the legacy of her hard work and commitment she leaves behind. Congratulations on your retirement and best wishes as you embark on your new journey.

–Karen Williams

•  •  •  •

Since the day but I joined the Pooler Chamber of Commerce, Miss Pam has been generously welcoming to our organization. She has assisted us in navigating through all of the business connections that have a heart and passion for foster care, as well as always being a voice of championship for our cause.

Whenever I see Miss Pam in the community, she meets me with a  warm embrace—she is welcoming to all and reminds you about how important you are to her and the community.

As a business woman, Miss Pam has executed a caliber of professionalism that has helped grow our city into the beautiful area. She has an eye for business, and a heart for the business owners.

As a person, Miss Pam has been much more than just a business connection for me—she has been someone I’ve been able to lean on for guidance, a listening ear, and she has always been a corner stone of comfort.

Congratulations to Miss Pam on her retirement! While most people go on relaxing vacations and trips, I have no doubt that she will still be around to be a voice of encouragement for everyone in our city.

–Whitney Gilliard

•  •  •  •

My first thoughts when thinking about Pam is the class in which she operates. I cannot think of a more professional person to represent the Pooler Chamber of Commerce. She will be greatly missed!

–David Pence,
AllState Insurance

•  •  •  •

Pam Southard will be dearly missed by everyone at our company. She’s been a dear friend of ours as well as to all of the businesses in the city of Pooler. If a book is ever written about the amazing growth that this city has experienced, there will need to be a chapter in the beginning about Pam and her limitless heart and passion for Pooler’s success.

–Bob Klausmeier,
Renfroe Outdoor

•  •  •  •

I have had the pleasure of knowing this wonderful woman for 9 years. You are inspiring to all with your grace.  Thank you for being such a supportive and caring role model.  I am proud to call you my friend.  Congratulations on your well-earned retirement.  With the utmost respect and love,

–Lori Foley, M.D.

•  •  •  •

As a past board member having many different rolls in the Pooler Chamber, I have had the privilege of working with Pam for at least 6 years. Words can not express how much respect and love that is felt for Pam. She has been very supportive of all businesses in the greater Pooler community. Her knowledge and compassion has only enhanced the Greater Pooler Area Chamber of Commerce. Pam will be missed dearly by all.

–Daniel Cloutier,
Molly MacPhearson

•  •  •  •

Pam has done a tremendous job in growing the Pooler Chamber and bringing so many great events to our city. She made my job as mayor so much easier and better. I miss those awesome ribbon cuttings and events. I hope she and Gary enjoy retirement.

–Former Mayor Mike Lamb

When I took over as publisher of Pooler Magazine in 2019, Pam was one of the first people I wanted to get to know. Since then she has been a wonderful inspiration, a tremendous resource, and a friend. I am proud to be part of the Pooler community in large part because of what Pam has built among the business community during her 12 years with the Chamber.

She will be greatly missed in the community by all who know her. I will especially miss our last minute calls, our brainstorming sessions and those little chats that always left me inspired and excited for what’s next. My prayer is that the “what’s next’ for Pam and her family is years of health, happiness and much needed relaxation.

–Jan Southern,
Pooler Magazine