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Beverly Robertson stepping down as Chamber CEO

Published: Jun. 23, 2022 at 10:58 PM CDT
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MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - The first Black president and CEO of the Greater Memphis Chamber of Commerce announced Thursday she is stepping down.

Beverly Robertson said she’s leaving the Chamber at the end of the year. Action News 5 talked with Robertson about her accomplishments, plans for the future and her successor.

Robertson, the former longtime president of the National Civil Rights Museum, became the leader of the Greater Memphis Chamber of Commerce in 2018 after the former president and CEO Phil Trenary was shot and killed in downtown Memphis.

She leaned in to lift up the Chamber and the city of Memphis when it was needed most: during a time of protests, political division and the pandemic.

Reflecting on the past 4 years, Robertson said there is one accomplishment that really stands out for her.

“You know, I’ve hardly had a moment to breathe,” she told Action News 5, “And I’m really the most proud of the inclusivity that I have tried to certainly drive, by taking the chamber to the streets and helping people in communities understand the work of the chamber and how it benefits them.”

Robertson helped stabilize the Chamber’s finances, made sure “prosperity for all” was woven into all Chamber initiatives and created the Small Business Resiliency Playbook to help businesses get through crises like COVID-19.

She launched Protest to Progress to bring businesses, activists and clergy together to solve community issues.

She also led the region to its best year of economic development in 2021, the year Ford announced it will build an electric truck manufacturing plant in West Tennessee, bringing with it thousands of new, lucrative jobs.

A pipeline is already being created to engage and train the local workforce, starting with kids as young as the 8th grade.

“I saw it as a mission. I wanted to build a solid foundation with strategic focus, begin to lift from the bottom by providing good jobs and higher wage salaries and prepare this work force for the new jobs,” Robertson said proudly, “And once that was done, the mission was accomplished. I’m almost done with the mission.”

Ted Townsend, currently the Chamber’s chief economic development officer, will be Robertson’s successor.

He told our partners at the Memphis Business Journal, “If anyone’s been watching the Chamber over the past few years, they recognize Beverly is the president and CEO for everyone in this community. I am not going to be anything different. I fully understand that for Memphis to succeed, African Americans have to create pathways to wealth.”

Robertson said the Chamber will be in good hands with Townsend.

“I think he is a most capable successor,” she said, “He’s done a phenomenal job since he’s been at the Chamber.”

And as for her legacy? “I hope that people remember me as a trail blazer, a change maker and one who laid the strategic foundation,” she said, “to really drive transformative change by relentlessly pursuing prosperity for all, not for a few. That’s what I’d like for my legacy to be.”

Robertson said she will spend her remaining time raising $10 to $15 million to fund the Chamber’s work. She plans to leave the Chamber in December and return to TRUST Marketing, the business she started with her husband.

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