By Thomas Saccente Times Recordtsaccente@swtimes.com

For Tanya Taylor, her job is to serve the Greenwood community to the best of her ability.

Starting Oct. 3, Taylor, 44, became the new director of operations for the Greenwood Chamber of Commerce, as well as a full-time member of the city’s economic development commission. She is taking over from Mark Huneycutt, who held the Chamber position in the interim after the previous director of operations, Katie McCraney, left for another job earlier this year, Greenwood Chamber of Commerce President Teri Hicks said.

A Greenwood resident, Taylor said she feels blessed to have been hired for the role.

“I feel that Greenwood has taken me in, taken my family in, and I have no family around here,” Taylor said. “My family is in California, (and) I’ve got some in Florida. … We chose to stay here because we’ve been loved and blessed very much, and I want to give back to this community. I love this community, and I am grateful to be here, and that’s all I can do. I’ve got some experience, and I just want to be a part of this city. I was so honored to serve my country, and I’m extremely honored to continue serving here in Greenwood. Greenwood is my family. … It’s a blessing to be here, and I’m here to stay.”

A History of Service

Prior to her involvement in the Greenwood Chamber of Commerce, Taylor had a long career in a variety of fields. Born outside of Chicago and raised in San Diego, she graduated with an associate of arts degree from Palomar College in San Marcos, Calif. in May 1993. She also joined the Army Reserve in 1989 while still in high school and served during Operation Desert Storm as an operating room technician for an evacuation hospital, which delayed her college graduation.

“It was while I was in college,” Taylor said. “… My first semester of college. It was about three weeks before finals, which was horrible. I had to tell all my professors that I had to leave. … San Diego is a very pro-military city. We’ve got the Navy and you’ve got Camp Pendleton, so Navy and Marines, huge. And then we have our reserve unit for the Army, so everybody was extremely supportive. They let me bring my finals with me because they wanted the … free postage because it showed, ‘From Saudi Arabia,’ so they said, ‘Just take it with you and send it back.’ My finals. I will never forget that. That was very generous of them.”

Afterward, Taylor married an active-duty member of the Navy while still in college and together they lived in various locations around the world, including Naples, Italy. Her enlistment ended in 1997.

Although Taylor said she and her husband divorced after about 19 years of marriage, the experience brought her and her family, including her three children, to Greenwood in Sept. 2006.

“… Once we got stationed out here, we moved out here on recruiting orders,” Taylor said. “He was zone supervisor up in Fort Smith and I was homeschooling when we first moved out here. When things went awry, I put my children in the Greenwood School District, which was a fantastic blessing, and ended up getting hired.”

Taylor said she worked as a paraprofessional at the Greenwood School District from 2009 to 2015, working in special education in an integrated classroom at East Hills Middle School. During this time, she also worked her way through John Brown University, from which she graduated with a degree in organizational management in May 2015. In addition, she worked for AAA Insurance in Fort Smith from Feb. 2015 to July 2016 and as an ambassador for the Fort Smith Regional Chamber of Commerce for more than a year around the same time.

As last summer drew to a close, Taylor said she felt the need to get back to Greenwood. With this in mind, she returned to the Greenwood School District in August to be a paraprofessional at Greenwood High School. She also applied for the Greenwood Chamber of Commerce director of operations position, which also included the economic development commission member role.

The Application Process, Responsibilities and Goals

Taylor was not the only person to apply for the director of operations position. Greenwood Chamber of Commerce board member Troy Gaston, who was also the chairman of the hiring committee for the role, said about 11 people applied for it. The qualities the hiring committee looked for in the candidates included reliability, organizational skills and marketing ability.

“One (of the reasons Taylor was hired) was enthusiasm,” Gaston said. “She demonstrated a high degree of enthusiasm not just for the job, but for our community. Another (reason) is both myself and other board members have had a long-term association with her, and were aware of her high degree of reliability.”

Gaston said he worked on community events in the past in which Taylor always proved herself to be a high quality volunteer. The duties of the Chamber director of operations include being the primary point of contact between the Chamber and the public, handling the day-to-day management of the Chamber office and meeting with both Greenwood businesses and prospective businesses to move to Greenwood.

Hicks said there was a change in direction in the Chamber before Taylor was hired, with Taylor likely to further the transition.

“We’ve got a good economic development group in Greenwood and the Chamber’s partnered with the city of Greenwood for several years,” Hicks said. “We always were pro-members, pro-economic in Greenwood as far as the businesses in Greenwood to help the businesses grow, but we’re taking on more of an economic development role, and that’s kind of where we’ve shifted. We’ve worked on that for probably about two years, trying to get us in that direction. … We think Tanya’s probably going to be the person to do it.”

Taylor said, in addition to updating the Greenwood Chamber of Commerce webpage, she hopes to collaborate with other chambers of commerce for the benefit of all involved.

“I have already been in contact with the Fort Smith Chamber, the Booneville Chamber,” Taylor said. “I’ve contacted Waldron, and I’m going around getting in contact with everybody so that we can work together on different projects. … It’s working in conjunction with our other areas that we can develop stuff and develop good relationships and help each other out to bring in business for each other, which I think is extremely important.”