Dees named chamber chair, Downey Ambassador of the Year at annual meeting

Published 10:21 pm Tuesday, January 30, 2024

Monday’s annual meeting of the Vicksburg-Warren County Chamber of Commerce saw new leadership welcomed into the fray, while outgoing chair positions were honored for their service.

“I’ve had a great opportunity to not only serve an amazing board, but I’m very thankful to my coworkers for putting up with me while I was running out to the chamber and answering Pablo’s calls,” outgoing Chairwoman Lori Burke said, laughing alongside
Executive Director Pablo Diaz and acknowledging the many hours of work the position requires.

“I want to thank all of the chamber board of directors who have served with me this year. We have a few that are rolling off of the board, but that doesn’t mean you are rolling off of the chamber or of the community.”

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Honored for their service as outgoing board members were Ginger Donohue, of Regions Bank; Michael Keen, of RiverHills Bank; and Keith Flowers, of the Engineer Research and Development Center (ERDC).

Burke also introduced new Chamber of Commerce Chairman A.J. “Buddy” Dees, before officially passing over the gavel to the new year’s leadership.

Along with Dees, incoming Chamber Board of Directors members were announced, including: Carl Hearn, of Bateville Casket
Company; Terence James, of the Vicksburg-Warren School District; Tom Isaac, of Foam Packaging, Inc.; Christopher Chatham, of Ameristar Casino; and Allen Hudspeth, of Trustmark National Bank.

Brittani Downey, of RiverHills Bank, was named this year’s Ambassador of the Year.

Dees said he is excited about what is coming in the next year for the chamber of commerce, the City of Vicksburg, and Warren County, including work toward the new south port location along Highway 61 South.

“If you are not excited about that, you don’t have a pulse,” Dees said of the port project. “This is the biggest thing in Vicksburg, literally, since they had the Haining (Road) harbor project, which is all filled up north of town here.”

Dees credited the cooperation of local entities for making the project a reality.

“Pablo Diaz, thank you for being such a ramrod,” Dees said. “I want to give Pablo credit. And the tremendous cooperation between our city officials, the mayor, and our county officials, now headed by Kelle Barfield. That relationship, working together and working with the EDF and pulling this together is something that is very unusual. If that port were easy, it would have been done before.”

Dees also said he looks forward to using past experiences to move today’s iteration of the chamber forward.

“A lot of you are aware my involvement with the chamber extends for a considerable number of years, and during this time I’ve
witnessed remarkable progress that we’ve achieved,” he said. “Particularly, in recent years, where we have combined the three entities – the chamber of commerce, the economic development foundation, and the port commission. They haven’t always worked together as seamlessly as they do now, and that’s enhanced our efforts in expanding our economic development here.

“We’ve witnessed historic lows in unemployment,” Dees continued. “And, remarkably, we are on the cusp of realizing a new south river port that is literally going to transform this community for the better. No doubt about it. It’s an exhilarating time to be a part of our chamber of commerce.”