LIVE OAK — The combination of experience and familiarity with the area separated Hillary Cannon from the pack for the Suwannee County Chamber of Commerce.
Cannon, a former Chamber board member, has been named the organization’s new executive director. She replaces Jimmy Norris, who left last year to become Suwannee County’s economic development director.
Cannon also becomes the first female executive director of the Chamber in its 71-year history.
“We’re very pleased to have Hillary Cannon in that position,” Chamber President Barry Long said. “It’s a good fit.”
A former school teacher as well as director of the Suwannee County Education Foundation, Cannon also owns and operates Celebrations, a florist and event planning company.
Those local connections helped distance Cannon from a pool of applicants that extended all the way to Ontario, Canada. While impressed with the broad nature of the search, Long said nobody could match what Cannon could to the Chamber.
“We just didn’t feel those people had the qualifications or the love for Live Oak and Suwannee County that Hillary possessed in that search,” he said. “It all came back to somebody local that could be a voice for the local business community. And she can do that well.”
And she plans to do that while continuing the vision that the Chamber board along with Norris has recently put into place. In addition to the annual Gala, Business of the Year celebration and Christmas on the Square, the Chamber has in recent years started the Father-Daughter Dance and holds mix and mingle events throughout the year in order to provide networking opportunities for its members.
“The Chamber now has a fairly clear mission of what we mean to our community and what we want to do for our community,” Cannon said. “I was very excited when I got on the board this time to see all of the different things that are new and exciting that are happening.
“Really it was just hoping to see the vision that I think Jimmy put into place several years ago continue and really expand on those things and make all of our events and member services that much better.”
One area in which Cannon and the Chamber’s new administrative assistant Secily Johnson are hoping to expand their reach is through social media. While the Chamber has been active on Facebook, sharing events and videos advertising their upcoming events, it has recently joined Instagram and they have utilized Snapchat at events as well.
Cannon said the Chamber just hopes to reach more people with the different social media avenues.
And during the transition from board member to executive director, Cannon said she has become more aware of exactly the kind of reach the Chamber has.
“I don’t think I realized what a front door basically for Suwannee County this office is,” she said.
“When you sit on the board, your executive director kind of relays back to you but you don’t fully understand how many people come through that door asking about our area, asking what we offer. That’s been really eye-opening for me.”