Emily Harp hit the ground running … and that’s how she likes it.
The new Atmore Area Chamber of Commerce executive director’s first official day is Monday, January 29, but she was at her desk at the Chamber office on South Main last Thursday and Friday, January 18 and 19. She said she doesn’t believe in “dilly dallying” and it’s evident as she talks about her new job.
Harp, who was hired by the Chamber Board of Directors in late December, is already focused on goals – growth and leadership.
“I’m excited to work with this board,” she said. “They have a fire and a passion.
They have the dream and the fire within them to facilitate change. They need someone with energy and focus to make it happen.”
Harp said when she first met with the board, she came away with an excitement that has not dimmed. If anything, it has grown stronger.
“When I left the first meeting, I hadn’t felt like that in a long time,” she said. “ … Someone asked me how I knew this was right for me. I knew from my gut feeling. That gut feeling has never steered me wrong, and this feeling was overwhelming … Meeting with those board members, I could see the love, passion and vision they have for Atmore, and I wanted in on that.”
One of Harp’s main goals is growth, bringing in industry and retail.
“Right now, people leave Atmore to shop and do things,” she said. “We have everything a city needs to grow and to not have empty storefronts.”
Harp feels part of the equation is bringing people together to work together.
“Diversity is great but it’s time to be a unified community,” she said. “It’s time to connect, to know your neighbors … I think people want that connection. The more you love your community, it’s like a flower that blossoms when it’s selflessly done out of love.
“It’s about creating a legacy and a future … Just think what this town is going to be in a year if we all work together. We’re going to change the face of the community for a lifetime. It’s going to be amazing … The only way to formulate change is to focus on the future. This is the moment. The board has entrusted me with the future. That’s not something I take lightly … Professionally, this will be my greatest source of pride. I can say Atmore will be my legacy, the thing I am most proud of.”
Harp said everyone she has met has been warm and welcoming, making her feel at home, but she’s also anxious to meet folks she hasn’t yet come in contact with – and she wants to pick their brain.
“I want to meet everybody,” she said. “Got an idea? Let me hear it. There are no bad ideas, no wrong ideas. It’s all part of the dream. Teamwork makes the dream work.”
Harp lives in Jay with her daughter, 14, and her son, 11. She has promised them they can graduate from Jay. In two years, her daughter will be driving, and she can drive them to school in Jay from Atmore. In the meantime, Harp said she is moving her life here a little bit at the time.
“I want to be as much a member of the community as I can be without laying my head on a pillow at night,” she said. “I am going to be moving my life here. I want to know I made it better.”