By Joel Hall
Two and half weeks ago, Lacey Ekberg, who had assumed the role of president and CEO of the Clayton County Chamber of Commerce in January, tendered her resignation to take a position in her home state of Texas.
This week, Yulonda Beauford, formerly vice president of the chamber, has stepped up to assume top leadership.
Members of the chamber board voted to make Beauford the new president and CEO in a meeting on Monday. Geoff Fulton, board chairman, said when Ekberg announced her decision to take her "dream job" as president of the Port Lavaca Calhoun County Chamber of Commerce, Beauford was the obvious choice as her successor.
"The first thought on every chamber member's mind was, I hope Yulonda will take this job," said Fulton. "It was probably our shortest executive session ever, because everyone was in agreement.
"It was not as difficult as these things typically are, because Yulonda was ready to step up," Fulton continued. "She has worked with us for three years, and she knows the ins and outs of the community."
Beauford believes her appointment will "provide immediate stability for the chamber."
"I know the officials of Clayton County, so I feel like it was a natural progression for me to step into this role," she said. "I know the chamber industry very well, and I can bring that immediate knowledge to this chamber of commerce."
Prior to coming to the Clayton County Chamber of Commerce, Beauford had more than 11 years of experience working in various positions for the Greater Miami Chamber of Commerce in Florida, and the Hampton Roads Chamber of Commerce in Virginia.
While in Miami, she spearheaded Florida's first Empowerment Zone, a Clinton-era program focused on revitalizing economically depressed areas of the country. In Virginia, Beauford oversaw the Hampton Roads Chamber's $1.4 million membership budget and helped the organization achieve it's highest-ever membership numbers.
She served as interim president and CEO of the Clayton Chamber from October 2007 until January 2008, when the chamber was seeking a replacement for Ekberg's predecessor, Shane Short.
Beauford said when Short resigned, "I was offered the opportunity for the position," of president and CEO. She declined at the time because her husband, Terry, former head football coach at Morehouse College, was considering moving to Hampton, Va., to take a job as a coach at Hampton University. Beauford's husband has since taken the position, but the family has decided to stay in the metro-Atlanta area.
"At that point in time, I didn't want to make the decision to step into the role without knowing what was going to happen," said Beauford. "I was actually honored that they would approach me for a second time."
Beauford said small businesses make up the largest portion of the chamber's membership, but said many local businesses "are struggling day to day with the local economy." One of her immediate goals is to build membership by offering more programs to help small businesses thrive.
"We're going to talk to our business community and see what they want, because we want to deliver the services they need," said Beauford.
Beauford said she would also place an increased emphasis on leadership development programs, such as Leadership Clayton, and Clayton Youth Leadership, an offshoot of Leadership Clayton, which takes 20 high school sophomores through an eight-month growth- and-leadership program.
"Our community is going to hear more about partnerships that we plan to do with the school system," she added.