Job: New CEO of the Chamber of Commerce of Southwest Indiana
Hometown: Cincinnati, Ohio
Her Story: After Christy Gillenwater enrolled at Indiana University, she fell in love with Indiana and never left. She enjoys training for sprint triathlons and hitting the greens with her husband, Brad. She describes their blended family of three kids — Jordan, 19, Blake, 15, and Thomas, 3 — as the lights of her life.
Her Resume: Starting as the Greater Bloomington Chamber of Commerce’s first intern, Gillenwater worked for two more Indiana chambers and SBC (now AT&T) and earned her master’s degree from Ball State University before returning to the award-winning Greater Bloomington Chamber as its president and CEO in 2005. In December 2012, she was announced as Matt Meadors’ successor at the Chamber of Commerce of Southwest Indiana.
Perspective: “I hope that readers are inspired to help everyone promote this community. I also hope that they see us as an impactful organization for their business and for the community.”
What do you think of Evansville now that you’ve lived here for several months?
The amount of things to do has been wonderful — the river, walking paths, zoo, the mall, cMoe, great restaurants, the Ford Center, where we’ve already made several great memories. I wish that as a community we could appreciate more who we are so our children will find it an attractive place to settle down and raise their own families. Yes, there are opportunities for constructive thoughts, but there is a difference between collective negativity and, “We can do this better.”
Who were your role models?
Mom and Dad have been strong influences. I loved working with my Dad, watching him (an entrepreneur) interact with co-workers and seeing the positive impact he had on people. Mom stayed at home but then was a social worker with Catholic Social Services and cared deeply for her clients. Also, my grandmother, who was focused on her faith, was always positive. In all my years around her, she never spoke ill about a single person. We owe it to ourselves to be kinder to each other. That’s something I try to remember. I just try to aspire to be the daughter, the wife, and the mother the people I love would want me to be, and again as a person of faith, someone God would want to me to be. I don’t say I get that right every day by any means, but I try to reflect on my interactions with people and think about ways I could say things differently moving forward.
Do you have any advice for people in leadership roles?
Always be confident in who you are and what you stand for. And also appreciate the fact that you bring a different perspective to the table. Your upbringing has shaped who you are. Also, find people whom you admire, forge a relationship, and ask for their guidance. One of the most beautiful forms of flattery is when someone says, “How can I learn from you?” Even if it is the CEO of a thousand-person organization, don’t be shy. You never know when the person might say, “Yes, I see something in you, too, and I’d like to work with you.”
Have you always felt comfortable with public speaking?
I was absolutely terrified of speeches in high school. I still remember I took a speech class in college that totally changed me, and ever since, I’ve felt much more comfortable. It’s just been a part of me — print, radio, TV. My father said I had “a natural knack for gab.” In school, it was the one thing I got in trouble for — talking. And then for me, it’s showing that confidence. It’s OK to say, “I’ll have to get back with you on that” or “I’ll need to check on that,” because it’s impossible to have all the answers to everything. It comes with practice. It’s important to always evaluate and be yourself.
For more information on the Chamber of Commerce of Southwest Indiana, visit www.ccswin.com