To help move Chester County forward, the Chamber of Commerce has named a new president well versed in the county’s past – and passionate about its future.
Brooke Clinton, 40,was officially named Thursday to lead the Chester County Chamber, taking over from Jim Fuller, who is retiring after nine years at the helm of the county’s business organization.
Clinton has been the public information officer for Chester County schools. She is a graduate of Chester High School, holds a bachelor’s degree in Spanish from Erskine College and a master’s degree in mass communications from the University of South Carolina.
But she says she remains a farm girl from Lowrys, where her family has been farming since Colonial times.
She says she has come to understand that Lowrys – and each of the other communities in Chester County – have things that make them distinct and special, “but they all come together to make Chester County.”
Clinton said that understanding will be important in her new role as she wants people to understand that chamber represents all of Chester County.
Her appointment comes as Chester County continues its economic recovery. Clinton remembers the times when Chester had its own mall, its own movie theater and was mill town with almost every worker dependent on textile production.
The mills left, people lost their jobs and then the retail stores and movie theater left too. Unemployment in Chester County is at 7.5 percent, almost 2 percentage points higher than the state average.
But the successful recruitment of companies such as Giti Tire and Sun Fibers shows the county is on the rebound with the promise of even more jobs coming.
As public information officer for the schools, Clinton has seen companies such as Giti become part of the community. Giti is the sponsor of the annual math and science competition for students in the Chester school system.
“I believe in education, and I love Chester,” Clinton said.
Education will be part of Clinton’s three-part agenda of connect, educate and advocate.
She wants the chamber to help Chester businesses better connect among themselves as well as to the community, and most importantly to the schools. The chamber also will continue its partnership with the school district, she said, a relationship that has resulted in scholarships for teachers and an elaborate Teacher Appreciation Day celebration.
Clinton hopes the chamber can meet the education needs of its members by offering web-based classes.
“One my first priorities will be to poll the membership and ask members, ‘What can the chamber do for you.’” she said.
She also wants to increase the chamber’s advocacy outreach, helping members understand how legislative action in Columbia can affect them.
J.T. Smith, chairman of the Chester Chamber of Commerce, said Clinton was the board’s choice because she has vision, connections and passion. Clinton had previously served on the chamber’s board of directors.
Clinton is the married to Matt Clinton, Rock Hill’s city forester. They have three children, Thomas, 9, Tucker, 6, and Annie Rose 1.