The Laurinburg-Scotland County Area Chamber of Commerce will bid farewell to its president after a nearly four-year tenure that included a national Chamber of the Year award.
Theresa Pinto, who became chamber president in July 2008, has announced her resignation effective May 8. She expects to start work as president of the Rocky Mount Chamber of Commerce around May 14.
Pinto said she feels that the chamber is ideally situated for a change in leadership.
“I think it’s good timing,” she said. “When you look and you say ‘Okay we’re coming off of winning Chamber of the Year, we have all our ducks in the row, we have a good idea of what we need to be doing in the next three to five years,’ that’s a good time to turn it over to someone who has new ideas, enthusiasm, and commitment to chamber work who can carry the ball and lead you down the field another 100 yards.”
Although she enjoys working in Scotland County, Pinto hopes that someone with new ideas may be able to carry the chamber forward.
“It’s a really great community, and it was not an easy decision for me at all,” said Pinto. “Right now, every day I look forward to coming into work. I didn’t want to wait until the job becomes routine and I close my mind to new opportunities – I didn’t want to get to that point.”
Brenda Gilbert, the chamber’s workforce development coordinator, will take over as interim president until a replacement can be found.
“It’s such a pleasure to work with her, and I’ve learned so much from her,” Gilbert said of Pinto. “I’ve never met anyone who knows so much about chamber work and community development.”
Gilbert credits Pinto for much of the chamber’s progress in recent years, including winning Chamber of the Year for 2011.
“She sort of put us on the map I think, of course being national Chamber of the Year, but every time I went somewhere with her, I felt like I was sort of with a rock star because she’s so well-connected in the Chamber world,” said Gilbert. “People knew her in New Orleans and people knew her in Washington, D.C.”
Pinto leaves the chamber with the satisfaction of having completed the tasks the she came to do.
“When I was hired, they really wanted someone who has leadership and vision,” she said. “They wanted someone who could basically redefine the chamber and its role in the community. They wanted someone who could come in and shore up the financial foundations so there wasn’t such a living paycheck to paycheck situation.”
Harley Norris, vice president of the chamber’s board of directors, said that Pinto has succeeded in reinventing the chamber, bringing it forward into a new mode of operation.
“She has done a lot for the chamber,” said Norris. “She has positioned our chamber so that we can be like the rest of the chambers in the 21st century, and she has helped us to remodel the chamber by addressing many 21st century issues. She definitely is a believer in small business, she’s eco-friendly, and she’s globally-minded.”
Gilbert had a similar assessment of Pinto’s work.
“She came in when the chamber was sort of reinventing itself and she set us on the right road in so many ways,” Gilbert said.
“I think our biggest accomplishments were establishing a cash reserve, establishing a very active finance committee, and refocusing and restructuring the organization,” Pinto added. “I’m very proud of our work in community development, working on things like literacy and prisoner reentry and quality of life issues.”
The chamber’s board of directors will assemble a committee to search for and review applicants. The board hopes to have a new president in place by late summer.