Chattanooga Chamber CEO Christy Gillenwater headed to Oklahoma City

Staff Photo by Robin Rudd / Christy Gillenwater, Chattanooga Area Chamber of Commerce President and CEO, will assume a similar job as head of the Oklahma City Chamber of Commerce in January

Christy Gillenwater, the CEO of the Chattanooga Area Chamber of Commerce for the past five years and the current chairwoman of the American Chamber of Commerce Executives, will soon leave the Chattanooga Chamber to assume a similar job as head of the Greater Oklahoma City Chamber of Commerce.

Oklahoma City Chamber officials announced Thursday that Gillenwater has been picked as their next CEO, effective in January, to succeed the retiring Roy Williams.

"When we launched this search, we were looking for a proven executive with a strong economic development background," Sean Trauschke, chairman, president and CEO of OGE Energy and the chair of the Oklahoma City Chamber, said in an announcement of the hire. "Christy met every requirement."

Gillenwater previously led chambers of commerce in four Indiana cities and currently heads the board that oversees the national organization of more than 1,300 chambers of commerce across the country.

The executive committee of the Chattanooga Chamber announced Thursday it will meet to begin selecting a successor to Gillenwater, who will continue in her current job in Chattanooga through December.

"Christy's leadership has been bold and imaginative as an agent for positive change throughout our region," Janelle Reilly, CEO of CHI Memorial Health Systems and chairwoman of the Chattanooga chamber board, said in an announcement to chamber members Thursday. "Christy's passion for uplifting communities through economic prosperity has been appreciated by our board of directors, volunteers, member businesses and chamber staff."

During her five-year term as head of the chamber, Gillenwater helped develop Velocity2040, a 20-year community vision for economic prosperity, created alongside 10 community partner organizations and a futurist expert. Velocity2040 serves as the vision for the Chattanooga Climbs strategy, crafted to ensure economic prosperity for the region and its residents. The Chattanooga chamber raised more than $15 million to activate the five-year economic development, talent and inclusion strategy.

"Part of my passion for the important work of chambers of commerce includes benchmarking leading communities, and Oklahoma City is definitely a city of innovators whose initiatives are both bold and smart," Gillenwater said in a statement Thursday. "My experience in Chattanooga reinforced how powerful collaborations between businesses, organizations and elected officials can create greater economic and talent development opportunities."

The Oklahoma City chamber is bigger and has a broader mission than the 1,900-member Chattanooga chamber. In her new job, Gillenwater will oversee a chamber in Oklahoma that is responsible for business and economic development like the Chattanooga chamber but also tourism promotion for Oklahoma City. In Chattanooga, tourism and visitor promotions are handled by the Chattanooga Tourism Co.

Prior to joining the Chattanooga Chamber in December 2017, Gillenwater was president of the Southwest Indiana (Evansville), Bloomington, and Greenfield Area Chamber of Commerce. She worked in government relations for the Muncie-Delaware County in Indiana Chamber of Commerce and later in economic development for the Muncie-Delaware County Economic Development Alliance.

She is a graduate of Indiana University and holds an master's degree in business administration from Ball State University. She is a certified chamber executive and a graduate of the Institute for Organizational Management and the Harvard Business School's Young American Leaders Program. Gillenwater is also a member of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Committee of 100.

– Compiled by Dave Flessner