When Miles Huff visited Chattanooga with his parents years ago to tour the Tennessee Aquarium and Rock City, he instantly fell in love with the city.
Huff, whose father was a coal miner in Harlan, Kentucky, saw Chattanooga's scenic mountains, similar to those near his home in the bluegrass state, coupled with a busy, mid-sized city.
"I told my mom when I was 10 years old, I want to live here (in Chattanooga) one day," Huff says. " I knew this was a place I could see myself growing up and thriving."
Huff, 36, works for the Chattanooga Area Chamber of Commerce. His job, senior director of talent initiatives, involves helping to develop and recruit a "future-ready" workforce. Because of his own life path, he is well-suited for the post.
"It's a phenomenal city," Huff says of Chattanooga. "It's big enough that you can have these incredible experiences — culture, food, tourism. It's all that. But it's also small enough that I can go to the grocery store and see somebody I know."
Huff is a graduate of Leadership Chattanooga, and in the 2021 class of Leadership Tennessee, a professional-development initiative of Lipscomb University in Nashville for mid-career professionals.
He is also active in charity work, including serving on the regional advisory council for Susan G. Komen and as a host for Dining Out for Life benefiting the Cempa Community Foundation (formerly Chattanooga Cares).
Growing up in coal country, Huff says he spent most of his childhood in the outdoors following his dad around hunting and fishing. While he enjoyed the outdoors, Huff said he was too tender-hearted to take up hunting.
"'Bambi' ruined venison for me," he says.
Huff credits his parents for creating abundant travel opportunities for him when he was a child, and also for pushing him to attend college, an opportunity they didn't have.
"My parents pushed education really hard," he says. "They were wanting me to do something where I wasn't having to engage in the physical labor that my dad was (doing) as a coal miner."
* Job: Senior Director of Talent Initiatives, Chattanooga Area Chamber of Commerce
* Age: 36
* Hometown: Harlan, Kentucky
* Residence: Highland Park
* Family: Husband, Drew Thompson
In part to get closer to his dream city — Chattanooga — Huff enrolled at Lee University in Cleveland, Tennessee, where he earned an undergraduate degree in psychology and a graduate degree in counseling.
He worked for almost 10 years as a counselor, but eventually felt like his career had peaked and he needed a change. Next came a stint at Unum, first working on disability claims and later in a corporate philanthropy role. All of his jobs, including the Chamber post, have been about helping people through personal connections, he says.
"If I'm committed to one thing, it's making connections with people," he says. "The most powerful thing we do at the Chamber is connect people with opportunity."
Huff and his husband, Drew Thompson, live in the Highland Park neighborhood of Chattanooga.
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