Memphis Chamber of Commerce names first woman as interim CEO

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MEMPHIS, Tenn. — The Memphis Chamber of Commerce is trying to pick up the pieces, one month after the murder of Phil Trenary.

The organization appointed Beverly Robertson as interim CEO Wednesday. She’s the first woman to hold the position.

Even though Robertson doesn’t officially start until January, she was at the Chamber of Commerce meeting staff for the first time Wednesday morning.

“It was awesome. I shared with them the values that anchored me,” she said of the first meeting.

But Robertson is coming into the Chamber of Commerce during a troubled time. Trenary was gunned down while walking home in downtown Memphis in September.

Police said it was an armed robbery.

Robertson said it shouldn’t stain the city’s reputation.

“When you look at the stats, you’ll find most of the crime in Memphis is domestic crime or it’s gang-related. You’re not walking down the street like you are in Chicago getting off a bus and get shot in the face. That’s not Memphis, Tennessee,” Robertson said.

She’s hoping to channel that optimism into ways to improve the Memphis workforce while acknowledging poverty and crime go hand in hand.

“Phil Trenary had started doing some of the work on mentorship programs when he was here. So I’m going to build off a proud legacy,” she said. “That’s what is needed when businesses look at the marketplace to make a decision about coming here.”

Robertson is an entrepreneur who also served nearly 20 years as director of the National Civil Rights Museum. That’s how she knew Trenary. Before that, she worked in the corporate world for Holiday Inn.

She said she didn’t apply for this position. Instead, board members came to her and she’s proud to mark off a “first” for the institution.

“It gives our young ladies hope and inspiration. And I’m proud of that,” she said.

Robertson planned to act as interim CEO for about a year. She did not say if she plans to stay on after that.

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