Johnson to retire as Berryville chamber director

Tuesday, February 2, 2021
Steve Johnson

Steve Johnson was under a bit of deadline pressure when he was named interim executive director of the Greater Berryville Area Chamber of Commerce in May 2018.

The timing gave Johnson less than a month to prepare for the chamber’s annual Ice Cream Social festival on the Berryville Square.

As it turned out, that was all the time Johnson needed to make sure the event went off without a hitch and convince the chamber’s board of directors that he was the right person to serve as the permanent executive director.

Johnson, 62, has announced his plans to retire. Johnson told the chamber’s board of directors last month that he planned to retire by Friday, Feb. 5, but he has agreed to remain in his position through February while a search committee works on finding his successor.

One member of the search committee is Tyler Squires, who served as the chamber’s president from Nov. 1, 2019, through Oct. 31, 2020.

Squires recalled that Johnson made a quick impression on the chamber’s board of directors with his handling of the 2018 Ice Cream Social.

“We had brought him on as an interim and that was part of bringing him on full time, was seeing his hard work and dedication to it and really stepping up with that event looming,” Squires said.

Chris Claybaker, director of economic development for the city of Berryville, said Johnson has done an excellent job of growing the chamber’s membership.

“When I came on, we had 66 members,” said Claybaker, who initially served as the chamber’s executive director in addition to his role with the city after coming to Berryville in 2015. “When I turned the thing over to Steve, I think we had something like 124 members. Now we’ve almost got 200.”

Johnson said he has enjoyed the work and expressed his gratitude to the chamber’s board of directors.

“It’s been a real privilege to work for our chamber members and the people that are in our chamber and how they’ve supported the chamber,” Johnson said. “I’ve just been really, really gratified with their support and I’ve been really thankful for being able to serve our board of directors. It’s a young board of directors that donates lots of their time and expertise to help keep the chamber moving forward and to come up with great ideas.

“And actually, it’s a working board that actually gets out there and does things — sets up workshops and seminars and events. I’ve just been so pleased to meet with them and I’ve just made such great friendships in that time. And I feel like our motto, which was connecting our community, not only brought people together and brought nonprofits in connection with other sponsors and donor businesses together, but also our communities with other communities.”

Squires said the chamber board is likewise appreciative of Johnson’s efforts.

“He has been a great asset to the chamber,” Squires said. “He has worked really hard to to grow the chamber and to provide a kind of strategic vision for the chamber, the services that it can provide to its members and to the community in general.”

In his retirement, Johnson plans to work on other projects including publishing, but also wants to work with nonprofit agencies.

“All the nonprofits that we have as chamber members, I’ve been so impressed with what they do to help people and all across North Arkansas, and I hope that we can build some e-learning centers to help them tell their story, because I think that’s what some of them struggle with, is how do they tell about the good things and how they reach out to people,” Johnson said.

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