Guest column: A fond farewell

The Daily Ardmoreite
Mita Bates, IOM, CCE

Traditionally I begin the year with a brief overview of accomplishments from the previous year and look forward to the promise of the year to come. This year is different! January 1, 2022, a new chapter begins for the Ardmore Chamber of Commerce, Development Authority, Tourism Authority, and the Chamber of Commerce Foundation. After 18 years I am turning over the reigns of the organizations to Bill Murphy who will take the helm as President and CEO.

In reflection of my tenure at the organizations, I realized that it could be summarized best simply using the “A, B, C’s.”

“A” is for Ardmore and the realization that if the community is not the focal point, then we are not being true to our mission. It was always “Ardmore First” (not me) and if Ardmore were no longer in the running for a project – it would be Oklahoma first. Ardmore and Southern Oklahoma have been blessed with many assets and the significant industry announcements this year are reflective of the efforts by community and board leadership along with our staff to ensure that Ardmore is positioned for success. 

“B” is for best – always striving to be recognized as the premier community, organizations, and individuals in a variety of areas. Excellence is the goal of our efforts every day. During my service, excellence and integrity have been the driving force behind our initiatives. There have been successes and failures too, but each undertaking has been with the goal of being best. A wise mentor once noted that a key responsibility of the Chamber was to identify the “warts” in the community and develop strategies to address and resolve. At times I have been criticized for questioning and being critical, but we cannot improve if we accept the status quo and do not challenge ourselves each day. 

Coaches can only be as successful as their team, and I have been blessed throughout the years to have a wonderful group of individuals working together for a common goal – the best! Thanks to my team!

“C” is for both community and children. Again, the focus of our activities is to position Ardmore as the premier community in our state, region and the country. Our success speaks for itself. Recent industry announcements, the impressive growth in the retail sector on 12th Street, the incredible transformation of downtown and recreational assets assists in recruitment, retention, and expansion of business. The pandemic, while it temporarily slowed our momentum, did not deflect our efforts. We were able to pull together, support each other and emerge stronger than ever!

I have always been a passionate supporter of youth – they are our future. Throughout my tenure, creating opportunities for our youth has been paramount. My personal involvement and that of our organizations is best illustrated in the support of bond issues and assisting local districts with initiatives that provide the best opportunities for our children to succeed. From the original $3.5 million dollars invested in the Cornerstone Program to the passage in 2012 of the countywide sales tax for schools, student growth and success has been a primary focus. I reflect with immense pride on the many successful students Southern Oklahoma has produced, and hope they return home to be productive and active citizens.

For the past 25 years when we made the decision to relocate, Ardmore has been our home. It has been quite a journey with both highs and lows, but I would not trade places with anyone. I have been blessed with incredible board leadership, great staff, and city support in our mission to “Advance the Economic Vitality and Quality of Life for South Central Oklahoma.”  

As I sign off in this final article, I wish all the best to my boards, community partners and Bill Murphy as he begins his Ardmore journey.

Thank you and all the best in the future!