South Baldwin Chamber of Commerce president/CEO Watts to retire

GCM Staff Report
Posted 9/6/23

After 38 years of working in the Chamber of Commerce world, Donna Watts announced her plan to retire at the end of 2024. Watts has been an instrumental figure in the growth of the South Baldwin …

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South Baldwin Chamber of Commerce president/CEO Watts to retire


After 38 years of working in the Chamber of Commerce world, Donna Watts announced her plan to retire at the end of 2024.

Watts has been an instrumental figure in the growth of the South Baldwin Chamber of Commerce (SBCC) since 1997. Before coming to Foley, accepting the position after Hattie Little Smith retired, she was director of the Bay Minette Area Chamber of Commerce (now the North Baldwin Chamber of Commerce) for 12 years. After more than 38 years working in the Chamber of Commerce world, Watts has continued to make contributions to the progress and development of Baldwin County and its businesses.

“It has been such an amazing journey. I cannot begin to express what an honor it has been to serve as your CEO. I will forever be grateful,” Watts said. “I want to express my sincere thanks to each of our members who have trusted us to move the community forward through meaningful programs and events. And my extreme gratitude to the Chamber Team for their hard work and belief in building a stronger community through strong businesses. I’ve had a blast!”

In addition to leading the South Baldwin Chamber for over 26 years, Watts is also the president of the South Baldwin Chamber Foundation. She has served on several other boards including the Gulf United Metro Business Organization (G.U.M.B.O.), Business Council of Alabama (BCA), Chamber of Commerce Association of Alabama (CCAA) and is currently a part of the Coastal Resiliency Coalition leadership team.

“We have been fortunate to have the leadership of Donna Watts for so many years. Donna is truly an exceptional leader and visionary. She has always been a strong advocate for local businesses and the people behind them,” said Sted McCollough, SBCC chairperson of the Board. “Her dedication to our community, mission and values is undeniable and her contributions are immeasurable. She has touched countless lives in the process, and we will always remember her time with fondness and gratitude. I have no doubt that her work will continue to make a positive impact for years to come in South Baldwin County.”

A few commitments and accomplishments of Watts over the years include:
• Graduate of U.S. Chamber of Commerce Institute for Organizational Management at the University of Georgia; Intensive Economic Development program at Auburn University; Economic Development program at Georgia Tech; Leadership Baldwin and Leadership Alabama
• Initiated community events: Gulf Coast Hot Air Balloon Festival (2004), Chicago Street Supper Club (2011)
• Launched the South Baldwin Chamber Total Resource Campaign – Chamber Choices
• 2000 Created a Youth Leadership Development Program - Junior Ambassadors

• 2004 Established the South Baldwin Chamber Foundation
• 2008 Founding Member of the BCA/CCAA Partnership
• 2009 Chamber of Commerce Association of Alabama Chairperson
• 2009-10 Rotarian of the Year, Foley Rotary Club
• 2011-15 Alabama Partnership for Children Board of Directors
• 2013 Board Member Baldwin County Economic Development Alliance
• 2015 BCA/CCAA Partnership Thompsonian Leadership Award
• 2015 CCAA Distinguished Service Award for 30 years service in chamber executive leadership positions
• 2015-19 CCAA Accredited Chamber Executive
• 2016 25+Year Club Association of Chamber of Commerce Executives
• 2018 Jamie Wallace Award from the Chamber of Commerce Association of Alabama
• May-Dec. 2017 - Spearheaded the first Capital Campaign for Workforce Development known as The Gateway Initiative

“As we embark on this next phase of growth for South Baldwin Chamber, we look forward to the future and what it holds for each of us,” continued McCollough. “We are excited to announce that Travis Valentine will be stepping into the COO position. His experience and passion for the Chamber and its membership speaks for itself. It was a unanimous vote by the Board of Directors to choose Travis as Donna's successor. We are grateful to have him on board and look forward to seeing the positive impact he will make in this community. He will begin shadowing Donna for the next year as they begin the transition of passing the baton of leading the Chamber.”

Travis Valentine, currently the South Baldwin Chamber's vice president of Investor Relations, accepted the position of chief operating officer (COO) and will take over the top position as CEO in January 2025. As a member of the South Baldwin Chamber team, Valentine has established strong ties with the business community since joining in 2015. With his experience as the Membership Director and Vice President of Investor Relations, he has successfully navigated both the Gateway and Chamber worlds with ease.

“Creating connections and sharing the many benefits of being a member of the South Baldwin Chamber is extremely rewarding,” Valentine said. “It's amazing to see the positive transformation that takes place in someone's life or business through the Chamber's resources and community. I feel grateful to be a part of such a supportive and empowering network that truly makes a difference and I’m excited for the future.”

Valentine played an important role in the development of the Gateway Initiative and has continued to work closely with members and local businesses to help them grow and adapt to the ever-changing demands of the market. His favorite part of the job has been building connections and sharing the benefits of membership with others, and he takes great satisfaction in seeing positive changes in people's lives and businesses.