Friday, 22 October 2021 14:33

WHOLE LOTTA SHUCKIN' GOIN' ON: Richmond County industries thanked with annual oyster roast; Tucker taking new job

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Chris Sachs, right, and Michael Tucker dump fresh-roasted oysters on a table during the annual Industry Appreciation event Thursday at the Richmond County Airport. See more photos on the RO's Facebook page. Chris Sachs, right, and Michael Tucker dump fresh-roasted oysters on a table during the annual Industry Appreciation event Thursday at the Richmond County Airport. See more photos on the RO's Facebook page. William R. Toler - Richmond Observer

ROCKINGHAM — Representatives from many of Richmond County’s top employers spent Thursday evening at the airport schucking away at the annual Industry Appreciation Oyster Roast.


The invitation-only event is sponsored by the Richmond County Chamber of Commerce and Economic Development and has existed in varying formats for the past 24 years including a banquet and golf tournament.

Chamber President Emily Tucker and Economic Developer Martie Butler said that unlike some of the previous types of events, the oyster roast brings out more employees and mid-level managers, not just the industry heads.

Butler said the local manufacturers account for 17-20% of the county’s employment and represent the largest tax base.

“These folks really contribute a lot to the county, the school system, the football team … they give back a lot and it’s just our way of saying, ‘Thank you,’ and we appreciate what they do,” Butler said.

“I think they look forward to this event,” Tucker said. “They talk about it and are always wanting to know ‘When’s that oyster roast again?’”

Chris Sachs of the Hide-A-Way Tavern cooked up the oysters that he, Tucker and Jonathan Lewis drove to Wilmington early Thursday to pick up.

Other seafood, including fish and shrimp, was provided by Greene’s Catering and Amusements out of Albemarle.

Butler also gave a shout out to the county maintenance department for cleaning out the hangar and prepping the airport for the event.

“It’s a team effort” between county employees, the Chamber and its volunteers, Butler said. “We’ve got a good group of industries and we want to take care of them.”

Tucker described it as “organized chaos.”

TUCKER’S LAST HURRAH

The oyster roast was a bit bittersweet for Tucker, as it was her last event in nearly a quarter century with the Chamber.

Although the news has remained relatively quiet, Tucker publicly announced her resignation at Hoptoberfest on Oct. 2.

After 24 years, Tucker said the event was “a nice way to end my career with the Chamber.”

Tucker started with the Chamber in 1997 while she was in college working under Bennett Deane.

“He provided me an opportunity to come work at the Chamber as his assistant and then was promoted to Chamber president in 2006 … it’s made me who I am today,” Tucker said. “I’ve really learned a lot, made a lot of good friends.”

That appointment made her the first female Chamber president.

“The Chamber’s allowed me to get my education while I’ve worked there,” Tucker said, including degrees from Richmond Community College and UNC Pembroke. “Not many places invest in your education and I’ve been very fortunate.”

During her tenure, Tucker became a certified chamber executive and the Chamber became accredited through the Carolinas Association of Chamber Executives.

Under Tucker’s leadership, the Chamber also received its Institute for Organization Management designation through the U.S. Chamber of Commerce in 2010; nearly doubled its budget through the growth of the Chamber Champion sponsorship program; maintained an average retention rate of 90%; and has been awarded numerous scholarships and communication awards.

“We’ve been able to accomplish a lot,” she said.

Tucker has also been behind many of the Chamber’s programs and events, including the annual Hoptoberfest craft beer and chicken wing festival, a ticketed event which has grown from 300 to more than 1,500 attendees.

That’s an event she takes pride in.

“We set out to create a signature event, not just for the Chamber, but for Richmond County and I think we’ve done that,” she said.

Tucker added that the Chamber members have been like her family, “...and I’m gonna miss all of them.”

In addition to her work with the Chamber, Tucker has served on the Richmond County Tourism Development Authority Board, been a member of Rockingham Rotary and started the Richmond County chapter of the Autism Society of North Carolina.

Tucker’s work with businesses won’t end, however, as she will be director of the Small Business Center at Montgomery Community College.

She said it was an opportunity to work closer to home, as she now lives in Montgomery County.

Tucker's last day with the Chamber is Oct. 29 and she starts her new job Nov. 1.

Despite the move, Tucker said that Richmond County was still “home” and she will continue to come back.

“I always say that a change in leadership is good for the person and the organization and I hope I’ve left some type of legacy to carry on for the next person to fill my shoes … to move Richmond County forward.”

Emily Tucker, outgoing president of the Richmond County Chamber of Commerce, and Economic Developer Martie Butler pose for a photo at the end of Thursday night's oyster roast.