With just 13 months on the job at the Mansfield Area Chamber of Commerce, Mary Kathryn White-Ramsey decided not to pounce when the post of chamber president opened in October.
In fact, she didn’t ask to be considered until the two finalists for the position, pared from two dozen applicants in a nationwide search, flunked the chamber board’s management profile.
Given a shot, she aced the test.
“It was surprising how close it was to the exact profile we had,” said past Board Chairman Dan Phillips, whose one-year term ended Dec. 31. “It basically said she’s exactly what we’re looking for.”
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But on Dec. 20, the chamber board offered her only the position of interim president, saying it wouldn’t conduct another search for at least three months – giving her time to prove she deserves the full presidency. She would replace Amanda Miller, who left in October after 18 months in the position.
“They are letting me do this with the option of stepping back into my previous position,” said White-Ramsey, who said the chamber has grown from 502 members to 621 members during her tenure. “I’m very excited about the opportunity. What we need to do right now is provide a feeling of consistency and continuity.”
Phillips described the arrangement as “very open -- no commitment to her or from her.”
“Nothing says we won’t search again; nothing says we will search again,” Phillips added. “I know that’s very wishy-washy, but that’s where we’ve left it at this point. Everyone wants to make sure it’s a good fit.”
The pool of applicants was narrowed to seven for phone interviews, then to three candidates for interviews in person by the board and a tour of Mansfield. One of the three outside finalists dropped out after finding out the compensation range was $50,000 to $70,000.
“He never asked what we were paying, and he was making about double what we were paying,” Phillips said.
Mayor David Cook was pleased with the selection of White-Ramsey, who is known as – and writes her name as – “MK” (with no periods), for Mary Kathryn.
“I think the board made an excellent decision in going with what they know,” Cook said. “I’ve known MK for a long time. She has excellent communication skills. And in increasing membership, it’s always important that you effectively get your message out.”
The fact that White-Ramsey comes from the chamber staff and is a 17-year Mansfield resident sets her apart from most recent Mansfield chamber presidents. She would be the chamber’s sixth president or executive director in the past 15 years. She follows Letatia Teykl, who arrived in 1999, Becca Hancock in 2001, Liz Dujka in 2006, Lucretia Mills in 2009 and Miller in April 2012. (Mills also was a Mansfield resident who worked on the chamber staff before being named president.)
White-Ramsey, who turns 47 next week, came to Mansfield looking for a good place to raise her family.
“We researched a lot of different things about Mansfield, but mainly the school district,” she said. “I’ve raised both my boys here, and I love Mansfield.”
She was born in Dallas, raised in Arlington and graduated from Arlington High School. She went to Texas Tech University and earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism, but she didn’t go straight in into the job market.
“I got married almost immediately upon graduation, had my first child and then my second,” she said. Soon after, she went to work for Rape Crisis and Victims Services, a program of the Women’s Center of Tarrant County.
She counts that 10 years as her nonprofit work experience, which she followed with five years in the for-profit sector as service department supervisor of BCI Technologies, a security installation firm in Grand Prairie.
“When we moved here it was a one-horse town,” said White-Ramsey, who was pregnant with her second son during the relocation. “Summit (High School) was a ninth- and 10th-grade campus.”
Her son Matthew is a 17-year-old junior at Mansfield High School, and Robert, 22, is finishing up at Tarrant County College and planning to attend the University of Texas at Arlington.
She went to work for the chamber as membership and events specialist in September 2012, then was promoted to membership director in January 2013. She worked under Miller, who left to become manager of corporate communications and government affairs for TXI, a cement producer with a plant in Midlothian.
“It was kind of her ideal job, and it just fell into her lap,” said White-Ramsey, who said she remains in touch with Miller. “She’s a wonderful, wonderful mentor -- and she’s still mentoring me,” she added with a laugh.
Miller’s departure left the chamber with a two-person staff, which includes Amy Wood, operations director. White-Ramsey said she’s not expecting to make major changes in the chamber any time soon.
“We do have some new programs that were talking about, that we’re excited about, just to make the chamber a little more current and relevant,” she said.
Among those, which she noted were started under Miller’s tenure, is the creation of a new chamber logo and the ongoing reconstruction of its website, www.MansfieldChamber.org.
“We just feel a pretty serious accountability to the membership,” White-Ramsey said.
And she feels the backing she needs to take on her new duties.
“We could not be treated better by the community or our board,” she said. “Everyone’s been very supportive and positive. And that’s a nice way to start out the New Year.”