Sybil Topel, MFA, Vice President, Marketing and Communications, Chattanooga Chamber of Commerce
When Mattie Moran stepped through the Chattanooga Area Chamber of Commerce front door in 1968 she had “no intentions of staying more than a few years,” she said with a slight smile, the kind of smile that lets you know right away she understands how she thought about the world when she was younger and how that’s changed over time. The type of smile that tells you she’s the perfect person to help a high-schooler consider the long-term – in terms of education and career decisions – when they’re really thinking only about the short-term.
When she joined the Chattanooga Chamber staff, Moran thought she’d work, put away some money, then move on and find something entirely new and different. While Moran always focuses on the positive, clearly the dramatic events of 1968 made life tougher for many and being hired by the Chamber at that time was not a given. Moran worked through the challenges with grace and persistence – two characteristics that have fueled her success and helped many others along the way. She chose to remain at the Chattanooga Chamber, she said, both for ‘her students’ and for her colleagues.
This summer she celebrates 50 years of service to our business and education communities. To put this number into perspective, in a 2016 report, the median number of years most employees have served with their current employer was 4.2 years, down from 4.6 years in January 2014.*
What would she tell a recent graduate considering working for a Chamber of Commerce?
“Fasten your seat belts and get ready for the ride! It will be an amazing journey.”
“Chambers are exciting places to work, make connections, meet lots of people and learn about all that’s going on in your community,” Moran said.
Chamber volunteer Sheila Albritton, Director, Career Planning Counseling, shared her thoughts on how Moran continues to serve as an outstanding role model for all.
“Did you ever meet somebody and just know you’re going to like them? That’s Mattie. She inspires people around her. She is so respectful to everyone,” said Albritton. “It doesn’t matter the age – it can be the youngest person, the oldest person — any place. Any type of employee. Any type of person. She is so respectful.”
“If you think something could work a little better, or a different way, she listens to you.”
Longtime associate Cathy Humble put it best: “Mattie embodies her middle name – Jewel.” Humble, Coordinator II, Talent Development and Public Policy, has worked with Moran for 15 years.
Sandy Cole, Executive Director of UTC's Center for Community Career Education, has worked with Mattie since the year 2000.
“Mattie has an amazing capacity to bring people from so many walks of life to volunteer for the Chamber programs designed for kids,” Cole said. “The investment from her, the Chattanooga Chamber and the volunteers are sure to reap economic development opportunities for our community.”
Over time, Moran developed her early-career Chamber ‘job’ into a far-reaching, impactful career. She continually identifies new challenges and opportunities.
Now Talent Development Director, Moran worked in:
- Membership, assistant to area Councils, where she developed the Diplomats program, now the Ambassadors’ program
- Leadership Chattanooga
- Marketing & Communications
- Workforce Development
“And wherever I went I had to take the Diplomats program with me. Until one day, I said, ‘No,’ give someone else a turn,” she said with a careful smile. Because she doesn’t want to give the impression she doesn’t love working with volunteers – nothing could be further from the truth. She simply enjoys giving other team members the chance to further develop skills.
Her greatest joy? Working with students. Since 2001, she has helped more than 205,000 better understand how to plan their careers and their educational paths – all through Chattanooga Chamber talent development programs.
Moran connects well with students.
“She’s so gentle and kind, and people respond well to gentle and kind. She speaks quietly, but you know she means business,” Albritton said.
Moran advises Chamber professionals at all stages to take advantage of every educational opportunity offered and know that other chambers are always willing to share their successes and pitfalls. “Enjoy all the opportunities to make a difference in someone’s life,” Moran said.
Mattie Moran’s colleagues and family share their perspectives.
Chamber volunteer Sheila Albritton, Director, Success Coach Center at Chattanooga State Community College
Q: Mattie could have done anything in her career with her accomplishments. Why do you think she stayed with the Chamber?
A: She’s a very loyal person and she believes in the work that’s being done at the Chamber – and, she’s devoted and through the Chamber she covers a lot of territory.
Q. Mattie really connects with students. Why do you think they respond to her so well?
A. It’s not just students – it’s also volunteers. She’s gentle and kind, and people respond well to gentle and kind. She speaks quietly, but you know she means business. I’ve known her for 18 years. She inspires people around her and she’s respectful to everyone. She’s genuine – it’s not fake.
If you think something could work a little better, or a different way, she listens. She’ll say, ‘You know what, I’ve tried that, and it didn’t really work,’ then she tells you why it didn’t work. She’s got a way about her. She leads and mentors people through her professionalism. I consider her one of my strongest mentors. She doesn’t even realize it – that’s how natural it is for her.
Q. Mattie has worked in several different areas. What do you think made her say yes to taking on all these different responsibilities?
A. Her desire to grow and learn. She’s a lifelong learner. She’s not afraid of change and that’s very unusual in people. She’s flexible and she transitions her skills into every job she has, and you don’t always see people doing that.
Q: Anything else you’d like to add?
A. Watch how she works with people. She’s a master with people. You want to help her and you want to be on her team, because she makes things happen. I am so glad she’s being celebrated. I think Mattie is the bomb. She’s the best kept secret in Chattanooga.
Tenesha Irvin, Mattie’s Moran’s Niece
Q. Mattie’s family is really important to her. Was she a role model for you? In what way?
A. Absolutely. We are a very close knit family, and she is just the epitome of a strong independent woman who is real focused. She set the bar high for me when it came to being a career woman. She bettered herself, went to school, she sacrificed and made me go to school. Mattie’s always been an extra mother figure to us, and that’s why I’ve always looked up to her.
Q. Mattie enjoyed going back to school to get her bachelor’s degree. Has she encouraged you during your own education? In what ways?
A. Absolutely. She encourages everyone that education is important and that education will fulfill you for the rest of your life – and it can definitely give you the foundation you need to go on and be great. She’s always inspiring adults that if you didn’t get it done in your youth you can still go back to school now.
Q. Mattie was inspired by her father and school to pursue business. Has she inspired you?
A. Mattie inspired me. I currently work in hospitality. I can’t help but have a love for Chattanooga because of Mattie working for the Chamber. She made me just love where I was from and enjoy all of beautiful things Chattanooga possesses. Now I’m in the hospitality field and I think that kind of subconsciously has to do with my love for being hospitable, selling the city – encouraging people to come see the attractions and all it has to offer.
On the flipside she’s inspired me entrepreneurially and community-wise for workforce development. That’s become a part of my passion – as well as with my community work that I do with my radio show and the events that I put on – that’s all Mattie for me. To see how important it is to make sure that the city is connected, and that they’re prepared for what’s coming down the pipeline.
Q. Anything else that you would like to add?
A. Yes, a little fun fact. If someone hears me talking to Mattie on the phone, they’ll probably think that I’m having some sort of OG (original gangster) conversation because we call her ‘Homie,’ which is an urban term. It’s actually from the 90s sitcom “In Living Color.” There was a clown on there that said, ‘Homie don’t play that.’ And when my brother and sister were younger, whenever Mattie would watch them, to discipline them she’d say, ‘You need to do this or that because Homie don’t play that,’ in reference to the clown sketch. And so when they got older that became her nickname, so everybody called her Homie. Me and my kids. But it’s kind of funny because when we say it out in public people are like, ‘Why you calling her a Homie?’
Article by Sybil Topel, Vice President, Marketing & Communications, Chattanooga Chamber, with research assistance from Jess York, Chattanooga Chamber of Commerce Writing Intern and UT-Chattanooga graduate student.