Q&A: The Spring’s Busiest Lady in Oxford

(Left to right) Pam Swain with Gala Committee members Tami Tacke and Michelle Rounsaville.

Pam Swain flies under the radar most of the year, but in the spring months, her visibility is everywhere. HottyToddy.com’s Steve Vassallo caught up with the Chamber of Commerce’s senior vice president long enough to pose a few questions.

Steve Vassallo: Pam, before we begin discussing all of your upcoming activities, tell our readers about your wonderful family.

Pam Swain: I am married to Cory Swain. We celebrate 14 years of marriage in a couple months. We met in junior college in 1995. We have three precious, but wild, boys: John Pitner (12), David Doss (9) and Jones Carson (5). They all attend Lafayette Schools and keep us busier than we ever could have imagined with their constant activities and schedules. I am completely outnumbered, but I get to be both the queen and the princess of our household!

Vassallo: In addition to your Chamber responsibilities, you also oversee the Leadership programs for the community. Can you tell us about those? 

Swain: We have an adult professional program called Leadership Lafayette that runs each year from January through August, with full day sessions that leaders participate in monthly. There are between 25 and 27 leaders chosen from a large pool of applicants each year to participate in the program. Similar to the adult program is our Junior Leadership program for high school sophomores. It is an abbreviated version of the adult program and runs from late January through mid-April each year, meeting weekly in the afternoons. It serves about 25-30 sophomores from our local school districts each year. I love the opportunity to get to see the leadership participants grow in their knowledge of not only the leadership skill sets they are exposed to but also all they get to learn about our amazing community.

Vassallo: Your tenure with the Chamber now totals to how many years?

Swain: It’s been 15 and a half wonderful years. I will celebrate my 16th anniversary on Oct. 2 this year.

Vassallo: During your association, how have you seen the Chamber grow?

Swain: We have seen tremendous growth in these almost 16 years! For starters, our Chamber membership has increased about 75 percent, going from about 400 when I joined staff to close to 700 now. Our activities are what have grown the most. Back then, we had a couple of major annual events, a ribbon cutting sprinkled here or there and a monthly networking social. These days, we average an event every two and a half days, year round, with no slow times or lulls in activity. We still have five staff members with just a lot more to do. Although we stay incredibly busy, it is a blessing to be in such an active community and work with a team of coworkers who are all passionate about our community, our programs and our membership. We all helped make this growth happen together.

Vassallo: The Double Decker Spring Run is drawing near. Could you share the details?

Swain: This is our biggest fundraiser of the year. We are prepping for our 23rd annual race, which will be on the morning of the Double Decker Arts Festival on April 28. This race has grown tremendously over the years as well. We were around 360 total racers in 2002 and now we hope to reach 1,700 racers this year! We had racers come from 27 different states across the country last year for our race. It takes a lot of prep work, volunteer orchestration and focus to pull it off, but it is so worth it that morning when we welcome the massive swarm of racers to the streets of Oxford for an experience we hope they won’t soon forget.

Vassallo: Speaking of Double Decker, what does the April event mean to you first and foremost?

Swain: To me, Double Decker is the start of a season that celebrates who Oxford is and what a wonderful community we are. Our race and festival are both events people travel far and wide for. They come back year after year because they, like us, love this place that we get to call home! To me, each year the celebration of Oxford begins at Double Decker and culminates in May with our Red Carpet Gala.

Vassallo: Almost immediately on the heels of the Double Decker is the Chamber’s Annual Gala. Could you describe several of the high points for this May’s event and the dates?

Swain: We are deep in the planning for our 4th Annual Chamber Red Carpet Gala, set for May 17 at Castle Hill. This event began to celebrate the Chamber’s 75th birthday. Originally it was planned for a one-year event, but it received such great reviews and feedback that we had to bring it back year after year. It is a celebration like no other. Guests arrive in style as they step onto a red carpet and Hollywood-style step and repeat photography. They are welcomed into the venue by fellow members enjoying the festive vibe of the evening, embraced in the delicious aroma of our annual Chamber Chef Shuffle, which spotlights some of our Chamber member chefs and their delicious menus and dancing to the unforgettable tunes of Dr. Zarr’s Amazing Funk Monster.

Vassallo: The Gala is always one of the more enjoyable, fun events to attend, but the planning that goes into it must be very intense.

Swain: Planning is always fun because we have a wonderful committee who puts lots of time and attention into all the details. We are lucky to work with Castle Hill as our location and with Mimosa Flowers, Gifts, and Gourmet on our beautiful decor. Securing sponsorships is always the hardest part because without our sponsors, the event can’t happen. We are so grateful to have Cannon Motors as our presenting sponsor as well as a wonderful list of additional generous sponsors on board so far. But we are still in a big need for more. It is great publicity for our sponsors. The deadline for any sponsors interested in participating is April 25.

Vassallo: Typically, how many attendees are there?

Swain: Last year, it was around 360. The attendees number continues to climb every year! Tickets are on sale now online at www.olccredcarpetgala.com.

Vassallo: Regarding your other responsibilities with the Chamber, what are some of the primary ones that we have not addressed?

Swain: I work daily on our Chamber’s overall program of work. Every single day is different, and that’s one thing I love about the work. I plan the programming and the benefits structure for our membership, as well as secure new members and retain existing members. I strive for our Chamber to be the best it can be and be exactly what our members need and expect it to be. We want to make sure the programming we provide gives value to our members and brings them something relevant to be a part of. We are all busy people, so we want to ensure our members that we are always working for them, thinking of them and adapting with their needs – in terms of the benefits they need, the networking opportunities they desire, and also the programs to help them grow. Time is valuable, and we want to make their time spent with us valuable for their business growth.

Vassallo: Fast forward five years, what does Pam Swain want to be doing at that time and have accomplished in the interim?

Swain: I want to, no doubt, keep doing what I am doing – keep growing with this community, continuing to watch our Chamber grow and adapt as Oxford and Lafayette County does. I want to continue to promote Oxford and Lafayette County as hands down the BEST place in Mississippi to not only grow your family but also grow your business, because in this community you find support for one another like no other.

Vassallo: Pam, what have we not asked you, that would be of interest to our readers?

Swain: I want to also invite everyone to join us for our Chamber and Economic Development Foundation Annual Meeting Luncheon on May 16, the day before our Gala. This is our annual luncheon business meeting, hosted at the Inn at Ole Miss and presented by sponsor Cannon Motors. It is a wonderful business event that allows us the chance to look back at a year in review, a year of growth and also give a glimpse of what is to come for our community ahead. For more details, call the Chamber office at 662-234-4651 or go online to www.oxfordms.com.

Pam Swain juggles many balls between her family, job and civic activities. Yet, she finds a way to get it all done and in such a professional and thorough manner. She is definitely a role model for many especially anyone who complains about there not being enough hours in the day!

Steve VassalloSteve Vassallo is a HottyToddy.com contributor. Steve writes on Ole Miss athletics, Oxford business, politics and other subjects. He is an Ole Miss grad and former radio announcer for the basketball team. Currently, Steve is a highly successful leader in the real estate business who lives in Oxford with his wife Rosie. You can contact Steve at sovassallo@gmail.com or call him at 985-852-7745.

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