Chief executive officer, Mississippi Gulf Coast Chamber of Commerce
Reflecting on her career in business support and nonprofit leadership, Adele Lyons is understandably proud of her track record.
“At the Gulf Coast Business Technology Center, I started with just five tenants and left 15 years later with a full house of startup companies and an established program of work,” says the chief executive officer of the Gulf Coast Chamber of Commerce. “At the Knight Foundation, over the six years I was on the job (as program director), the Coast received $14 million in grants — including one to start the Knight Nonprofit Center.”
And the list goes on. While she was director of development with Habitat for Humanity of the Mississippi Gulf Coast, Lyons was the only person in her department. But by the time she’d left in 2016, a Women Build event was in place, and the Gulfport ReStore was approaching its grand opening date. Habitat was in “growth mode” at the time, Lyons recalls, and she was pleased to guide its upward trajectory.
A leader who gets things done, Lyons credits her accomplishments to being proactive, seeking greater responsibility and completing tasks to the highest standards.
“Also, I have been fortunate to have great people on my teams,” she says. “I set high expectations for my team, and I find they are motivated to rise to the challenge.”
Executive director, Ocean Springs Chamber of Commerce-Main Street-Tourism Bureau
Heading the Ocean Springs Chamber of Commerce-Main Street-Tourism Bureau combines Cynthia Sutton’s two main passions: communication and community.
“It has always been my (desire) to do something that allows me to work in all forms of communication, as well as event plan, all while helping others to sustain, grow and prosper,” says Sutton, who has been part of the organization for 14 years. In that time, she has done every job — from public relations and marketing to economic development and event coordination.
With a background that includes freelance writing for local newspapers and interning at a TV station, Sutton draws on a wide range of experience in her present role. She defines success as seeing the economic impact that she and her team have on Ocean Springs.
“We put on 13 festivals or events for the community,” she says, “so when a new business relocates into town, or when a revitalization project begins, we had a hand in part by creating a wonderful quality of life and atmosphere for businesses to grow and for families and tourists to enjoy.”
Sutton says she and her team work hard to bring regional and national recognition to the small town of nearly 18,000 residents. Together with its partners, her organization won the community the Great American Main Street Award and other distinctions. The City of Discovery also was named among the 10 best places to live in Mississippi in a report from HomeSnacks.
Sutton has earned her share of accolades, too. A graduate of Southeast Tourism Society’s Marketing College and Leadership Jackson County, she was named one of the Top 50 Leading Business Women in Mississippi in 2010, and she is a One Coast Community Leader award recipient.
Executive director, Biloxi Bay Area Chamber of Commerce
Tina Ross-Seamans genuinely loves her hometown.
A Biloxi native, she started her career in hospitality and tourism marketing soon after graduating from high school. Ross-Seamans spent more than 20 years promoting the Coast as a tourist destination to conventions, associations and international markets, and she has headed the Biloxi Bay Area Chamber of Commerce since 2008.
Given the close relationship she has with the chamber members, Ross-Seamans considers them more like family than business associates.
“I am not here to just do a job,” she says. “My responsibility is to ensure that everything I do is for the success of our members.”
As director, Ross-Seamans wears many hats — including day-to-day operations: financial oversight, graphic design, event planning, marketing, networking, member-to-member relations and whatever else is needed. To do the job well, she says, “you surround yourself with a great team, pay attention to the details and make changes to ensure a smooth outcome.”
“I was taught at an early age to work hard and have integrity in everything you do,” she adds. “Treat people with kindness; it will make life easier.”
Community involvement is also important to Ross-Seamans, and she has served as a liaison on the Biloxi Main Street Board and on the advisory board for the Maritime & Seafood Industry Museum for many years. She’s also a committee member of Preserve Biloxi, helping to plan the annual Preservation in May programs and tours at the Old Biloxi Cemetery.
Both personally and professionally, Ross-Seamans says she feels like she is on the right path.
“I live every day with a positive outlook, compassion for others and a kind heart,” she says, “and continue to help others any way I can.”
President and chief executive officer, Jackson County Chamber of Commerce
Paige Roberts’s goal is to let no moment go to waste.
Each day, she remembers song lyrics penned by friends from her home state of Indiana: “We have this moment to hold in our hands and to touch as it slips through our fingers like sand. Yesterday’s gone, and tomorrow may never come, but we have this moment today.” Roberts has seized many opportunities in her career, starting with joining the WLOX-TV reporting team in 1993. She went on to work for the Public Service Commission, Pascagoula High School and Pascagoula-Gautier School District (PGSD), The American Red Cross, Pathways2Possibilities: P2P and most recently the Chamber.
Along the way, she created the high school broadcast journalism curriculum for the Mississippi Department of Education and the PGSD Read ‘n’ Ride Rally that drew 10,000 people. P2P, which she co-founded, is a career expo touching tens of thousands of eighth graders in Mississippi, South Carolina and Tennessee.
At the Chamber, Roberts says, “I oversee a team of four employees focused on nurturing a healthy business environment across Jackson County.” She also contributes to efforts related to education, workforce development, community development, health and mental health.
“Internally, I am proud of my resilience,” she adds, noting that she was featured on The Weather Channel’s series, “Storm Stories” and in books about Hurricane Katrina and The Red Cross. “Externally, I am proud and humbled to serve as a community connector and bridge builder. All kinds of people, from individuals to community leaders in their respective fields, come to me to help them find a resource or solution to a challenging problem.”