After a three-month nationwide search, the Clayton Chamber of Commerce found its next director close to home. Dana Wooten will take over next month as the chamber’s new leader, replacing former director Jim Godfrey, who resigned in July.
Wooten corrects herself when she says she’s a “Johnston County native,” but she doesn’t need to; the distinction is all but lost after 43 years in the county. Her family moved to Smithfield from Virginia when she was 11, and she’s been here ever since, graduating from Smithfield-Selma High School and going on to the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
After college, Wooten helped run her family’s kitchen cabinet business for a number of years, and for the past 13 years, she has been executive director of the Johnston County Association of Realtors. She’s married to Jack Wooten and has two adult sons, Graham and Scott.
“I am excited about the upcoming year at the Clayton Chamber,” Wooten said. “I am looking forward to getting to know the business owners in the Clayton area to assess what programs they would like to see the chamber provide.”
Having grown up in Smithfield, Wooten said she appreciates how far Clayton has come in the last couple of decades, and she’s excited to see what comes next.
“Clayton has changed immensely since I was in high school,” Wooten said. “The growth has trickled down from Raleigh and increased the population here and helped to really develop Clayton into a great place to live, work and play.”
Wooten said the vitality of Clayton and its business community led her to throw her name in the hat for the director job. She said that in the job she’s leaving, she’s had experience molding a variety of ideas into a few common goals. In Clayton, she wants to see businesses better utilize social media and have a more visible online presence. She also wants chamber members to feel they’re getting a fair bang for their buck.
“All of our goals should be the same, the chamber, the town council, everyone in the business community,” Wooten said. “And that’s see Clayton grow in the right direction.”
Clayton has a busy downtown, but Wooten said it’s important to think of the entire picture of the town’s business community.
“The chamber will stay focused on downtown, but Clayton is much more than that,” Wooten said “My plan is to bring creative ideas and energy to the chamber director position, meet with the council, meet with the town manager and work together to promote Clayton. We’ll reach out to the different areas of Clayton and develop a plan on how to incorporate those areas in what the chamber does.”
Dyrke Maricle, president of the chamber’s board of directors, said Wooten offered the full package of what the chamber wanted in the job and that she beat out a large and competitive pool of candidates.
“Dana’s management experience, strategic implementation, warm personality, creativity and drive make her a great fit for this role,” Maricle said in a statement.
The chamber said it received 135 applications for the director job and through phone and video interviews whittled the pool to six finalists. Those finalists met for a final round of interviews, made presentations and took part in a social event.
Wooten’s first day on the job is Dec. 5.