The longtime president of the Greater Smithfield-Selma Area Chamber of Commerce is retiring.
Rick Childrey, who has been the chamber’s leader for 30 years, announced Sept. 27 that he will retire at year’s end.
“It has been an honor to work for such an important organization in our area,” said Childrey, 61. “With solid leadership in place on the board of directors, I know the chamber will be in good hands and continue to be at the forefront of critical issues facing our communities. The future is very bright for the Smithfield-Selma area.”
The chamber will form a search committee to find Childrey’s replacement, said Dwight Morris, chamber board chairman.
“The chamber has prospered during Rick’s tenure as president,” Morris said. “He has focused on small-business and economic-prosperity services, communications to members, advocacy of important issues and community-leadership development.”
The chamber recently received accreditation from the Carolinas Association of Chamber of Commerce Executives, Morris said.
“Rick has positioned the chamber well for continued success of the organization,” Morris said. “The search committee will be committed to selecting the right leader to fill this important role for the Smithfield-Selma area and Johnston County.”
Childrey plans to spend more time with friends and family in retirement. “I would like to go to my beach cottage at Ocean Isle Beach more than three times a year,” he added. “I would like to travel. ... I want to research my family history. My dad’s family is from the Richmond, Va., area and my mother's family is from Wayne, Duplin and Sampson counties. There is only so much you (can) do online.”
But Childrey plans to stay involved at home as a member of the Central Johnston County Rotary Club, where he hopes to take on more duties.
“I would like to assist the towns of Smithfield and Selma anyway I can to move our communities forward,” he added. “I want to slow down, but not stop, and smell the roses.”
Childrey became chamber president in March 1986 after working for eight years at Bristol-Myers Squibb in Kenly. Active in the North Carolina Jaycees, he took his experience to the chamber and led or created several initiatives, including the move and renovation of the Yelvington-Lee House for the chamber office, the creation of Leadership Johnston and the development of education-support programs such as the Flame for Learning Award. More recently, public-policy involvement and the Women’s Business Network have become focal points for the chamber under Childrey’s watch.
A 1977 graduate of N.C. State University, Childrey completed the six-year U.S. Chamber’s Institute for Organization Management in 1991. He serves on the boards of the Downtown Smithfield Development Corp. and the Johnston County Tourism Authority
Childrey is a Paul Harris Fellow, an honor bestowed by Rotary. He was named an Honorable Hero of the Johnston County schools in 1995 and the chamber’s Citizen of the Year in 2005.
Abbie Bennett: 910-849-2827; @AbbieRBennett