A resident of Ponte Vedra, Karen Everett is Director of the St. Johns County Chamber of Commerce, Ponte Vedra Beach Division. Her office is located at 200 Solana Rd., Suite B, Ponte Vedra Beach.
As told to Maggie FitzRoy
Q: How does the Ponte Vedra Beach Division fit into the St. Johns County Chamber of Commerce?
A: We are one chamber with two offices: St. Augustine and Ponte Vedra Beach. We cover the entire county, with seven councils and one division, the Ponte Vedra Beach Division.
Q: What are the seven councils?
A: Two new ones since I’ve been involved are the Women with Vision Council, which meets for lunch in Palencia every month and the North Business Council, which meets at Westminister Woods in Julington Creek. The other five are the Agricultural and Environmental Council, the Historic St. Augustine Area Council, the Small Business Council, the South Beaches Council and the Tourism and Hospitality Council. The St. Johns County Chamber of Commerce is unique in that if you are a member of the Chamber of Commerce, you are a member of all the councils and the Ponte Vedra Beach Division. Some chamber members who live in St. Augustine come to the Ponte Vedra Beach area for events.
Q: What is the chamber all about?
A: We are all about helping our chamber members use networking to increase their business. There is also another group called the Economic Development Council. All chamber members are invited to join the EDC as a higher membership. The EDC hosts four quarterly breakfasts, usually at World Golf Village.
Q: How many members does the St. Johns County Chamber of Commerce have?
A: A total of 1,100 members. Most of our members are Entrepreneur level. The next level up, Business Builder Membership, includes membership in the Economic Development Council.
Q: Tell us about your background. Where did you grow up?
A: My father was in the Navy, so I moved around a lot, all over the country. I went to junior high school in Bermuda and senior high school in Iceland, in Department of Defense schools.
Q: What did you do after high school?
A: I went to the University of Florida and majored in journalism, public relations. Got my masters at California State University after marrying my Naval officer husband, Win.
Q: So, you grew up in the Navy and married someone in the Navy?
A: It’s been an adventure. Definitely a coincidence. But moving around growing up and moving a lot as an adult, I’ve learned to be flexible and resilient. My husband, who was a Navy pilot, retired from the Navy in 2010, so we’re not moving again. We love it here.
Q: What companies have you worked for?
A: Prudential Insurance, Barnett Bank in Jacksonville, ATT. In California, the Navy and Coldwell Banker Real Estate. In Maryland, the Navy, for county government and a defense contractor. Then back in Florida in 2014, I freelanced and then started working for the chamber in 2017 and became Economic Development Manager before my present position, which I started Oct. 1, 2019.
Q: As Director of the Ponte Vedra Beach Division, what does your job entail?
A: I work closely with all the county commissioners. The Ponte Vedra Beach Division also holds three regular events a month: A Before Hours networking event, held at a sponsoring business; an After Hours, also held at a sponsoring business for networking and to showcase it; and a networking luncheon at a local venue, usually with a guest speaker. Four times a year, we join forces with the Jacksonville Chamber Beaches Division.
Q: Do you also have ribbon cuttings for members?
A: Yes, our ambassadors come with scissors and ribbon and take pictures. Ambassadors are business leaders who apply for the position to represent the chamber and their business. They visit new chamber members and help with ribbon cuttings. They also do a lot of outreach in the community on behalf of the chamber.
Q: What is your favorite part of your job?
A: Meeting all the great people and new businesses. Welcoming new businesses to the community. I have been very welcomed by the community and am eager to fulfill the chamber’s mission throughout the county, especially in the fast-growing Ponte Vedra Beach, Ponte Vedra, Nocatee and Beachwalk areas. I encourage your readers to consider becoming a member of the chamber, attend a chamber event.
Q: When you’re not working, do you have hobbies?
A: I like to be outdoors. We have a small motorboat that we take out on the Intracoastal Waterway and we also go kayaking there. Also take lots of walks on the beach.
Q: Do you do any traveling?
A: Right now, we travel to Baltimore, Maryland a lot because that’s where our grandson is. We have two sons, Alex—who is married to Elizabeth—and their son, Andrew, was born in February, 2019. Our other son, Jesse, is an engineer in Melbourne, Florida.