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Edwards-Barton tabbed as permanent SV Chamber of Commerce CEO

SIERRA VISTA — Melany Edwards-Barton has been selected to be the permanent chief executive officer of the Sierra Vista Area Chamber of Commerce.

Edwards-Barton, most recently a realtor with Haymore Real Estate in Sierra Vista, had been tabbed as the interim director after Jennifer Martin resigned the post in late September after just over a year on the job.

Edwards-Barton, who said she received and accepted the chamber’s permanent job offer Wednesday morning, said her first full day without the interim tag is Thursday. She indicated she is eager to dedicate herself to the role and will leave realty behind.

“I do have some current clients that I do have contracts with, existing contracts, so I am partnering with another agent to help support those clients so I can fulfill those contracts,” Edwards-Barton said. “But I will not be taking on any new clients at any point.”

Mark Schmitt, the director of the Cochise College Small Business Development Center who sits on the SVACC’s board and was on the board’s hiring committee, said that while there was no directive from the board that Edwards-Barton stop her work as a realtor, the board was encouraged to get that assurance from Edwards-Barton.

“It was something that we’d hoped for, but it wasn’t like, ‘Do this, don’t do that,’” Schmitt said. “You know as well as I do, a chamber of commerce, I don’t know if you could do the job in 80 hours, let alone take on something else because there’s so much morning, afternoon and evening stuff going on. It’s a full-time commitment.”

Schmitt said the hiring committee interviewed three other people for the job — two from the area and one “external candidate” — but Edwards-Barton separated herself from the pack. Her ideas, along with her knowledge of the position already, and her familiarity with the area and its businesses were big pluses in her favor, Schmitt said.

“She’s filling in right now, and she’s done a terrific job of that,” he said. “Plus, she just has ties to the community and she already knows what the position is about. She served as a board member, so she knows that part of it, too. And, just once again, her management style is something that was appreciated.”

Going forward, Edwards-Barton said she has no plans to turn the chamber on its head, though she will continue to move forward with initiatives put into place in recent years.

“We are looking at working a little more closely with our local government, and then, of course, our extended government as well, looking at economic development for our region down here,” she said. “And then looking at ways in which we can better support our members.”

Schmitt said the board and the hiring committee didn’t ask for a commitment of any specific length from Edwards-Barton after losing Martin to an undisclosed position after just over a year at the job, but indicated they believe Edwards-Barton is in it for the long haul.

“She loves the community, she lives here, she’s vested, she has roots,” Schmitt said. “She has a long-term commitment to the community, so I think she’ll be around for a while. It’s a funny thing, too, a lot of times we think people should have jobs for life, but that’s not the case anymore.”

Overcoming obstacles: Students build teamwork through physical challenges

FORT HUACHUCA — Colonel Smith Middle School students got a taste of some of the obstacles active duty soldiers face when they took a field trip to Fort Huachuca’s obstacle course this week.

The trip to the obstacle course served as a team building event for the middle school students and a volunteer opportunity for the 35 Tango students of the C Company 309th Military Intelligence Battalion.

“My intent is to build teamwork with my (AIT) students but also with the Col. Smith students,” Capt. Charles Rapp said.

Phyllis Gerben, Col. Smith’s eighth grade lead and a Language Arts teacher at the school, said last school year was the first time the school ventured to the installation’s obstacle course. They decided to send the eight graders because the staff noticed a number of cliques beginning to form.

“It did accomplish the goal,” she said. “There was a greater sense of togetherness after the event.”

This year Gerben said the 309th Military Intelligence Battalion invited the entire school to have a chance to tackle the course. The eighth graders tackled the course first on Tuesday then the seventh graders on Wednesday and the sixth graders will take their turn on Friday.

“From the overwhelming feedback from the school, we were able to extend the event,” Rapp said.

Col. Smith eighth graders Erique Dozier, Devin Dureson and Isabella Hollin agreed that spending a few hours outside running, climbing and getting muddy was better than being in the classroom.

“I was nervous at first,” Hollin said. “I got more comfortable as I went through.”

Being outside of the school wasn’t only fun for the middle schoolers, but their teachers and administrators.

“This give them a chance to challenge themselves,” Gerben said. “We love to see them outside school. There is always someone who has a hidden talent that we wouldn’t know they had.”

When asked what they learned, all three students picked up the message school administrators and Capt. Rapp wanted them to.

“I learned you can’t leave anyone behind,” Dureson said.

The group of roughly 85 were separated into teams of five and given protective equipment, and then ran through the course. Each team was timed and the fastest group was declared the winner. Rapp’s student’s were dispersed throughout the course as safety officers to make sure no one was injured and the obstacles were done correctly.

“The 309th makes it very safe for them,” Gerben said. “This gives them (the 309th) a chance to take charge and shows (the students) what they do in the Army.”

She added the field trip is inclusive for all students as they invite the self-contained students as well. With parent permission and if the student wants to attend, they will participate in the obstacles they want, like their peers.

The C Company 309th Military Intelligence Battalion serves as the post volunteers for the middle school. They assist in the schools sporting events, dances and anything the school needs bodies for.