Authors Bill O'Neal (standing) and Dr. Patsy Hallman (back, right), along with (back, from left) honored guests Ettie Sanders and Katie Sinclair and Sulphur Springs Director of Library Services Cheryl Lawson, spoke during the 2nd Annual Friends of the Sulphur Springs Public Library Gala Luncheon held Thursday at the library. Also pictured are Craig Johnson (left) and Mary Kate Burns (right).
Staff Photo By Angela Pitts
She's Got It
A new Chamber of Commerce director is introduced, and the consensus is in: Meredith Caddell is the perfect choice
By BRUCE ALSOBROOK, News-Telegram Managing Editor
April 4, 2008 - When the new director of the Hopkins County Chamber of Commerce was asked to describe herself, the words "energetic" and "dedicated" were thrown out.
Add "charisma," and you've got a pretty good description of Meredith Caddell.
People either have those qualities or they don't, and Meredith Caddell exudes them.
Billy Sam Elliott didn't make the decision as to who would replace him, but he's ecstatic with how the search turned out.
"I'm leaving it in good hands," said Elliott, who is officially retiring May 31 after directing the Chamber for the last 16 years. "I've known her a long time, I've worked with her on some projects, and I know how vivacious and energetic and how smart she is."
Tell seemingly anyone who knows her that Caddell had been chosen for the lead job as Sulphur Springs and Hopkins County promoter, and the response appears unanimous.
"Their first response was 'perfect, excellent choice, she'll give you 110 percent,'" said Chamber Director Deborah Wright, who introduced Caddell Thursday at the Chamber offices to thunderous applause from some three dozen local movers and shakers. "I am so excited about the choice we've made."
Caddell -- her husband is Jake, a senior vice president at Alliance Bank -- didn't grow up in Sulphur Springs, but she's got roots that run deep. Her grandparents were Mike and Jewel Pribble, who ran the local rodeo for years, and Doc and Kay Williams, longtime operators of Hopkins County Veterinary Clinic. Her parents were also raised in Sulphur Springs, and her mother, Cathey Willams, still lives here.
"I had always said if the director of the Hopkins County Chamber of Commerce ever became available, it was mine," she said. "This position was just made for me, and I am so thrilled to be working with each one of you. Words cannot express how excited I am."
With a degree in communications and a background that includes directing publicity for Up With People and seven years with HBO, she's certainly got the necessary background for the job.
But she also has a grasp of the nuances that make life in a small town special.
She and Jake married in 1998, while they were living in the Dallas area and working for HBO. When their first child, Ryder, was born in 1999, they decided the Metroplex wasn't where they wanted to raise children.
"So we chose, of all places, to come to Sulphur Springs, and we've never once regretted that decision," she said. "There's just nothing better than living in a small town that has such amazing events. I used to work with Up With People, so I've traveled all over the world, and I've never experienced events like I've experienced in Sulphur Springs. It's amazing -- the stew contest is something that is just unparalleled anywhere that I've ever been, so I am just thrilled to be a part of this."
As president and chief executive of the Chamber, she'll be the point of contact for a multitude of outsiders, people who are thinking about living here, business owners considering moving companies here, travelers who want to visit.
It's a perfect fit, said Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors member Deborah Wright, who served on the search committee charged with finding Elliott's replacement.
"We are very excited with the direction we think we are going," she said.
Linda Bennett, director of the PJC campus in Sulphur Springs, had mixed feelings about the decision. Meredith has been an instructor for PJC in a variety of subject areas for Paris Junior College since 2001 -- communications, computer skills, etc.
"I hate to lose her," said Bennett. "But I am so glad to see here working here."
Caddell, who had high praise for the work Bill Elliott has done, also said she was fortunate to have the outgoing director offer to help her settle in to the job.
"I have asked him to help in the transition, and he has offered as much help as he can," she said.
But she's also ready to dive in head-first.
"I believe in making the most of whatever I'm doing, and I am going to go full force, 110 percent," she said. "Some would maybe called me stubborn, but when I make up my mind to something and to make it be a success, then I'm going to make sure it will be that way."