A familiar face, or maybe voice to many in De Queen and Sevier County, Murriel Wiley has been named the new executive director of the De Queen/Sevier County Chamber of Commerce. Wiley, the former news director for radio station KDQN, signed a contract with the chamber on Tuesday, taking over for Suzanne Babb who had served as executive director for the last two years.
Wiley has spent a considerable amount of time volunteering for the chamber at its annual banquet as well as at events such as the Tour de De Queen, where she was able to gain from Babb’s tutelage and earned a letter of reference from her. She also volunteered on the steering committee for Create Bridges, an Economic Development project led by The UA Division of Agriculture and now serves as Regional Program Coordinator for Sevier, Little River and Howard Counties as well.
“I was fortunate Suzanne took me under her wing and showed me some of the ins and outs behind the scenes at the chamber,” Wiley said. “She saw that I have a passion for community development.”
Despite her connections though, Wiley still went through a rigorous process of getting hired, supplying references, surviving a round of interviews and some tough competition for the position.
Originally from Houston, Wiley said she had moved around quite a bit before a friend from college who was employed by Bunyard Radio Group recommended her for the KDQN job, which was in line with her radio career goals. With her family owning a tree farm with a house on the land in nearby Nashville, the move to Southwest Arkansas was a no-brainer for Wiley.
“I never found the right place until I came to De Queen,” she said. “I found a sense of community here.”
While she enjoyed her time as a reporter and morning personality at KDQN, the workload was incredibly heavy with having to rise at 4 a.m. for the show, work all day and then having to attend activities at night covering news and events in town and around the county. And despite the boost the job offered as to advancing her career goals, Wiley felt that her energy wasn’t being put to use in the areas she desired and she wanted to step up into more of a leadership role in the community.
“It was a constant grind,” she said. “Media can kick your butt sometimes.”
When the chamber job became available, and with her history of volunteering for the organization and partaking in community events, Wiley felt it was a natural evolution for her career, so she applied.
“It all worked out,” she said.
She said that working in media and community development were similar in many ways.
“They are more alike than people realize,” she said.
The biggest difference though that she noted, was that while media reports on events that happened, as a member of the community development team, she now has an opportunity to put her mark on the plans.
“I get to have an impact on how things go,” she said, noting that she still writes press releases and employs the communication skills she learned as a reporter.
Her goals as chamber director are to promote local businesses, both established proprietors as well as new enterprises.
“I’m of the belief that businesses are the heart of this community,” she said. “If the business owners feel the chamber is working for them, I’ve done my job.”