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Avery: Medicine’s loss, industry’s gain



By Ken Stickney


When Pat Avery hopped on a plane as a teenager in Atlanta, bound for Drake University in Iowa, in the mid-1970s, her intention was to become a doctor.

Those plans were scotched when the young biology major came face to face with an innocent amphibian.

“I had to dissect a poor frog that had never done anything to me,” Avery, the incoming president of the Greater Port Arthur Chamber of Commerce, said Tuesday. “I had to kill him first. I didn’t have the stomach for that.”

Medicine’s loss was the business world’s gain. After earning her degree in biology, Avery, who’d developed an interest in manufacturing, turned her academic focus to public administration, hoping to land a position in personnel management and public affairs. Those jobs used to go hand-in-hand in industry back in the early ‘80s, she said. She never looked back.

Avery, who will replace Bill McCoy as president — McCoy is retiring — spent more than two decades of her career in the Golden Triangle, 15 of those years in Port Arthur. She worked for Mobil in Houston, Mobil’s Chemical Specialty Division in Beaumont, Mobil’s Mining and Minerals company in Pasadena, and Mobil’s Polyethylene Plant in Beaumont.

She joined Total in Port Arthur in 1998 and served in such positions as administrative manager and human resource and communication manager. She managed functions such as human resources; payroll; training; labor relations; community, government and public affairs; security, finance and warehousing.

In 2013, she joined Griffith, Moseley Johnson & Associates consultants as vice president, global business development, and has represented petrochemicals and refining industry clients. She continues that affiliation.

In the Golden Triangle, she dived deep into community affairs, serving on the Port Arthur Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors but working with all the Mid County chambers, as well. She co-chaired Golden Triangle Days in Austin for the Port Arthur chamber in 2007 and 2009 and served with the United Way of South Jefferson County, Symphony of Southeast Texas, Julie Rogers’ Gift of Life, Texas Energy Museum Golden Triangle Business Roundtable and more.

“It’s great to be back,” Avery said Tuesday from her Houston home. “I’m very familiar with the chamber. I care about the community and when the opportunity presented itself, I got pretty excited. The outpouring has been tremendous.”

She said she’ll look for lodging in Port Arthur this week and expects to be on board by mid-March.

The chamber is in good shape, she said. Under McCoy’s leadership, the chamber achieved 5-Star status, the top benchmark for chambers.

“Certification is very difficult to do,” she said, adding that the chamber is in “good financial order.”

“So I won’t have to spend time on those sorts of things,” she said.

She said she’ll build more bridges to the community and try to showcase the chamber’s strengths and what it has to offer.

She said she’d like to offer assistance to smaller chambers, which lack the resources of Port Arthur and Beaumont.

“I don’t make changes for the sake of making changes,” she said. Instead, she’ll come to her new office with no preconceived notions and try to boost the chamber’s image and visibility.

“I understand petrochemicals extremely well,” she said. “But I can relate to the mom-and-pop business, too.”