Longtime Mid County chamber leader talks to decision to step away

Published 12:40 am Sunday, May 29, 2022

PORT NECHES — Debbie Plaia, who has led the Port Neches Chamber of Commerce for almost 20 years, is set to retire this year.

Plaia informed the chamber’s board of directors earlier this year and the board is currently looking for a new executive director.

The decision to retire at the end of the year was not an easy one to make, she said.

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In the past year-and-a-half she lost three family members, including her father.

“Life is short,” Plaia said. “(My husband) retired three years ago. My mom’s 80 and still in good health. It’s time for me to be with my family and it’s time for someone to come in and bring the chamber to the next level.”

She also looks forward to spending time with her grandchildren and watching them grow.

In 2003, Plaia beat out 80 other applicants to earn the title of executive director, a position that was left empty with the passing of the previous director, Linda Chapin.

Chapin held the role for 27 years.

Under Plaia’s leadership came the successful Port Neches RiverFest. She plans to come back on board and help out with the festival so the new person will not have too much on their plate, she said.

“It’s very important to me to know the chamber will be in good hands with someone who desires to be here for many years,” she said. “I work with a really great board of directors, and it was out respect of them and the city that I stay on and help make it the best it can be.”

Chamber board member and past president Lance Bradley said Plaia has done a great job and will be hard to replace.

“I think I speak for everybody on the board, she makes that job extremely easy for us to do,” Bradley said. “She’ll be missed. We all appreciate everything she has done and wish her well in her retirement.”

According to a post on the Port Neches RiverFest page, the executive director job is 30 hours with special event requirements. Required skills include social media proficiencies and light bookkeeping, administrative skills, organizational skills and love of the community. Resumes can be emailed to JB3@allstate.com by June 10. Interviews will be conducted by the end of June.

Bradley said the hope is to hire someone in the next 60 days so they can work alongside Plaia before she retires.

Plaia said the chamber has a great relationship with the city and it is important to have the same with the economic development corporation and the sister cities.

In addition, she said she feels blessed to have had some of the best volunteers and assistants, including Nan Gregg and Mary Marioneaux.

“When I started out I had no one and built these relationships, and without those ladies, my job would have been tougher,” she said.

She said she’s also been blessed to be surrounded by great people and looks forward to continuing those friendships outside of work.