Meet the new leader of the Port Neches Chamber of Commerce

Published 12:24 am Thursday, November 24, 2022

PORT NECHES — Though they’ve only worked together for a few months, Crystal Jordan and Debbie Plaia can pretty much anticipate what the other will say.

Jordan, the new executive director of the Port Neches Chamber of Commerce, has been shadowing the outgoing director, Plaia.

Jordan was chosen from a number of applicants for the position and began work in August.

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On Nov. 1 she fully took to her new role. She will still have Plaia around in a smaller, yet still large role of dealing with the city’s annual RiverFest.

Jordan comes to the chamber after working with Port Neches-Groves Independent School District at Woodcrest Elementary School.

Crystal Jordan, left, Debbie Plaia and Lori Carl look at a calendar. (Mary Meaux/The News)

“I absolutely loved it at Woodcrest,” Jordan said. “I would have stayed there forever, but this opened up and a couple of people said you need to try this. I thought if I ever made a change, this would be a great opportunity. “I would have stayed (at Woodcrest) forever, but this is one of those opportunities that comes along once in a lifetime. They don’t really come open very much like Debbie’s job. I thought this will be perfect, so I went for it.”

Plaia said Jordan is doing well in the new position. They are in the middle of parade planning, working on their annual calendar and more.

Plaia decided on retirement not long after her father died. At that time she had lost three close family members and her husband Jerry was already in retirement.

“I was ready to retire,” Plaia said. “Life was just, to me, very precious. I told (the city) I would give a year for them to find someone and I prayed hard about it because I wanted (the next person) to have that drive to be here for 20 years.”

Plaia’s goal is to help with RiverFest for three years. She said it was important for her to do this so the new person can focus on the chamber while learning.

“It’s hard to bring (the chamber) to the next level when you’re working on a festival for seven months out of the year,” she said.

Port Neches Chamber is a bit different from some other chambers in that it does not collect hotel motel tax, so it takes a lot of planning to do events and the festival.

Crystal Jordan is the new Port Neches Chamber of Commerce Executive Director. (Mary Meaux/The News)

Jordan said this year is a brand new adventure and she is thankful to have Plaia but knows she has big shoes to fill.

“I’m glad that I have her and that she loves it so much and is so passionate about it that she wants to see me succeed,” Jordan said. “It’s been her baby for 20 years, so I’m coming in and I’m so thankful for her support.”

Plaia’s own experience coming into the position after the death of her predecessor, Linda Chapin, was much different than what Jordan is experiencing. Chapin died in February 2003 shortly before she was set to retire. Plaia was chosen for the role from a field of more than 80 applicants. She previously was a marketing representative for the American Heart Association.

Jordan knows the magnitude of the job she is now leading. Her first goal is to successfully get through the first year.

“I got the job and I got a little bit nervous. It is such a huge undertaking. Then someone told me…you get in there the first year and you’re going to bake your cake,” Jordan said. “Then the next year you’re going to go through and ice your cake. Then in your third year you can add sprinkles.”

She said this thought pattern really helped because she knows she has to make it through the first year before thinking ahead.

“You’ve got to get through it, get your cakes,” Jordan said. “Once I heard that I was like, ok, because everybody has these big ideas, which is wonderful and I love big ideas. I would love to run with big ideas but I also want to get my footing down and need to get my cake baked.”