Brooke Gatlin downplays her role as the new Cordell Chamber of Commerce president.
Instead, she calls the decision-making a team production.
“I just run the meetings, but we really work as a team,” Gatlin said. “Regardless of who’s president, who’s vice president, it basically functions the same way. We’re pretty good about staying in communication and working together. We have a good group of folks.”
Gatlin, the assistant district attorney, has been on the chamber board for the past three years, and took over this year as president.
The chamber has some aggressive goals this year, COVID-19 permitting, but Gatlin knows the core mission never changes.
“Obviously, the chamber’s overall mission is to promote businesses here in Cordell and try to increase the visibility, and essentially promote the town,” she said.
The past year, 2020, was a rough one, she said.
“We definitely had to get creative on some things,” she said.
The chamber pivoted right before its annual Christmas event, and put on a virtual experience instead.
“We didn’t feel comfortable doing that with COVID this year where the numbers were in early December. We transitioned to an online event where we had Santa Claus come in and read a story and answer questions on Facebook live,” she said.
The Bingo Booth at the Washita County Fair didn’t happen because the fair was canceled, save for the livestock show. The chamber transitioned to an online auction and had businesses donate items for gift baskets.
“It’s been challenging to say the least, but we’ve done a pretty good job of at least doing what were able to do safely,” she said.
One keystone event that did happen was the Pumpkin Festival, which was a bit controversial for some folks, Gatlin said.
“We felt like it was spread out enough and it was obviously an outdoor event and it was highly successful,” she said. “I think most of the feedback that we got was that was the best Pumpkin Festival that we’ve had in years. We had a great turnout at the car show event and lots of vendors were there. We obviously didn’t cause a super spreader event, which is good. The numbers didn’t spike afterwards.”
Some upcoming highlights for this year include the chamber’s annual Easter egg hunt, which was canceled last year because the city shut down the park. The chamber is planning changes to make that event, on April 3 this year, as safe as can be, Gatlin said.
“I think the plan, at least for this year, is to limit the Easter egg hunt a bit to a little bit younger age group than what we’ve done before, and kind of focus on like children under 7,” Gatlin said.
That would allow the children to spread out more than usual, she said.
The Chamber’s annual banquet will be online this year. The banquet is usually in January but will be April 12 instead.
Gatlin said the board did not feel comfortable doing an indoor event like the banquet.
“We usually have a few hundred people for a seated meal and awards presentations at the Fairgrounds,” she said. “We just didn’t feel like that was responsible.”
The format this year for the banquet will be a Facebook live event and will include all the top awards the chamber always hands out.
“We’re going to essentially give out the community awards that we always give out every year to chamber members and community members for the good work that they’re doing.
The chamber also is looking to start up its Farmer’s Markets in April as well. Those will be held in Pocket Park on the first Saturday of the month and will run through September.
“We generally have area fruit and vegetable growers that bring in fresh produce and quite a number of people that do baked goods – jams, jellies and homemade breads and treats of that nature,” she said.
The chamber is planning a town wide garage sale in June, and planning is already underway for the Pumpkin Festival.
This year’s festival might include an old fan-favorite – the hospital bed races, she said. Nothing is set in stone, yet, because the board is still looking at the logistics of bringing those back. But all the other popular events associated with the festival will be back: Parade, car show, cornhole tournament, vendors.
One other event of note, Gatlin said, is the chamber wants to hold a few food truck nights that would be associated with the Cordell Car Cruise nights.
Gatlin knows this will be a busy year for her Chamber presidency. She is thankful for the entire board who serves with her.
“I think this area, the city of Cordell is important to all of us. We do obviously sometimes make decisions that people don’t agree with or don’t like for whatever reason,” she said. “We get that it’s sometimes hard to make some of the decisions we have to make, but we are all really dedicated to growing and promoting the city of Cordell and its businesses in particular. Every single person on that board could give you a story about why this is important to them and it may be different than mine. But it really is a great group of area business professionals and leaders that are doing it for the right reason.”
SERVICE IS IN HER BLOOD
Brooke Gatlin was born and raised here in Cordell – came home from the hospital and left for college from the same house, she likes to say.
She loves her hometown and wants to give back as much as possible.
“I’ve always felt that the town of Cordell really raised me,” she said. “There were lots of grandparents, aunts, and uncles, people that are not even related that were just friends of the family that were always available to give rides or to come to ball games and be supportive in many, many ways.”
Gatlin has always had a community-service driven heart.
“Part of that is my religious background. Part of that is my family and their service, my mom’s an RN,” she said. “My dad was a mail carrier and a firefighter, my brother was in the Army for many years. That’s part of the reason I do the job that I do. I feel like I speak for victims and I work on behalf of the community to make this a better place to live. And so, you know, volunteering for the chamber board was kind of a no-brainer when I was approached about doing that. It’s been a really fulfilling experience. This is town is really important to me.”