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PYSK: Kristi Ray

Executive Vice President, Columbia Chamber of Commerce

AGE: 41

JOB DESCRIPTION: I am responsible for working with the emerging needs of Columbia. First and foremost will be working in the areas of governmental affairs, economic development and our regional efforts.

: I lived here for four years, from 1988-1992. When I returned to Missouri I knew that I wanted to live in Columbia again, so this time around I have been here for five years.


EDUCATION: I have a bachelor’s degree in interpersonal communications with an option in public relations from Truman State University in Kirksville, and I completed the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Institute for Organizational Management at Southern Methodist University in Dallas, Texas.

: I am an active member and deacon at Broadway Christian Church, which is very important to me. Working in Jefferson City and traveling around the state did not allow me to be active in the Columbia community. I can’t wait to start that again!

PROFESSIONAL BACKGROUND: I spent one year in hotels before I stumbled into the chamber business. I have served as the administrative assistant and membership director at the Columbia Chamber of Commerce. I then became president of the Kirksville Area Chamber of Commerce. Next I was the president of the Cedar Falls (Iowa) Chamber of Commerce. Most recently I was the director of chamber relations and director of Leadership Missouri for the Missouri Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

A COLUMBIA BUSINESSPERSON I ADMIRE: I have a true admiration for all of those businesspeople who have served as past presidents of the Columbia Chamber of Commerce. They are a remarkable group of individuals who are not only committed to their business but have, at times, put the needs of this community before their own personal needs. It is a service that often goes unnoticed.

: Columbia has one of the very best chambers in the state and, for that matter, in the country, as a five-star accredited chamber of commerce. I had the opportunity to learn from Don Laird and a dedicated group of volunteers, which set the tone for my career in chamber work. It is challenging but very rewarding. In this profession, you have the ability to give so much back to the community where you live. You get to make a difference. And the fun side is you always know what is going on in town!

IF I WEREN’T DOING THIS FOR A LIVING: Well, my first dream was to work in public relations for the Dallas Cowboys. But since that is probably not going to happen at this point … I have always been intrigued by commercial development. Chamber work is somewhat similar to that, but I appreciate those commercial developers in town who are doing what they can to make sure our community continues to grow and does not become complacent.

BIGGEST CAREER OBSTACLE I’VE OVERCOME: When I was hired in Cedar Falls, Iowa, the headline read “Chamber Hires First Woman and Youngest Ever President.” That was a lot of pressure, but this career is very accepting of anyone who has a passion for business regardless of age and/or gender. There are some remarkable opportunities in this career for anyone.

A FAVORITE RECENT PROJECT: Serving as the director of Leadership Missouri allowed me to see every corner of this state. So there have been many recent projects. One of my favorites, though, has to be a dinner we hosted last year in St. Louis to honor the legendary business Anheuser-Busch. We actually put a Clydesdale in the hotel lobby to greet everyone as they arrived! It’s always fun when you get to honor any Missouri company.

WHAT PEOPLE SHOULD KNOW ABOUT THIS PROFESSION: You must have thick skin! Doing what is best for the business community is not always popular. But representing business is our responsibility. To be successful at that, you must learn to disagree with respect.

WHAT I DO FOR FUN: I love tailgating on a Saturday at Faurot Field and then going downtown for dinner. There is no place in Missouri like Columbia on football game days!

FAVORITE PLACE IN COLUMBIA: I love our downtown! And even though I didn’t graduate from Mizzou, I also love taking people to the columns on campus. They truly emulate the unity between the University of Missouri and the Columbia community.

ACCOMPLISHMENT I’M MOST PROUD OF: Graduating from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Institute for Organizational Management was very important to me. There were 72 chamber executives who started the same year I did, and only 14 of us graduated from the program six years later. The fact that I have stayed in this business for almost 18 years and now I get to come back to the place where it all started is just incredible to me.

: Can say my ABCs backwards. My father taught everyone in our family. That’s about the extent of my talents!

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