Staff members and local business leaders filled the offices of the Greater Williamsburg Chamber & Tourism Alliance Tuesday morning as they said their goodbyes to Karen Riordan, the organization’s president and CEO, at a farewell breakfast.
Riordan announced her resignation from the organization last month, having accepted the position of president and CEO at the Myrtle Beach Area Chamber of Commerce. This Friday marks Riordan’s last day leading the area business and tourism board, and she will start her position at Myrtle Beach later this month.
At the event, Riordan thanked the community for welcoming her when she first moved to the area, and for the countless interactions that she has had with local business leaders over the last four years.
“This community is just an amazing place, and I don’t want you to ever forget that,” she said in a speech. “I think that when you’ve grown up in Williamsburg or when you’ve lived and worked here for a really long time, you take it for granted, and my comment for you today is that this is an amazing place.”
Riordan gave a special thanks to the Chamber & Tourism Alliance staff, who she said has supported her efforts since she took the position in 2014. Bob Harris, senior vice president of tourism, said he’ll remember his time with Riordan fondly, and called her a positive thinker with many fresh ideas.
Kayla Kearse, social media and public relations specialist, has been with the Chamber since 2016 as her first job out of college. She said she’s learned a lot by working under Riordan, and wishes her the best.
“Personally, she’s pushed me a lot,” Kearse said. “Karen always has big dreams and she isn’t afraid to follow them.”
Prior to joining the Chamber & Tourism Alliance, Riordan worked at creative advertising agencies including Arnold Worldwide, SmthGifford and Pagano Schenck and Kay in Boston and Washington, D.C.
She also led marketing campaigns for The Bahamas Ministry of Tourism, Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines, Amtrak, Choice Hotels International and Celebrity Cruises, and was recently named as the chamber executive of the year by the Virginia Association of Chamber of Commerce Executives.
Harris said discussions around the selection of a new president and CEO for the organization are still ongoing, but expects to be closer to a decision following a Chamber & Tourism Alliance executive council meeting later this week, and this month’s meeting of the regional tourism council.
“I leave with my heart feeling really full because I’ve made so many incredible friends in this community, and of course, my deepest friendships are with my team,” Riordan said. “I’m going to miss them so much.”
Arriaza can be reached at 757-790-9313, or on Twitter @rodrigoarriaza0.