When Rebecca Martin lived in Austin, Texas, she missed the snow, but when she recently returned to Pittsburgh, she wasn't sure why she had longed for it.
"It wasn't nearly as romantic as I had remembered it," she said, laughing.
Ms. Martin is the new CEO and president of The Chamber of Commerce Inc., which serves northern Allegheny County, southern Butler County and eastern Beaver County. She is taking over from Susan Balla, who retired.
Originally from McCandless, Ms. Martin moved to Erie with her family when she was 11 years old. After attending Mercyhurst and Gannon universities, Ms. Martin worked for several years in education and nonprofit organizations. She also served as president of the Erie City school board.
"I was the first woman president in 20 years," she said. "Under my tenure, we received a $15 million grant from the GE Foundation's College Bound Program, something that I am very proud of."
She also was a member and volunteer with the Chamber of Commerce in Erie, believing in the mission of the organization. In 1992, she became vice president for the chamber division of the Erie Regional Chamber and Growth Partnership, beginning an aspect of her career that was a good fit for her skills and education.
"I found that I really loved working with the chamber," she said. "I think the marriage of economics, tourism and business is a wonderful combination to help promote and grow an area."
After six years, Ms. Martin stepped away from chamber work to do freelancing and teaching, until she had the opportunity to serve as the CEO and president of the Ludington and Scottville Chamber of Commerce and Convention and Visitors Bureau in Michigan.
"That was another great opportunity and I loved it," she said.
The next stop in her career was serving as senior vice president of the Greater Austin Chamber of Commerce.
"I decided that I was open to seeing other parts of the country and this was a wonderful opportunity," she said.
Although Texas was a bit hot for "this Yankee girl," she said, she was recommitted to chamber work and earned her Certified Chamber Executive certification from the American Chamber of Commerce Executives -- a status only 6 percent of chamber executives attain, according to Ms. Martin.
She had applied to The Chamber of Commerce Inc. when Ms. Balla had been hired and had kept in touch with people there. When Ms. Balla announced her retirement, they contacted Ms. Martin about the position.
"Susan was a great fit for them at that time, but since they knew of my background and interest, they thought I may be interested in the position again and I was," she said.
Ms. Martin moved back to the Pittsburgh area, choosing a home in the Warrendale section of Marshall, a halfway point between the chamber's McCandless and Cranberry offices.
She assumed her new position Feb. 1.
The Chamber of Commerce Inc. has more than 1,100 members, Ms. Martin said.
Although she is still learning her new position -- and getting used to cold weather again -- Ms. Martin is happy to be "back home."
"I really feel an affinity for this area," she said. "And the energy and commitment to this community that the members have is amazing."
Kathleen Ganster, freelance writer: email@example.com.