Mona Herring has received some well-deserved recognition in recent weeks from the Rutherford County Chamber of Commerce and other leaders throughout the country.
The Rutherford County Chamber of Commerce staff – Mona Herring (L to R), Ralph Vaughn, Cathy Fitzpatrick and Betty Hutchinson – celebrate Vaughn’s 40th birthday with prune juice and other gifts for someone “over the hill.” (Submitted)
She is completing a 25-year career that began as a part-time receptionist for the chamber and is retiring soon as vice-president of the Convention and Visitors Bureau.
I am proud that my claim to fame with the chamber was being the president who hired Mona a quarter of a century ago. Cathy Fitzpatrick was the one who introduced her to me.
At the time, the chamber was located inside a 1,000-square-foot log cabin at Cannonsburg Village. Cathy was on our staff as a part-time receptionist with multiple responsibilities. She casually mentioned one day that it would be good for us to have another part-time employee who could “job share” with her.
The two ladies were, and still are, best friends.
Cathy’s idea was that they could work out schedules that benefited the chamber while accommodating their personal responsibilities. I liked the idea and encouraged her to invite Mona to come by at her convenience.
With her poise and pleasing personality, I knew Mona was the right person for the job. Back in 1987, our Chamber had limited resources while trying to cover many bases such as economic and community development, tourism promotions, small business support and much more.
Then in 1995, we decided to create a Convention and Visitors Bureau. Mona was the obvious choice to lead it.
On the day I introduced Mona to our group of volunteers, she became so nervous. She said her heart was pounding in her chest. Her mouth was dry, and when she stood after the announcement, she almost fell because her legs had gone to sleep. But, we all knew that we had a winner with her.
Her first desk was a folding table in a remote corner of the log cabin. At the time, the economic impact of tourism in Rutherford County was approximately $50 million yearly. The latest figures place the economic impact from tourism in our county at nearly $253 million annually.
Mona has made her mark.
I also remember another delightfully humorous story.
The Nashville Kats, an Arena Football League team, were launched in Music City back in the 1990s. While I don’t remember her name, the Kats had a young lady who handled marketing in the early days.
She attended several of our chamber functions, including Business after Hours in an effort to network in recruiting corporate sponsors and ticket sales.
“Sandy” (not her real name) called one day when I was out of the office. Keep in mind that this was before we had voicemail or e-mail. Mona took her name and number while promising that the call would be returned. When writing the phone number on one of those little pink notes – some of you will remember those message pads – Mona inadvertently wrote it incorrectly.
Later when I was back in the office returning telephone calls, I dialed the number. A lady at the other end of line responded in a sweet Southern tone, “Hello.”
I said, “This is Ralph Vaughn calling for ‘Sandy’ with the Nashville Kats.”
The lady began to laugh. I thought it strange. Maybe, I was not speaking plainly and somehow was misunderstood.
She then asked, “The Nash…ville…cats?”
“Let me explain,” I responded, “the Nashville Kats football team’s marketing manager. I’m with the Rutherford County Chamber of Commerce and helping her to become acquainted with the movers and shakers in our county.”
Once she finally stopped laughing, she said, “This is Reba McEntire. You have gotten my number by mistake.”
After apologizing and promising to never call again, I wondered about the odds of calling Reba, her personally answering the telephone, and acknowledging her identity.
In closing, I want to add my personal congratulations and best wishes to Mona as she begins the newest chapter in her life and Godspeed to her and husband, James.