A Letter From The Executive Director

Dear Members,

I am greatly humbled, honored and excited to have been selected as your new Executive Director of AGC of East Tennessee!  You could say that association work runs in my blood, tying back to my childhood and to my heroes, my parents.  For seven terms my Dad served as the Chairman of the Board for their national association, filling my Wonder Years with family vacations to conventions and dinner table talk about war stories on the Hill. The association was my parents’ engine for industry education and engagement, and as is the case with people who are driven to be involved, they found great success in business.  I asked my Dad one time how he rose to become a leader in his industry and his response was simply, “I spoke up”.

I believe what my parents prized most from their careers were the lifelong friendships and connections forged through their association with people who encouraged them, challenged them, and mentored them (and OK … yes, the success and money weren't bad, either).

So when I graduated from the University of Georgia, my parents helped me get my first job with that very same association in Detroit.  I quickly learned a couple of valuable life lessons: when in Detroit, it’s best to downplay your southern accent and driving around town in a Toyota Camry isn't a smart move.  But moreover, I learned that I loved the frenetic, high-octane pace, the multi-faceted stratagem, and people-centric life of association work. 

Following Detroit, I worked in association management firms in Washington, DC and Atlanta, and after going back to the town where I grew up, I worked for Downtown Memphis' economic development agency for 17 years, which was a culmination of all of the lessons I learned through associations and then some.  While all of these organizations represent a range of people with vastly different interests - FBI agents, cold storage contractors, professional golfers, insurance agents, hearing aid professionals, thoroughbred owners, developers, property owners - the core principles guiding each organization are relatively the same:  Engagement, Communication, Connection, Advocacy, Education, Support.

Since starting my position with AGC, I’ve been on a listening and learning tour with many of you, the board, staff, legislators, AGC chapter executives across the country, and organizational peers to better understand the collective needs and priorities of our members and industry.  If I haven’t made it to you yet for a personal conversation, trust me … you’re on my list!

Based on input so far, we are embarking on several new programs to engage younger members, streamline our internal efficiencies, enhance our image, and keep you better connected with what is happening within the association and industry.  In order to hear every member’s voice, we encourage you to take our member survey.  Your input will provide a framework for an organizational strategic plan focused on your priorities and goals.

I am so fortunate to be following in the footsteps of excellent leaders, Roger Tuder and Tim McGhee, and to be walking into a financially healthy organization with strong reputation across the community.  But let’s face it… it’s been a tough year here at AGC.  Not only did staff lose a dear friend and a deeply respected leader, Tim McGhee, they have had to transition through three different management styles over the course of one year.  I’m so proud of their resiliency and dedication, and I continue to learn from each of them every day.

A special thanks is owed to our committed board of directors who, despite having demanding schedules and business commitments, generously volunteer their time, energy and expertise to strategically guide our organization and ensure that we continue to remain a healthy organization. 

And thanks to all of you, sincerely, for putting your trust in me.  I realize that I have a lot to learn but am so excited about the journey ahead and what we will accomplish together in the years to come.  Let’s roll!

Yours sincerely,

Leslie Gower


Leslie Gower