The Claremore Area Chamber of Commerce has welcomed a new leader, and her name is Barby Myers. Originally from Midwest City, Oklahoma, Barby has traveled a fascinating road to land in Claremore at the Chamber helm.
After high school, Barby earned a bachelor’s degree in political science from Oklahoma State University, where she was a member of Gamma Phi Beta sorority. (This means that Barby and I are automatically friends for life, since we share the bonds of G Phi sisterhood.) While working on a campaign for Senator Don Nickles (longest serving senator from Oklahoma!), she found that she truly loved the world of politics, and was ready to make a big move. Move she did, all the way to Washington, D.C. She sent resumes out to the presidential personnel, hoping to get an “in” as a political appointee. After numerous interviews with various agencies, she chose a position with the Department of Energy as a Special Assistant to the Secretary.
Barby explained the difference between presidential personnel (these are all the agency people, many of who are appointed by the President) and White House personnel (those who actually work IN the White House). She then ended up as White House personnel in 1988, working in the Vice President’s Advance Office as a trip coordinator for Vice President George H.W. Bush. Being a trip coordinator meant scheduling literally every minute of Bush’s day any time he traveled outside of the White House. After he ran for President, winning the election in 1989, Barby traveled all over the world as part of the advance team who scoped out locations prior to the President’s arrival. As you can imagine, this was an incredibly detail-oriented position, involving site surveys, hotel arrangements, and plenty of planning.
In 1992, Barby’s boss took a transfer, and asked Barby to join him in the Department of Commerce working for the United States Travel and Tourism Administration. Then in January 1993, Bill Clinton took office, and Barby moved back to Oklahoma. By this time, she had a 2-year-old and was ready to slow down on the traveling.
She accepted a position as executive director of Red Earth, Inc., which soon merged with the Red Earth Festival, a large Native American festival and art celebration in Oklahoma City, together with the Center for the American Indian, a museum located at the Kirkpatrick Center. The organization was so large, in fact, that Barby was in charge of 56 board members!
Frank Keating was elected governor of Oklahoma in 1994, and his wife, Cathy, wanted a Chief of Staff. Cathy Keating is every bit a lady; she’s gracious and generous and was eager to make changes for our great state. She wanted to support her husband by doing non-political things during her reign as First Lady. Barby was intrigued by the job, but wanted to do more than just hold Cathy’s purse in public. Cathy insisted that it wouldn’t be like that, and it definitely wasn’t. Barby served as Oklahoma’s first Chief of Staff to a First Lady and also as a member of the Governor’s senior staff. During their eight-year term, Cathy and Barby visited all 77 counties in Oklahoma more than once, including trips to every Main Street they could find.
One of the first major functions during Barby’s tenure as Chief of Staff was to organize an open house for the governor’s mansion. Mrs. Keating formed a new non-profit called Friends of the Mansion, and raised over $1 million to renovate the Oklahoma Governor’s Mansion. In February 1995, the open house was held at the mansion – the people’s house – showing the spectacular updates that four interior designers from across the state (each volunteering their time), had achieved.
Then on April 19, 1995 at 9:02 am, the Oklahoma City bombing occurred, and focus was shifted. That day was the absolute longest day, schedules were canceled and new meetings were scheduled. Knowing our state was grieving and wanting to “do” something, the First Lady called a meeting at 10:30 pm on April 19 and the idea for the prayer service was born. Barby organized the prayer service that was held at the state fairgrounds, three days after the bombing. The Rev. Billy Graham officiated and President Bill Clinton gave remarks.
Cathy wrote a book about the tragedy, with all proceeds being donated to the bombing relief fund. Barby remained as Chief of Staff until September 2002, when she moved to Wichita.
While there, she first worked for Schnake Turnbo Frank, a well-known public relations firm in Tulsa, primarily telecommuting. She then worked at the Wichita Chamber, first as a vice-president of communications, then VP of government relations. She moved to Rogers County last year, where she now lives with her husband, Craig. They have a blended family of seven children and eight grandchildren.
Barby is excited about her new position at the Claremore Chamber. In the early stages, she’s making it a point to listen and take everything in. She’s trying to figure out how things work and figure out what the next step should be to make things better. She’s also looking forward to the opportunity of working with the board members. Barby said, “Claremore has strong leaders that are passionate. I’m looking forward to working with them and building relationships.”
“Everybody has the same goal,” Barby said. “Claremore has a great number of people who want the same things and to see the town grow. The quality of life is good here, and everyone wants to help make it even better. Everyone is so warm and friendly!”
Barby said the Chamber’s focus will likely shift toward supporting economic development and nurturing Claremore’s strong business environment.
We are excited to see what Barby will do next. We are fortunate to have such an experienced and talented new director. Welcome, Barby!