Ed Clifford, president and CEO will be leaving this post at the Bentonville Bella Vista Chamber of Commerce on June 29 to take the helm of the Jones Trust in Springdale.
Clifford has served as CEO since May 2001, having just retired from Wal-Mart after 17 years in management. He has been active in community affairs in Bentonville and Northwest Arkansas for 20 years and has worked closely with state and local government representatives to make Bentonville/Bella Vista a better place to live, work and play.
"It's been 11 years and I am leaving behind a great board of directors and staff who have worked to grow this organization to a sound fiscal state," Clifford told The City Wire.
He said leaving is somewhat bittersweet but he feels the chamber will benefit from new leadership that can take the organization to the next level.
Clifford has worked with the Jones Trust as a board member for several years and is looking forward to tackling some new challenges as CEO and president of that charitable foundation.
The Jones Trust helps to support a number of local charities, but namely oversees the financial operations of the Jones Center for Families in Springdale.
Clifford said Archie Schaffer III, executive with Tyson Foods, will step into his present board seat at the Jones Trust.
Budgetary shortfalls for the Jones Center have been widely reported in the past two years.
"Part of the reason I decided to step away from the chamber position was because of the challenges that continue to face the Jones Trust. This will provide me with ample growth opportunity because the R word just scares me," Clifford said candidly.
Carrie Perrien Smith, founder of Soar with Eagles, credits Clifford with having charismatic leadership skills and growing the membership by tapping into the Walmart supplier community.
"I am excited to see what Ed can do at the Jones Trust, he has been a true asset to Bentonville and this whole region. He's also a great testament for working past retirement age in jobs that truly make a difference," Smith said,
Daniel Hintz, executive director of Downtown Bentonville, said Clifford is a skilled facilitator who can get the right people around the table and then stimulate them to walk all in the same direction.
He said Bentonville is a unique city with incredible assets that should continue to be leveraged to keep its businesses growing, no matter what size they happen to be.
Tommy Bailey, president of the Bella Vista Property Owners Association said," Ed has done an outstanding job leading the chamber during the 10 years I have been a part of the community."
The chamber is honoring Clifford with a farewell party at 5 p.m. on June 28 at the Hilton Garden Inn, Business After Hours event.
Clifford said his replacement will be in the hands of the board of directors who have already begun the search both locally and outside the area.