Chamber’s Kay Burton starts next chapter after retirement

Published 11:19 am Thursday, August 4, 2016

Retirement plans were in Kay Burton’s future, but she hadn’t expected to be saying good-bye to her co-workers at the Brookhaven—Lincoln County Chamber of Commerce so soon.

Her 4-year-old granddaughter in Virginia was diagnosed with leukemia in January and Burton made a choice.

“I either had to retire or not help them,” she said. “I chose to help them.”

Kay Burton

Kay Burton

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Burton divides her time between home and Virginia, making the 16-hour drive often. She said as soon as her granddaughter is better, Burton plans to continue her involvement with community projects.

“I’m not really saying good-bye, I’m saying see you later,” she said.

Burton will be honored at a reception at the chamber today from 4-6 p.m. The public is invited. Chamber Ambassadors will be hosting the event. The Chamber is located at 230 Whitworth Ave.

Burton, who celebrated 19 years with the Chamber in February, will be missed.

“The Brookhaven-Lincoln County Chamber of Commerce cannot adequately express its appreciation for Kay’s decades of service,” said executive director Garrick Combs. “Her time at the Chamber was punctuated by tireless work on behalf of our community.  Her impact on Brookhaven and Lincoln County will be felt for years to come. We wish her well in her next steps in life and we will always be grateful to her time here.”

Burton was initially hired part-time in 1997 to serve as director of the Certified Hometown Community program to market Brookhaven nationally as a retiree community. That led to a full-time position with the chamber, overseeing marketing and membership.

“Over the years, I just kind of got involved with things the Chamber was doing,” she said.

One of her proudest accomplishments in her 19 years with the Chamber was to start the Mississippi Scholars Program here a decade ago. The program rewards students who take challenging classes, complete community service and attend classes 95 percent of the time.

In the 10 years Burton has been involved with it, they’ve given more than $860,000 in scholarships to Lincoln County graduates.

Burton serves on the board of that program and plans to stay involved.

“I’m not giving that up,” she said. “That’s my baby. It’s a program we feel prepares students for life.”

Burton is also responsible for reviving the Ole Brook Festival, bringing it downtown and for updating the city’s Christmas decorations. She’s worked with the Mississippi School of the Arts and the Brookhaven Little Theatre productions as well as many other projects and programs.

She said her goal was always to build up the community pride in Brookhaven.

Burton said she’ll miss the job, but especially her co-workers and the volunteers.

“I’ll miss all the volunteers and chamber members and the community involvement, feeling like I had my hand on the pulse of the community and being a part of making it better,” she said. “I feel like I was part of the vision of what Brookhaven has become.”

Burton is quick to give credit to the volunteers for helping her follow through on her ideas and turn them into reality.

“I didn’t do anything,” she said. “It was the volunteers who shared the same vision I had and we all worked together.”