Newsmaker Q&A

Charlotte Guedry
Sherrie Despino is the President and CEO of the Ascension Chamber of Commerce. The Ascension Chamber helps existing businesses as well as encourage new business in the Ascension community.

How did you become interested in your chosen career?

I am not certain that anyone starts their life thinking they will be the President/CEO of a Chamber of Commerce so I don’t know that this was a chosen career but I do believe this career was fate. I’ve always been involved at some capacity within my community and was serving on the Chamber Board of Directors when this position became available in 2005. At that time I was working for an accounting firm with no thought of changing a 20-year profession. I knew that I would love the job so after a great deal of soul searching, I decided to go for it and as they say, “the rest is history.”

What do you enjoy most about your position, and what do you enjoy least?

I love working for the business community and I am truly passionate about the Chamber of Commerce and its mission to facilitate and foster economic development for our businesses. My greatest joy is probably working with Leadership Ascension.  As a participant in the 2001 class and now as the facilitator for this ten month program, I have had the opportunity to meet and become friends with some amazing ‘Leaders’ throughout our parish. I enjoy least sitting at my desk and catching up on paper work. Thank goodness for a dedicated staff, Liz and Lauren, who keep me reigned in and on track.

What does a typical day consist of?

A typical day consists of meetings, meetings and more meetings, but truly it changes from day to day. Normally, I start my day with a breakfast meeting. Next, I meet with the staff as soon as I walk through the office door. Around mid-morning, I catch up on e-mails and phone calls. The rest of the day is usually filled with ribbon cuttings, ground breakings, luncheons, committee meetings, Business After Hours and other networking events. I also try to make it up to the State Capitol during the Legislative session and attend local Council meetings when possible.

Is there a specific achievement that you are the most proud of?

I am very proud to be the President/CEO of the Chamber of Commerce. I cannot point to one specific achievement, but I work every day for the members of this organization to improve the business climate in our parish and to promote them throughout Ascension Parish and the surrounding areas. I am proud to battle every day for opportunities that promise economic development and growth for our parish including campaigning for our community to Shop Local. It is vital that we try to keep our money circulating within our own community.

 Any advice for someone wishing to follow in your footsteps?

 Anyone who decides to work in a non-profit world must be passionate about the mission of the non-profit they represent. One must also be eager to work with and reach out to diverse populations that exist within our community and surrounding communities. There are always many events to attend and responsibilities that must be met outside of a normal “8 to 5” job. You have to be willing to be flexible in daily duties and hours of service because situations and needs are constantly changing in a non-profit world.