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MBACC Board Announces Karen Riordan as New President and CEOKaren Riordan

Myrtle Beach, SC – July 17, 2018 – The Myrtle Beach Area Chamber of Commerce today announced that its board of directors has appointed Karen Riordan as the new president and CEO.

Riordan brings over 25 years of marketing and leadership experience to Myrtle Beach. She is the current president and CEO of the Greater Williamsburg Chamber & Tourism Alliance (GWCTA).

“I am really excited about the opportunity to lead business and tourism growth in this amazing destination,” Riordan said. “This move allows me to lead the next chapter of phenomenal tourism success for the area, while serving a vibrant business community with over 2,800 chamber investors. Like the Greater Williamsburg Chamber and Tourism Alliance, it is a very special model that has the chamber of commerce leading all business and tourism initiatives to grow economic impact and support the community.”

“This is a perfect time for Karen Riordan to become the chamber’s next president and CEO. After a rigorous nationwide executive search, we’ve selected a very strong leader at a time when the chamber is in a very strong position following years of exceptional growth,” said Carla Schuessler, chair of MBACC’s board of directors.

“Our excitement about Karen Riordan’s ability to steer and operate the organization is strengthened by her leadership experience with businesses, destinations and marketing,” says Jim Creel Jr., chair of the Search Committee. “We all felt energized by Karen and knew she would be a success due to her visible and contagious passion for Myrtle Beach.”

Prior to GWCTA, Riordan worked at top creative advertising agencies, including Arnold Worldwide, SmithGifford, Pagano Schenck & Kay, and Hill Holliday in Boston and Washington, D.C. Over the course of her career she has led marketing campaigns for leading tourism brands, including Visit Williamsburg, The Bahamas Ministry of Tourism, Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines, Amtrak, Choice Hotels International and Celebrity Cruises.

Riordan was recently named the Chamber Executive of the Year for 2018 by the Virginia Association of Chamber of Commerce Executives (VACCE). 

Riordan serves on the VACCE board of directors, as well as the boards of Williamsburg Landing and the Heritage Humane Society. She is the former president of DC Ad Club Board and former chair of Advertising Week DC, and a member of the American Advertising Federation (AAF). In 2013, she received the AAF’s highest honor, the Silver Medal Award for community service. In 2012, Riordan was named one of Washington’s “Women Who Mean Business” by the Washington Business Journal.

“The staff, the board of directors, and business community have already been so welcoming. I am eager to get started and continue their long-standing tradition of excellence in Myrtle Beach and the Grand Strand as a whole,” Riordan said.

Riordan will begin her new post in late August.

Watch the Facebook Live Stream of the Press Conference 

And check out the video below to learn more about Riordan.

Karen Riordan Bio

President and CEO
Myrtle Beach Area Chamber of Commerce

Starting with MBACC late August 2018

Karen Riordan will serve as the president and CEO of the Myrtle Beach Area Chamber of Commerce, where she'll spend her time working with the business community and driving tourism for the Myrtle Beach area.

Riordan brings more than 25 years of marketing and business management experience to the Myrtle Beach area, having led the Greater Williamsburg Chamber & Tourism Alliance as president and CEO, as well as top creative advertising agencies, including Arnold Worldwide, SmithGifford, Pagano Schenck & Kay, and Hill Holliday in Boston and Washington, D.C. 

Over the course of her career, Riordan has led marketing programs for major brands in tourism, including Visit Williamsburg, The Bahamas Ministry of Tourism, Royal Caribbean International, Amtrak, Choice Hotels International and Celebrity Cruises.

Riordan has served on the VACCE board of directors, as well as the boards of Williamsburg Landing and the Heritage Humane Society. She is the former president of DC Ad Club board and former chair of Advertising Week DC, and a member of the American Advertising Federation (AAF).

Riordan was recently named the Chamber Executive of the Year for 2018 by the Virginia Association of Chamber of Commerce Executives (VACCE). She is the 2013 recipient of the American Advertising Federation's Silver Medal award for service to the community and is the 2012 honoree of the Washington Business Journal's "Women Who Mean Business." Riordan graduated from Boston College with a bachelor's degree in Speech Communications and English. 

When not working on brands, Riordan's passions include traveling, reading travel magazines cover to cover, the beach, and all things made of chocolate.

About the Search Process

Shortly after the Search Committee was appointed in March 2018 and the executive search firm, Searchwide, was contracted, a needs assessment was conducted. The needs assessment consisted of meetings, calls and emails with nearly 90 key stakeholders, including Search Committee members, chamber board Executive Committee members and many public and private sector business and community leaders. 

A position description was created from the needs assessment, revised and approved by the Search Committee and posted on several organization and company websites, including Searchwide, Glenn Shepard Chamber Exec Openings, Bill Geist Job Board, U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Association of Chamber of Commerce Executives, Carolinas Association of Chamber of Commerce Executives, Destination International and Myrtle Beach Area Chamber of Commerce. 

“Searchwide vetted candidates by aggressively networking, prospecting, recruiting and interviewing. This resulted in over 300 conversations and connections with potential candidates and industry leaders throughout the US and the world,” said Jim Creel Jr., chair of the Search Committee. “Searchwide then screened and interviewed more than 50 candidates to determine the top 15 candidates to present to the Search Committee for review and discussion. The committee spent over three hours meeting to discuss each candidate at length and select the most qualified candidates for face to face interviews.” 

“This process has been extremely thorough and has included additional significant details regarding reference checks; federal, state and county background checks; pre-employment credit checks; and driving and education verification. DISC personality assessments were also completed, which provided insight into each candidate’s leadership and management style,” said Carla Schuessler, chair of the Myrtle Beach Area Chamber of Commerce board of directors. 

Interviews were conducted by the Executive Committee based on recommendations of the Search Committee, with final approval by the board of directors.