CPED New Staff Member Spotlight: Tabatha Duvall
Tabatha Duvall, an Atkins native, joins us as the new community, workforce, economic development program associate after eight years as the communication director and quality of place council lead at the Russellville Area Chamber of Commerce. Duvall also served as the Chamber representative to Uncommon Communities, and is a graduate of Community Development Institute. She graduated from the University of Central Arkansas with her degree in public relations and is certified in Chamber Management by the University of Oklahoma. In her spare time, she is a novice baker, a budget traveler, and an avid fan of the Nashville Predators, the Green Bay Packers and the Arkansas Razorbacks. We've asked Duvall to tell us more about herself and what she is looking forward to about her new role. We've shared her answers below.
What are some interesting projects you’ve worked on?
My favorite projects that I have gotten to be a part of are Farm to Fork in downtown Russellville and the Skilled Trade Expo at Russellville High School.
Farm to Fork was envisioned to be a way to celebrate local agriculture, culinary arts, and the beautiful downtown in Russellville. We partnered with local farmers, like Ralston Family Rice, local chefs, and the hospitality departments at Arkansas Tech and the ATU Career Center to prepare an all locally sourced dinner in front of the Depot in downtown Russellville. We allowed the farmers that wanted to participate the opportunity to share about their experiences and the ATU Departments an opportunity to share about the opportunities they have for students. We had four annual dinners up until Covid, and I hope to see it happen again!
The Skilled Trade Expo started out of my Leadership Russellville class, and just held their fourth Expo. Students from throughout the River Valley are invited to meet with employers in sectors that don’t necessarily require a 4-year degree, but rather trade schools or certification programs. This year, around 1500 students (Grades 8-12) from Pope and Yell counties attended the Expo. The goal of this Expo is to show students who may not feel like college is for them that they can still have a rewarding career.
What is your favorite day of the week and why?
I come from a very large family, and though my grandparents have been gone for several years, we still have lunch together at the family cabin each Sunday. It’s a great way to connect with my family and stay connected to where I came from.
Can you share an “Aha” moment with us?
“If you look at your community and think ‘Someone should do something,’ maybe that someone is you.” I got to be a part of the first cohort of Uncommon Communities, an economic and community development program facilitated by the Winthrop Rockefeller Institute in connection with Dr. Mark Peterson and Dr. Vaughn Grisham, professor emeritus at Ole Miss University, and this message was relayed to us at our first meeting. It really drove home that we are the ones making a difference and we can’t wait around for someone to step in and make the changes for us.
What do you admire most in others?
I really admire passionate people; people who have a desire to make a change and the fire within them to make it happen.
Can you share a significant professional development moment?
I was lucky enough to be able to go through Community Development Institute at UCA, and I highly recommend it to anyone who works in any realm of community development: education, government, economic development, chambers of commerce. I feel like it truly equipped me to serve Russellville, and now Arkansas, better.
What is something easy for you now that was difficult 6 months ago?
I somewhat jokingly say that I’m a recovering perfectionist. I hold myself to very high standards and follow rules meticulously, but I’ve made it a point to not be so hard on myself, lighten up, and step out of my comfort zone… I’m still not much of a rule-breaker though.
What are you most looking forward to in your new role?
I’m looking forward to getting to know and learning from each one of you and the people we meet along the way. Everyone has such different strengths and knowledge bases. I love to see how connected each different sector of our work is, and how we can work together for the betterment of Arkansas communities.
Is there anything else you want us to know?
I love to meet new people! Please come by my office to say hi; I’m always ready to talk about Razorback sports, baking, hockey, or travel!