Early Chamber of Commerce President Rick Phelps announced Kandice Harris, a Brownwood High School graduate, will be the organization’s newest executive director.

According to a statement circulated Thursday morning to Early chamber members, Harris will take office in early January and in the mean time relocate to the area from her home in Houston.

“It Is with excitement that I inform you that after an extensive research/interview process and amazing work of the hiring committee, led by Denise Hudson, the board of directors has hired a new membership director Kandice Harris, a Brownwood High School graduate, will be moving from the Houston area to fill the position,” said Phelps in the statement. “Kandice has a passion for progress and working with the community. Kandice said she is excited about returning to her roots and working for the members. Kandice will officially begin work in early January. We will be scheduling a come-and-go reception, and once we have that date set, you will be informed. I would like to encourage each of you to join us as we welcome Kandice back to our community. I believe each of you will enjoy working with Kandice to further promote your business.”

Harris replaces Domonique Stephens, who served as interim director since the departure of previous director Shannan Burch. Burch resigned in August, citing health concerns and spending more time with her family as reason for her departure, ending a tenure that began in April. Burch replaced Shelly Taft, who resigned in January to take a teaching position with Bangs ISD.

“I’m just glad to have an amazing board of directors and ambassador club to back me,” Stephens said. “It was definitely a team effort. I cannot do this alone and I am very grateful and thankful to all of them for their help, support and patience.”

With Early experiencing significant economic growth in 2018, with negotiations ongoing to bring in additional businesses, Stephens feels it’s the right time to pass the reigns to a more permanent candidate. During Stephens’ tenure as interim director she oversaw vender's row at the recently rebranded Early Texas Showcase (formerly Early Pioneer Days) and named Comanche County Medical Center as its newest member – the second major Comanche-based business to join the chamber this year.

“With us being a smaller chamber, our reach needs to go further out than just Early city limits,” Stephens said. “These members, a lot of them, have reached out to us because they want to be a member of our chamber. We feel it’s not necessary about the number of members we have, but quality of communication and help we give our members. We want to make sure it doesn’t matter where you are. You don’t necessarily have to be in Brown County. If you want to be a member, then we want to have you and we will do the best we can to make sure your investment is well made.”