The business of public policy is important, yet weighty, complex and frustrating. It requires an art for compromise balanced by the steady influences of conviction and caring.
The work is not for everyone but it does seem to suit Ashli Watts quite well.
A 2000 graduate of Central Hardin High School, Watts recently was named the new president and chief executive officer of the Kentucky Chamber of Commerce, where she will be charged with helping formulate and lead the business community’s policy guidelines. Her unanimous selection by the board of directors largely was based on seven years of success as the chamber’s vice president of public affairs.
The internal promotion was far from automatic. The chamber launched a nationwide search for a replacement for the retiring Dave Adkisson, who spent 15 years in the role. The process took eight months to complete.
It’s obvious that Watts’ selection is based on merit, not convenience.
“She’s earned the respect of legislators and business leaders across the state and I think she represents the next generation of the Kentucky Chamber,” Adkisson said.
Her resume reflects the education and experience necessary to succeed in the job.
Watts earned a degree in political science and history from Campbellsville University where she served as student body president and has a masters in public policy and administration from the University of Louisville. She is completing the U.S. Chamber’s Institute for Organizational Management and was part of the chamber leadership team honored in 2017 as State Chamber of the year.
Before being hired by the chamber, she worked in public policy roles with for Kentucky Bar Association and the Legislative Research Commission.
Watts’ selection also defines her as a trailblazer. At 37, she’s the youngest person ever selected as chamber president and she’s the first woman in that role.
“I think that’s a nice reflection of our workforce in Kentucky today,” Watts said in an interview. “Every step forward means something and to have a working mother and a woman leading the state business organization is significant.”
Her selection also is a nice reflection on her hometown. She’s made her local friends and family proud.