A chief advocate and promoter for the city of Hernando, in particular its business community, has announced she will be leaving her post next week to apply her passion to help youngsters and families dealing with cancer.
Jesse Dement, who has been with the Hernando Main Street Chamber of Commerce the last four years and its Executive Director the last two years, informed the membership Thursday she is leaving her position as of Friday, March 22.
Dement, a Hernando native, announced in an email that she will become an Event Specialist for ALSAC-St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis.
“I don’t know all of the specifics yet but the gist I have gotten at least is I will be planning events on the St. Jude campus for patients and their families,” Dement said. “I am going to be able to interact one-on-one with the families and really help events on the campus and coordinate them. I’m really doing my passion that I’ve learned here at the Chamber doing events and everything like that and I’ll be able to take that and grow with St. Jude and ALSAC.”
Dement said she looks forward to interacting and helping children and families of the St. Jude patients at the world-renown facility. While the commute to work becomes a little longer from her less-than-five minute venture from her home each day to the West Commerce Street office, Dement said her passion for her hometown will never leave. It was the love for her community she was able to exhibit in her time at the Chamber, as she said, “my first real job outside of college.”
“I grew up in Hernando, graduated from Hernando High School and went off to college, came back and was given an opportunity here to be Member Services Coordinator at the Chamber,” Dement said. “It was a great opportunity for me to have my passion already for Hernando and to be able to learn more about my town, local businesses and learning how to grow.”
Dement said the skills for her new role at St. Jude were honed during the time she spent with the Hernando business organization.
“I was Member Services Coordinator here for two years and really learned the ropes, learning about businesses and event planning, and learned how to recruit businesses to Hernando,” she said. “I was then given the opportunity in 2017 to become Executive Director, which I’ve been for the last two years. It has again helped further my experiences and really learn how to help businesses thrive here in Hernando and continue my passion for our local economy.”
The Chamber Board of Directors was informed about Dement’s decision about a week ago and are in the process of seeking a new leader for the organization. Its current Member Services Coordinator, Aven Brower, will become the new contact in the interim.
Most Chambers seek to promote a theme, “Buy Local,” or “Shop Local,” and in the DeSoto County seat, Dement said residents desire to live that out.
“I really learned that our community, Hernando specifically, is very passionate about Hernando,” she said. “In Hernando, citizens, business owners and residents are all wanting to support local business. That really helps our community thrive, when people are keeping their tax dollars here. I think that is something that really sets us apart. Our residents don’t want to have to travel to another town to get something when they can get it here in Hernando.”
One item Dement will look back on with pride is the growth in recent years of the Sunset on the Square concert series held each Thursday night during the month of June. The concerts are held on the lawn of the DeSoto County Courthouse in Hernando.
“Sunset on the Square has grown exponentially since June 2017 when I took over as director,” Dement noted. “We reached a record-breaking crowd on one of the Thursdays, we’ve branded that series the last few years and have really worked hard with First Tennessee Bank to help it grow.”
But Dement added a new event this past year was unique, as it helped to connect fine dining and farmers, while also contributing to enhance appearances. It was called “Farm to Table.”
“That’s where we were able to highlight our local chefs and bring our local farmers together for one extraordinary dinner,” Dement explained. “We sold tickets for the event and people were able to come and try entrees from a different chef and different restaurants, experience something that was all locally grown. The proceeds from the Farm-to-Table event benefited our Facade grant program.”
The Facade program is a matching grant for a Hernando business that wants to do anything to improve the front of their business. The Chamber then provides matching funds up to a certain amount.
Dement noted the first grant of its type was recently awarded to City Hall Cheesecake on Commerce Street.
“This has been a very humbling position,” Dement said of her work with the Chamber. “It’s given me the opportunity to learn more about Hernando itself, but more so, learn how to support our local businesses and help them thrive while helping engage our community.”
Bob Bakken is Staff Writer for the DeSoto Times-Tribune.