Chamber prez ‘adopted’ town...and vice versa
“Rockdale adopted me, so I adopted Rockdale right back,” Doss laughed. “This will always be my ‘home town.’ It’s a wonderful place and I love this town and its people.”
Doss is leaving her position as president of the Rockdale Chamber of Commerce at the end of this month after 11 years on the job.
A reception in her honor is set for 4 to 6 p.m. Tuesday (July 26) at the Rockdale Workforce Center, located in the One- Stop Center, Main at Bell.
‘READY MADE’—Denice Hertless was born in North Carolina, “lived all over the Eastern seaboard as my father was transfer red f rom ba se to base” and was going to high school at Austin Reagan when a cousin introduced her to James Doss Jr. of Rockdale.
She acquired not only a husband, but a community. “I moved to Rockdale and found out the Dosses were related to everybody,” she laughed. “So I had a ready-made extended family.”
“Believe it or not, I grew up very shy,” she said. “ That didn’t last long here.”
Her first job was working in the kitchen of Richards Memorial Hospital. She moved on to become church secretary at St. John’s United Methodist, then directed the local senior citizens center for seven years.
CRAMPED—“I don’t know how many people remember this, but when I started at the senior citizens center it was in a tiny little house on Belton Street,” she said. “Not only that, but we shared it with the MHMR office.”
“I drive by there today and wonder how we ever took care of 50 people in half that little place,” she said.
The center later moved to an Ackerman Street location, then built its present headquarters on Green Street.
SPECIAL ED—She took some time off to have her last two children and earn a bachelor’s degree at Texas A&M.
“One of the courses I took in college was special education, never imagining I’d ever use that knowledge,” she said.
“Then when I started working again it was at the MARC Center (working with mentally challenged persons),” she said.
She was at MA RC for t wo years. “ I absolutely loved it. You couldn’t have a bad day being around those wonderful people.”
‘CUSHION’—Doss went on to become director of the Rockdale ISD’s Communit y Education program.
“It was the right time for that program,” she recalled. “It was a huge under taking. We had thousands of people enrolled. It seemed like everyone wanted to take courses. We offered everything from crochet to sports leagues.”
With that kind of experience she landed the Chamber president’s job in 2000 and rode a roller coaster for the next 11 years as the town’s economic fortunes waxed and waned.
“There were lots of good times and some very bad ones,” she said. “ Of course I’m talk ing about Alcoa shutting down.”
Doss was a big part of the community’s efforts to soften the crushing economic blow of more than 1,000 lost jobs.
“Of course it was devastating but we had sort of a cushion to help us get through it,” she said. “After the smelter closed we had a couple of years construction left on Sandow 5 and that really helped t he tow n’s economic climate.”
“I believe it’s only just now that we’re seeing the full impact of t he A lc oa closi ng,” Dos s said.
CHANGES—Much has changed but much has remained the same in the past 11 years.
“One of the big changes has been the creation of the Chamber Ambassador program, which replaced the old Chamber Alliance,” Doss said.
“ That group has done a tremendous amount of work to promote Rockdale,” she said.
“Of course, the creation of the Municipal Development District, and funding it with sales tax money, has given Rockdale a big opportunity,” she said.
Doss doesn’t hesitate to name the constants in her 11 years at the helm.
“It’s the people I’ve worked with,” she said. “All the boards I’ve had have been wonderful and supportive.”
“In fact that’s the hardest part about leaving this job, missing the people I’ve worked with,” Doss said.
SCHOOL JOB— But Doss emphasizes she’s not going away.
She’s mov i ng back to t he Rockdale ISD to oversee the district’s 21st Century Learning Program.
“My job will be teaching students new skills to get accustomed to t he world of work before they get out there in it,” she said.
“And I’m sure I will be contacting many in the business community asking them to come and share their experiences with the students,” she said.
“In fact, I’m probably going to be out there (in the business community) in this job about as much as I’ve been the last 11 years.”
BOTTOM LINE—Doss was eager to give a “ bottom line” assessment of her experiences over the past 11 years.
“ This is a great town with a lot of wonderful people in it,” she said. “Plus, those people will get out and work to improve it. We’re not per fect and we always need to work on getting better.”
“ G enera l ly I’ve fou nd t he people who want to work are those who stay positive while those who complain are just people who stay home and look out the window,” Doss said.