Grace Mattox

The Altavista Area Chamber of Commerce has hired an Altavista Native as its new executive director.

Grace Mattox, a former teacher, designer, restaurateur and photographer, took over as the new director last month.

“I enjoy a challenge,” Mattox said in an interview about her new role. “And I like change. I’ve made a whole career of educating myself.”

Mattox most recently taught photography and yearbook at Nelson County High School, before which she worked in civil design for a handful of Lynchburg firms, and then as an architectural designer. Before that she ran the restaurant Sugar and Spice in downtown Altavista for several years, and worked at the Portrait Place for 15 years.

Not one to sit still, Mattox also teaches as an adjunct professor at Lynchburg College and holds a Master’s degree in education, and Bachelor’s degrees in graphic design and studio art with a photography concentration.

When asked how Altavista has changed since she grew up in the area, Mattox said the town is no longer built around one or two companies who serve as its main employers.

“We’ve started to diversify a little bit,” Mattox said.

When asked what ultimately tipped the scales in favor of her working for the Chamber, Mattox said she already had a relationship with the community and with some board members, and felt she would be able to make a positive difference in town.

“I think we had some common goals that made it very appealing,” Mattox said about working with the board.

Chamber Co-Chair Susan Hammack said she thinks Mattox’s background will be helpful to the Chamber.

“I think as an educator she is constantly in a state of learning, and also wanting to teach and train,” Hammack said.

Fellow Co-Chair Romonda Davis said board members worked together on a hiring committee to screen applicants for the director position, seeking outside expertise and consulting a former director. Davis said the Chamber wanted someone with knowledge about the area for the role.

“She fit that mold perfectly,” Davis said about hiring Mattox.

Mattox said she is happy to be back in Altavista. She said she is particularly excited about future  efforts to renovate the Vista Theater on Main Street and working with Avoca Museum. She said she wants to use her expertise in art and education, and connect local students with better technology.

Mattox also said she hopes to be able to host more events as the pandemic becomes less severe, and to see Altavista’s retail sector grow.

“I’m looking forward to the opportunities here,” Mattox said.

Mattox said she enjoyed meeting Chamber members during the last Coffee and Conversations event.

Chamber members will be able to meet Mattox in-person or via Zoom during the next Coffee and Conversations event at the Chamber’s headquarters in the train station. The event will be held on May 27.

Mattox is also planning to attend the Chamber’s TGIF event on May 28. Current plans are for the event to take place from 5:30 p.m. to 7 p.m. There will be live music, food and drinks. Four TGIF events are scheduled to take place this Summer on the last Friday in May, June, July and August.