The Key West Chamber of Commerce will be hiring a new director – just over a year since they were last hired.

Scott Atwell was hired as Executive Vice President of the Chamber in October 2019 to succeed Virginia Panico, who retired after more than 30 years in the corporate organization. Atwell announced his resignation on Friday, January 1st, in an email to the board of directors.

“I want to record now and tell everyone that despite rumors, Virginia Panico is not coming back as executive vice president of the Key West Chamber of Commerce,” President Suzanne Moore told Keys Weekly Moore on Tuesday, January 5, the board of directors of the chamber said will meet on Wednesday January 6th to discuss and decide a way forward.

“We will be revisiting some of the candidates we spotted looking for Virginia’s replacements last year,” said Moore. “I want to make sure we hire the right person who fits our community and what we want to achieve.”

After being selected from more than 180 applicants in 2019, Atwell resigned after some members of the board of directors of the chamber disagreed publicly and internally in late 2020.

Atwell made his decision officially in an email to the board of directors of the chamber dated January 1st. He said he was “grateful for the exceptional team” referring to the Chamber Office staff, adding that the board “should be rightly proud of their contributions”. Among the posts mentioned, Atwell cited membership growth during a pandemic, the launch of a new chamber website, and the end of the fiscal year in the black despite the challenges of 2020.

“The turning of the calendar is a great time to break new ground in life, and a year ago today I did just that by returning home as the Chamber’s CEO,” Atwell wrote. “In 2021 I will turn to the next chapter of my professional life. I know that we have successfully helped the Chamber through a difficult year.”

Atwell has accepted a position as communications and contact manager for the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary, sanctuary officials said Monday, January 4th

“I was approached about this job, and it really intrigued me as a national organization with such important local responsibilities,” Atwell told Keys Weekly on Tuesday, January 5th. “I hope whoever contributes them continues the public relations work we initiated.” Atwell said. “You just can’t continue the closed mentality of yesterday’s chamber.”

Atwell said he was happy to leave on his own terms and looked forward to the new opportunity with the sanctuary.

The National Marine Sanctuary Foundation announced its hiring on Monday January 4th in a press release saying Atwell would “build and strengthen public relations and engagement in the Florida Keys while raising national and international awareness of the.” Sharpen National Marine Protected Area “.

A 1979 graduate of Key West High School, Atwell received a degree in communications from the University of Miami and worked on television in Tallahassee before holding various communications positions at Florida State University and as President and CEO of the FSU Alumni Association.

“Scott’s dedication to the Florida Keys community makes him an asset to the Foundation to involve Florida Keys businesses and residents in the administration and management of this unique ecosystem,” said Kris Sarri, president and CEO of the National Marine Sanctuary Foundation.

Atwell remembered his childhood in the Keys, where his grandfather was a charter fisherman as early as the 1930s.

“The water that falls into the sanctuary is the heart and soul of the entire Florida Keys community,” he said. “I have the privilege to be part of the team that works to protect this resource for generations today and tomorrow.”

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