The 20-Something CEO

Meet Kate Roche, 29, president and CEO of the Arlington Chamber of Commerce

NAME: Kate Roche

AGE: 29

LIVES IN: Arlington’s North Highlands neighborhood

PRESIDENT AND CEO: President and CEO of the Arlington Chamber of Commerce

RESUME Program associate (plus internship roles, including policy intern and meetings & member services intern) at Women in Government (2005-2007); member services manager and director of member services & development at the Arlington Chamber (2007-2013); vice president at the Arlington Chamber (2013-2014)

FIRST JOB: At Jocko’s, a pizza place in my hometown of Danville, Ill. I started at the cash register and moved on to be their youngest server.

ROLE MODEL: My mom, who passed in 2010. She raised my sister and me as a single parent. She was a big believer that we could do anything we wanted to do and she encouraged us to go out there and explore. She was really confident in our abilities and that gave us a really great foundation.

YOUTHFUL ASPIRATIONS: When I was 10, I knew I wanted to make a difference. For a long time I felt like it would be in politics or government. That’s what brought me out to the D.C. area, to go to George Washington University.

BREAKING THE MOLD: My high school guidance counselor was shocked when I told him the University of Illinois was my “safety” school. It was implied to me that if you’re smart in Illinois, that’s where you’re supposed to go. The place where I grew up was wonderful, but a lot of people don’t realize what other opportunities exist beyond there.

CHAMBER 101: Our mission is to support our business members, and to strengthen the economic environment for those who work, live and do business in Arlington. We do that primarily through networking, referrals, community engagement, advocacy and legislative support. We have 700 members, from large companies like Dominion Virginia Power and Boeing, to small businesses and sole proprietors, like the Law Offices of Barbara E. Nicastro. We have about 2,000 people who are actively involved with the chamber.

ON BEING A 20-SOMETHING CEO: Age is not a barrier. Arlington is a community that accepts leaders in all shapes, sizes, ages and demographics. I think my promotion to chamber president at 29 made a powerful statement about the future of the Arlington business community.

MILLENNIAL MATTERS: Past chamber president Rich Doud and I were very deliberate about not creating a young professionals program, which is something a lot of other chambers do. We feel it’s more valuable for young professionals to be treated as peers, rather than being isolated in a junior group. At one point, almost all of our community chairs were under the age of 35. We see a lot of value in connecting people of all ages.

ON MY TO-DO LIST: Ballston Common Mall. It’s a place that really needs to be fixed. The chamber partnered with the Ballston Business Improvement District, as well as the mall owner, Forest City, to produce an event this summer to showcase the redevelopment plans to the public. We’ll be supporting the architects through the site plan process as they design a mall that’s a better fit for the community. It will be a real game changer for Ballston.

IN PROGRESS: We’ve launched an initiative, ShopChamber, which encourages members to shop their fellow chamber members’ businesses, whether that means turning to a chamber member for professional services, or relocating a monthly staff meeting to a chamber-member restaurant. The philosophy is, as you’re choosing your vendors, you’re choosing those who support the community.

A DAY IN MY LIFE: There is no standard day, but I do start early. I’m typically at an event or meeting by 8 a.m. Today, I had an economic development commission meeting, followed by lunch with a county board member. Tonight I’ll attend a Leadership Arlington event at Marymount University. Every day is different and brings a lot of competing priorities.

HOW I STAY ON TOP OF IT ALL: No magic trick, though I’ve started to be deliberate about scheduling a little bit of office time that is meeting free, just to make sure I can catch up.

HOW I DEFINE SUCCESS: To me, being self-sufficient and autonomous is the first tier of success. Beyond that, it’s having a positive impact on others and the world around you.

ROOM FOR IMPROVEMENT: I’m very impatient. Not everything moves as quickly as I do.

DE FACTO ROLE: When you’re chamber president, you tend to be the go-to person within your social circle—as well as with your clients and vendors—if they need a restaurant recommendation or a plumber.

LITTLE-KNOWN FACT: My middle name is Dacey. No one knows how to spell it, or what I’m saying when I tell them (no, not “Daisy” and not “Stacey”). My mom found it in a baby book and liked it. I’ve never met anyone else with that name.

OFF THE CLOCK: I’m a big Washington Capitals fan, and John Carlson in particular. My boyfriend and I have season tickets.

HEALTHY HOBBY: For a long time, I didn’t understand running. I genuinely thought the only reasons to run were if you were running toward or away from something. But in 2011, I did the Couch-to-5K program and then ran my first 5K with two of my close friends. Since then, I’ve run a number of 5Ks and longer races, including two half-marathons.

LET’S DO LUNCH: Arlington has some amazing restaurants. Some of my favorite options are the flatbreads at Willow, the firecracker pizza at Fire Works and the white wine mussels at Mussel Bar. I wasn’t a mussel fan until I had those.

HIDDEN TALENT: I’m a Monopoly champion and won a tournament in high school. My sister still won’t play Monopoly with me because she says I get too competitive.

Categories: People
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