Apr. 7—For the past three decades, Joan Ware has been the first face people see when they conduct business in the Golden Isles.
She is the front office manager for the Golden Isles Chamber of Commerce, Golden Isles Economic Development Authority and the Golden Isles Convention & Visitors Bureau. She has greeted governors, senators, Congress members and business leaders from across the world when they come to town for business.
When former Chamber director Woody Woodside and several others hired her as a receptionist 30 years ago, Ware said she didn't think she would still be doing virtually the same job, with a different job title and more responsibilities.
Ware's job performance has not gone unrecognized. She has just been awarded the 30-year Service Award from the Georgia Association of Chamber of Commerce Executives.
Ralph Staffins III, president and CEO of the Golden Isles Chamber of Commerce, describes her as a "hard-working, detail- oriented team player."
"I call her the director of the first impression," he said. "She's a huge asset to our team. She has so much knowledge and history."
Ware was the only person recognized with the 30-year award during the organization's staff development conference.
"I want to thank Ralph Staffins and GACC for the recognition," she said. "I've met so many good people, made so many friends."
Her role as the first person to greet visitors to the Golden Isles is a job Ware said she takes seriously.
"First impressions are very important," she said. "I could be having a bad day, but I never let it show."
Ware remembers the early days on the job when the answering machine was a cassette tape player, and she had to learn how to operate a computer. Technology has changed, but the responsibility of making the good first impression remains Ware's job. And she knows she's been on the job a long time by a question she hears more and more often.
"People ask are you still there?" she said. "One day I'll know."