Cookeville’s Most Influential People – Amy New
Amy New’s path toward her current roles as CEO and President of the Putnam County Chamber of Commerce has been a winding one.
Born and raised on a farm in Monterey, Tennessee, Amy developed a deep appreciation for her local community and a desire to see it thrive at an early age. And, despite a successful career in Nashville which included four years as the first-ever Assistant Commissioner for Rural Development under now University of Tennessee President Randy Boyd and Governor Bill Haslam and a leadership role with Vanderbilt Medical Center (both before the age of 35), the pull to return home and make a substantial impact on the local level was strong.
She stated, “After the tornadoes, Jake (Amy’s husband) and I found ourselves being drawn back to the community where we fell in love. We both recognized a community with strong leadership, volunteerism, and family values.” Amy continued, “I applied for the Chamber of Commerce a few weeks after the tornadoes. The timing of everything felt providential to us both.”
During her time with Commissioner Boyd and Governor Haslam, Amy led teams on initiatives such as industrial development, broadband expansion, restructuring job tax credit, and revitalizing historic Main Streets across all 95 counties. Most notably, she oversaw the Memphis Regional Megasite, Blue Oval City, engineered to serve as the most efficient, cutting-edge campus in Ford Motor Company’s history.
At Vanderbilt, she helped create the Office of Government and Community Affairs. This stint also allowed her to refine skills and develop a keen understanding of healthcare and the many ways organizations can positively impact their surrounding communities.
She credits part of her development to the leadership she encountered during these stops and to the faith those with influence had in her at such a young age.
“Randy and Governor Haslam believed in me more than I believed in myself. They saw me in my element meeting with mayors and within communities. I grew up watching my grandparents (State Senators Tommy and Charlotte Burks) and mom (former Putnam County Mayor Kim Blaylock) do the same.” She continued, “I’ve spent my life focused on leaving things better than I find them. My mom always says, ‘Amy you never see things as they are, you see them as they could be.’ I’ve always tried to look for the highest potential in every city and person, and I’ve carried that outlook with me to the Putnam County Chamber of Commerce.”
While most in the community see Amy’s outward successes, many are unaware of the suffering she has faced along the way.
Losing both her young niece Katie Beth and grandfather Tommy to tragedy, it would have been understandable for Amy to choose a private life, away from the scrutiny, stress, and heartache leadership offers.
Instead, she followed her mother and grandparents into the world of relationship-first public service.
Amy credits her husband and former Tennessee Tech University standout baseball player Jake with his support as they uprooted life in Nashville and came home to rejoin the Upper Cumberland.
“Jake is amazing. If there is anything I’m adamant about being included in this article it’s that I want to celebrate him. I would never have been able to accomplish what I have without Jake being the man and dad he is.” She beamed, “He has always, going back to when we met in college, been my biggest cheerleader. And for not growing up here, he loves Cookeville, TN as much as anyone I know.”
Out of a shared commitment to “leaving things better than they find them,” Amy and Jake partnered with TTU to create a scholarship, helping athletes manage the hefty fees that accumulate while their athletic careers unfold.
Reflecting on this, Amy concluded our interview by saying, “We are always looking for ways to give back. We started a scholarship to help pay for out-of-state athletes. Jake was a star at TTU and when we were married he had so much debt as a result. We want to live our lives giving back so that others can thrive. I’ve been taught, and truly believe, that you will never go poor by giving and improving the lives of those around you.”
– by Andrew Buckner, photos by Cris Stroud