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'You can't replace a legend'

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Lebanon Wilson County Chamber President Sue Vanatta and Chairman John Bryan cut the cake at Vanatta's surprise retirement party Thursday. SABRINA GARRETT / The Wilson Post

Lebanon-Wilson Chamber of Commerce Chairman of the Board John Bryan said that the search for a new President is going well - but, "You can't replace a legend."

The legend he is referring to is exiting President Sue Vanatta, who will officially retire on Wednesday, Dec. 31. She has held the position for the past 23 years.

The chamber skillfully surprised Vanatta with a come-and-go style party on Thursday. Bryan said he invited Vanatta to breakfast and delivered her to the Chamber at 9 a.m. where she was greeted by Chamber members and friends of the Chamber who stopped by to wish her well.

At noon Vanatta received special gifts, including a proclamation honoring her from State Rep. Mark Pody - as well as honors from both Lebanon City Mayor Philip Craighead and County Mayor Randall Hutto's office.

"When you retire I know that you will still be serving the community - you just won't be paid for it," joked Pody. "I thank you for your leadership."

Bryan explained that when the search process for the new president began, he reminded the committee that it would be a "daunting task to fill her shoes."

"We started out looking for somebody to replace Sue, and that person doesn't exist. You can't replace a legend, and Sue has grown up being our Chamber President. She molded the position into something unique," Bryan said.

Vanatta was serving on a chamber committee when she was appointed President. She said that she was asked to simply "fill in" and has filled in ever since.

Vanatta's service has included everything from coordinating events, such as A Taste of Wilson County and Halloween on the Square, to building relationships between businesses and recruiting businesses from outside communities.

After retirement, she will continue to serve the community as Wilson County District 23 Commissioner. Bryan reiterated that she would also stay involved in the Chamber.

"She is there if we need her to serve on a committee. She isn't going to turn her back on the Chamber because it is her chamber," he said.

"We have some fine, qualified candidates. We hope to have that position filled sometime in the near future."

Staff Writer Sabrina Garrett may be contacted at

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