Coming home to Lawton
LAWTON – Krista Ratliff is returning to Lawton where she hopes her children will enjoy the same experiences she did growing up. Ratliff was hired about a month ago as the new president and chief executive officer for the Lawton-Fort Sill Chamber of Commerce.
“I was born and raised here, had great experiences as a child here and when the opportunity came we knew this is where we wanted to raise our children,” she said.
Ratliff’s husband is a former military lawyer and was recently hired as Lawton’s city attorney.
“I’ve served other communities where we’ve lived, from Fort Bliss in El Paso to Washington, D.C. and everywhere in between,” Ratliff said.
Ratliff started as the chamber CEO on Sept. 1. Previously, she has worked as the director of a government contracting system in Maryland, and vice president of a health care system.
“Lawton has a lot of great things you can’t get anywhere else,” she said. “It has a unique culture” combining the military, higher education, small and large businesses, the arts and a rural setting in much of Comanche County.
In her CEO post, Ratliff wants to refocus the chamber’s support of small businesses and develop relationships that create a greater partnership with owners and managers.
“Because of COVID, many of our businesses are being hit hard. They’re having to be innovative and others are right on the edge,” she said.
As a result, Ratliff, her staff and the chamber’s board of directors are pushing old and new programs to assist local businesses. Among those programs are Breakfast Before Business and Business After Hours which are meet-and-greets that promote networking among business owners and the community. Ratliff also has plans for new webinars and Zoom meetings that address relevant topics to the current business landscape.
“For instance, one of the topics might be masks. We want to help businesses learn how to deal with people who have to wear masks inside their store. We want to offer continuous training that will help our membership excel,” the new chamber president said.
Increasing chamber membership will also be on Ratliff’s agenda. Prior to the COVID pandemic, there were more than 900 chamber members. Now, that figure is below 800. The chamber also was forced to cancel monthly luncheons and its annual fundraising gala. Instead of the monthly in-person luncheons, the chamber has scheduled speakers for virtual luncheons.
Since returning to Lawton, Ratliff has become a key member of a Joint Education Task Force that includes the Lawton school superintendent and Mayor Stan Booker.
“All across Oklahoma, there are gaps in education,” said Ratliff. “We want to make sure we are all on the same page here in Lawton. Everyone needs a voice at the table because we all want to do what’s right.”
Eventually, the goal of the task force is to develop a long-range education plan for Lawton schools. The task force will conduct its first meeting soon, Ratliff said.
Ratliff earned her undergraduate degree from Midwestern State University and earned a master’s degree in human resources from the University of Oklahoma.