Email Christina Meek
Email Jenny Fish
Newsroom HomeBlogsStoriesSoundtrack ProjectNewsroom ArchivesChamber Home Page

MAAR CEO Shares the Chamber Vision for Selling Memphis

As CEO of the Memphis Area Association of Realtors, or MAAR, Melanie Blakeney also immerses herself in leadership roles with the Greater Memphis Chamber. It’s only natural, she says. They share a vision -- selling Memphis.
“The Chamber's goals align strongly with MAAR's goals. In simple terms, that means doing what it takes to strengthen our community. I have been very impressed with the Chamber's plan to increase the number of certified minority- and women-owned businesses,” said Blakeney, a member of the Chairman’s Circle. “The Chamber and MAAR have tremendous passion for not only selling Memphis to outsiders, but for selling Memphis to those of us who live here.”
MAAR is the largest local trade association in the Mid-South. It is perhaps best known for its multiple listing service, or MLS, which details properties listed for sale. MAAR also provides tools and services to its approximately 3,400 members to ensure professional and successful real estate transactions. As CEO, Blakeney oversees its staff and reports to its Board of Directors.
Shortly after moving to Memphis 17 years ago, Blakeney worked closely with Dexter Muller at the Chamber on commercial real estate issues. MAAR has been a long-time advocate for laws that support economic development and real estate issues like fair housing. Muller, who remains an advisor to the Chamber on economic development issues, said he was a fan of Blakeney’s before she rose to the CEO spot at MAAR five years ago. “We worked on taxation issues, roads and policies that affect bringing people into the city,” Muller said. “She’s a capable administrator. Balanced. A diplomatic person.”
Kelly Rayne, who is the senior vice president of community development at the Chamber, called Blakeney “strategic and thoughtful. She’s a great emissary for the city. We’re both working hard and fight for the same things. It’s nice to have her on our team.”
Blakeney grew up in Louisiana. As a student at the University of Oklahoma in Norman, “I was fascinated by journalism and the idea of being a reporter,” she said. But as a communications intern for the Norman, Oklahoma Chamber of Commerce, she learned the importance of a membership organization’s dependence on a fully-committed staff, dedicated volunteers and clearly defined goals. “I discovered a stronger passion for using my communications skills to effect change and growth in non-profit organizations,” she said.
After college, she went to work at the Norman Chamber as director of marketing and learned how a board of directors, volunteers and staff interact to create programs for members. “It is the job of leadership to listen to membership, not the job of membership to listen to leadership,” someone told her. “I try to stay true to that mantra each day.”
Blakeney was at the Lafayette Board of Realtors in Louisiana when her husband, Jeff, was offered work in Memphis. She’d been at Lafayette 10 years, but “I thought a move to a new city could offer me something fresh as well,” she said. She contacted MAAR, filled in for a key employee who was out due to illness, and never left. “Jeff and I consider Memphis home,” Blakeney said. “The city and the people welcomed us from the moment we arrived.”
She’s been CEO for five years. “My passion is making sure MAAR serves the community well, but I don’t do it alone,” Blakeney said. “The MAAR Board of Directors, hundreds of volunteers and an incredibly talented staff keep our organization moving forward.”
Thomas Murphree, who served as MAAR president in 2014, said humility is only one of Blakeney’s attributes. She was staff liaison when he was the multiple-listing service committee chair. “She is one of the most capable people I’ve ever met,” Murphree said. “She has an extremely good overview of all the working parts, and she’s good at making things happen.”
Under Murphree’s leadership, MAAR implemented a “Speak Well of Memphis” sales campaign, Blakeney said, designed to promote positive aspects of the city. Blakeney believes the spirit of the campaign is sweeping the city and helping the Chamber and MAAR sell Memphis. The idea of believing in our city and being passionate about it is sprouting up organically from a lot of different groups of people who share this passion, Blakeney said. “There’s so much pride. Memphians have fallen in love with Memphis.”

Story by: Toni Lepeska
Photo by: Troy Glasgow

Posted: 3/9/2017 7:30:00 AM | with 0 comments
Filed under: ChairmansCircle, MemphisCrossroads

Blog post currently doesn't have any comments.
Leave comment Subscribe

Is seven > than seven? (true/false)

The latest news from the Greater Memphis Chamber. For more information, contact Director of Communications Christina Meek at (901) 543-3504 ( or Communications Specialist Jenny C. Fish at (901) 543-3558 (