A Frankfort resident has been named president and CEO of the state's largest business association.
Following an eight-month national search, Ashli R. Watts was tapped to replace Dave Adkisson, who is retiring after 15 years, as head of the Kentucky Chamber of Commerce. She will assume the organization's top position Nov. 1.
Watts, 37, currently serves as senior vice president of public affairs for the chamber, where she has led the organization’s successful advocacy efforts on behalf of initiatives ranging from workers’ compensation reform to right-to-work legislation to felony records expungement that helps people return to the workforce.
She becomes the first woman to serve as the Chamber's president and CEO.
Watts, a native of Elizabethtown, holds a bachelor’s degree in political science and history from Campbellsville University and a master’s degree in public policy and administration from the University of Louisville. Prior to joining the Chamber in 2012, she worked at the Kentucky Bar Association and the Legislative Research Commission.
“It is an honor to have been selected as the Chamber’s president and CEO and to have the opportunity to continue the progress the Chamber has made for employers and citizens across the state,” Watts said. “As a lifelong Kentuckian, I look forward to working with the Chamber board, staff and members to continue the aggressive and bold advocacy as the united voice of Kentucky’s business community.”
Watts was a member of the Chamber’s leadership team when the organization was named the National State Chamber of the Year in 2017. She is active in the national Council of State Chambers and will soon graduate from the U.S. Chamber’s Institute for Organizational Management. She was awarded the Algernon Sydney Sullivan Award by Campbellsville University in May, when she was commencement speaker, and is a board member of Prevent Child Abuse Kentucky. She and her husband, Ryan, have two children.
“Ashli is an exceptional and talented leader,” Adkisson said. “I’ve observed her work for seven years, and I know the great respect she has earned among business leaders and legislators. Ashli will take the state’s leading business association to new heights, and Kentucky will be better for it.”