Joanne K. Murray is a Canton native who never has lived anywhere else—and has no desire to do so.
The Lehman High School graduate who attended Kent State University at Stark began her career as an administrative assistant to Canton Mayor Stanley Cmich in 1968, a job she held for 15 years before entering the commercial real estate business for six years.
During those years, she started to volunteer for the Pro Football Hall of Fame Enshrinement Festival, serving as the chair of the Fashion Show Luncheon and Appreciation Party committees.
“I spent 15 years as a Pro Football Hall of Fame Enshrinement Festival volunteer prior to coming on staff, and it was the best experience,” she said. “I felt like I was making an important contribution to my community, and at the same time, having fun, meeting new people and establishing lasting friendships.”
In 1991, she joined the staff of the Canton Regional Chamber of Commerce as marketing coordinator for its Enshrinement Festival department. She became the department’s assistant director in 1996 and its director in 2000.
At that time, the festival, which began as a long-weekend event in 1963, had evolved into nearly two dozen events spread over 11 days.
In 2015, Murray was promoted to vice president of community events and sponsorships at the Chamber, with responsibility for eight staff members who collaborate with a team of nearly 5,000 community volunteers to plan and stage not only the Enshrinement Festival activities but also Chamber business and community events.
Since her promotion, Murray has overseen some major changes to the Enshrinement Festival, including significant schedule changes and the introduction of Johnson Controls as a festival partner.
Murray believes now is one of the most energizing and exciting times of the festival’s history.
“It’s a time when everyone in the community can feel connected and proud that our community is shining in the national spotlight,” she said.
“If I’m looking for a good burger or bar food, I head to Tugboat’s Pub at Meadowlake Golf Club. For more refined dining, I enjoy Basil Asian Bistro downtown.”
Most admired local CEO or business owner:
“Those I admire most have been the ones who’ve mentored me throughout my career, starting with my first boss, the late Stanley Cmich, who was mayor of our great city from 1964 to 1983. And, of course, most recently my current boss, Denny Saunier, president and CEO of the Canton Regional Chamber of Commerce. Both of these men have taught me valuable life lessons, including how to handle both success and adversity.”
Canton Palace Theatre. “I still remember seeing “South Pacific” there as a kid and being in total awe of this historic theater.”
Most memorable spot:
“I have especially fond memories of many awesome times spent at the Canton Memorial Field House watching my brothers and their teammates playing in high school basketball games—especially on All-City nights. It was pure magic and created memories that are vivid even now.”
Local coffee shop:
“Carpe Diem (Coffee Shop) is right across the street from the Chamber, so it’s convenient and offers great choices—and I’ve known and respected the owners for a very long time.”
Local spot to grab a drink:
“Any place where the bartender is so oblivious that he asks to check my ID! Seriously, I do enjoy sitting on the patio at Gervasi (Vineyard) and sharing a pitcher of sangria with friends.”
Place to see live music:
Downtown Canton Blues Fest. “It’s energizing to see the downtown so vibrant and filled with happy people enjoying incredible music and camaraderie.”
En-RICH-ment Drumline. “They are a real treat to watch, and I love the opportunity it gives to our underserved urban youth.”
Most unique or unusual product:
“They might not qualify as unique or unusual, but I sure do love Mid’s pasta sauces and Heggy’s dark chocolates—not together of course!”
Place to shop locally:
“Anywhere there is a sale or good bargain to be found. And, one of my specific favorites is Julz (by Alan Rodriguez), which is dangerous since it’s right next door to the Chamber!”