Photo by Eden Photography
Sylvia McDevitt’s first attempt at retirement 3 years ago didn’t work out. “I missed the people,” Sylvia said. Now the Membership Director at the Fauquier Chamber of Commerce, she is back in her element: meeting people, making connections, and helping local businesses.
Sylvia McDevitt thrives on relationships. Her family — her husband Jay, four children, 10 grandchildren — comes first, of course, but close behind are her friends and the people she has developed connections with through her career and active volunteer work.
Sylvia started her career with a decade of insurance sales, then moved to advertising sales and spent five years at the Chronicle of the Horse in Middleburg. Her longest run, of course, was at the Fauquier Times, where she really became immersed in the community. She was also a founding partner for 3 Thrifty Chicks, an event and catering company which operated for six years.
Advertising sales takes a special kind of person: the industry is fast paced, deadline driven, number driven, and competitive. Sylvia thrived. “I loved it,” she said. After 17 years, though, she felt it was time to retire. “I spent the summer with my grandchildren, doing a little bit of this, a little bit of that, going to the pool. But I realized that I missed people, the people I had come to know as friends and business connections I had met through the Chamber here in Fauquier.” She realized that, for her, it was too early for retirement.
Offered a job at the Fauquier Chamber of Commerce, Sylvia, who has always had a special place in her heart for the organization, eagerly accepted and now works full time as membership director. “I love it just as much as I loved advertising sales,” she said. “It’s so rewarding. I think the connections I’ve made through the Chamber are lifelong, and I’ve found many of my friends here. But loyalty to their businesses is also a factor. If I need a business service, I’m going to go to someone in the Chamber. And that’s how it is with most of our members, there’s a lot of loyalty.”
Volunteering has always been a big part of Sylvia’s life, and she has to be careful to maintain life balance. Past positions have been as a chairperson for the Salvation Army and a former president of the American Cancer Society when Fauquier had a chapter. Currently, she is President of the Piedmont Dispute Resolution Center, and is also forming a team for Fauquier Habitat for Humanity’s Women Build.
Sylvia loves spending time with her grandchildren, gardening, and entertaining. When work and volunteering impede the quality of those things, she knows she’s doing too much. “I’ve always liked to volunteer and sometimes I just have to figure out how to say ”no”. That’s not an easy thing for me to do because there’s value in everything that comes my way, and I want to take a part in it. But if I don’t have time for the important things in my life, I realize I’m probably pushing too hard.”
Sylvia and Jay have been married for 26 years, and raised their blended family of four children together at their home in Catlett. These four children and their families all live close by, which, Sylvia said, “is a blessing.” The ten grandchildren, who range in age from newborn to 18, are now a big focus in Sylvia’s life. “We’ve had so much fun growing this family,” she said.
During the spring and summer, Sylvia spends 12-14 hours a week in her gardens, which feature mostly flowers and herbs with some occasional vegetables thrown in. Having picked up her love of gardening from her aunt, Sylvia’s plans this summer are to pass along that love to her grandchildren. This might be challenging, considering the number of children and the age range, but Sylvia intends to persevere. She’s not sure the older boys, 13 and 16, will have much of an interest, but she has her sights set on the younger ones. Four of them are about the same age — eight years old — which will enable her to teach them as a group. “The three-year-old will be fun also, she’s likely to be enchanted by planting a seed and then seeing it sprout and grow,” she said.