Putegnat heads San Benito Chamber of Commerce

Anna Putegnat probably could have worked anywhere, but the lure of family and home brought her back to Brownsville — and now, San Benito.

Anna Putegnat probably could have worked anywhere, but the lure of family and home brought her back to Brownsville — and now, San Benito.

The Brownsville native and resident started her new position as executive director of the San Benito Chamber of Commerce on April 24. It is an office of one. As chamber chief, Putegnat also heads the Convention & Visitors Bureau.

Among the city’s strengths are a strong sense of community and a rich culture and history, she said.

“It’s a community that is loyal and has a lot of pride in its schools and in its town,” Putegnat said. “The history is so rich.”

Home to the Texas Conjunto Music Hall of Fame and Museum, San Benito played an important role in the preservation of Tejano music and is the birthplace of Freddy Fender, she said.

“I don’t think many people know that there is a historic downtown area that has so much potential,” Putegnat said. “Also, it’s the Resaca City. They have a ton of resacas that bring in all the different wildlife and birding, which is huge down here.”

She conceded that the once-thriving downtown district “does need a lot of work.”

“You can see what it used to be, and if we could rehabilitate that it would be incredible,” Putegnat said.

The Los Fresnos High School graduate attended the University of Texas at Brownsville on a volleyball scholarship before graduating from West Chester University in Pennsylvania. She worked in pharmaceutical sales, then in business development research for a wireless company in the Philadelphia area.

One year she took a trip home to attend the funeral of the father of a friend. Seeing her friend’s family all together got her thinking.

“Your priorities change as you get a little older, and I realized that I wanted to be near my family down here,” Putegnat said. “My parents weren’t going to be around forever and they’re the most amazing people that I know, and I thought, ‘Why not move back?’”

Once again home, she has worked as the major gift officer for the Red Cross and started a blog, FYI Valley, to highlight happenings around the Rio Grande Valley, something she still pursues on top of her chamber job.

“I’m trying to do that as a little side gig just because of the fact that I love the Valley so much,” Putegnat said.

People who say there’s nothing to do here are wrong: There’s always something interesting going on between South Padre Island and McAllen, she said.

“That’s why FYI Valley is the place to go to be in the know,” Putegnat said. “It’s your one-stop shop.”

Another reason to come back home was that it’s the best place to raise a family, she said. In fact, Putegnat just became engaged to “the man of her dreams.”

“It’s been an amazing month,” she said.

Putegnat said her career in sales and marketing, as well as her involvement with Leadership Browns­ville, the Brownsville Sunrise Rotary Club and the Moody Clinic board of directors, have prepared her well for the chamber position, as have her networking skills and professional connections.

“I think that my passion for the Valley and supporting local businesses was at first a hobby, but it easily transitioned into a career,” she said. “I would just say that my goal as the director of the chamber is to be the connector for all the businesses. We want to make sure that when you’re a chamber member you’re not just a part of a group, but you’re part of a successful professional network.”

Anyone interested in volunteer opportunities is welcome to contact the chamber, Putegnat said. And although she is the “staff of one,” a supportive board makes the job much easier, Putegnat said, singling out chairwoman Toni Crane for praise.

“I would say that Toni’s passion for the San Benito community is infectious,” she said. “She works hard. She volunteers for everything.”