Interim Chamber President Finds Home in Union County

Interim Chamber of Commerce president Thomas Skibinski stands in front of the Chamber's office, currently housed in the historic Maynardville State Bank building.

You might say that Thomas Skibinski has experienced both ends of the spectrum. Born in Queens, New York, to parents who immigrated to the U.S. from Poland, Skibinski moved to Maynardville in adulthood seeking elbow room and a little peace and quiet.

Now, he’s serving as interim president of the Union County Chamber of Commerce, and the Chamber’s nominating board has just given him the nod to drop the “interim” from his title. The Chamber’s board of directors will vote on making it formal Sept. 19.

Skibinski attended City University of New York in Manhattan, studying business management. He moved to Maynardville with his ex-wife in November 2000. Low real estate prices and the possibility of having a house with a real yard brought him this way. Ten years ago he married his wife Laura. His two daughters from the previous marriage, Mikalea and Amelia, attend Union County schools.

He worked in tech support in Knoxville, commuting back and forth from Maynardville, for many years, then decided to open his own business: East Tennessee Computer Repair.

“I was tired of getting laid off,” said Skibinski. “Literally I worked for four companies that were shut down. One place gave everyone 15 minutes notice.”

His business provides tech support to many local businesses from Maynardville to Alcoa, not just fixing computers but building websites, too. Technology is a lifelong passion for Skibinski.

“It doesn’t take me long to pick things up. When I was a teenager, my dad would bring technology home and not know how to use it, and I would tell him how. I like the constant learning. You can’t say, ‘I’ve read this textbook and now I’m set for life.’ I like the constant changes in the field. It’s always exciting to see what’s coming down the pike.”

A few years back, Skibinski decided to join the Chamber to help him network closer to home.

“Before, most of my business was in Knoxville, so I came to Maynardville really just to sleep,” he said. “It got me to meet all kinds of people.”

Soon, he became a board member and later the treasurer. When former Chamber president Leslie Corum stepped down, Skibinski volunteered to become interim president. Why? Because he wanted to help the community.

“I like seeing the almost immediate fruits of my labors to help the community,” said Skibinski. “That reach goes beyond helping other businesses. Things like Thunder in the Park and the Union County Heritage Festival started in the Chamber. All those things bring good things to the community.”

And that comes down to focusing on the things that make Union County unique.

“In a broad sense, I don’t want Union County to be another Halls or another Knoxville,” he said. “I want Union County to be the best version of itself. We have a rich musical heritage, the lake, and plenty of other things I’m sure I’ve not come across that I would like other people to know. I’m not looking to explode the population, but I just want things to be better, to help the residents of Union County and help our tax base without having to raise taxes. There’s plenty of things we can do.”

Skibinski has already been hard at work meeting Chamber members, attending local events and planning Chamber activities with the board. There’s a Chamber-sponsored job fair coming up noon to 4 p.m. Friday, Sept. 29, at Union County High School, and that’s just for starters.

Couple that with a “good working relationship” with the city of Maynardville and Union County government. Skibinski hopes to keep those relationships going strong.

“My end is not to be divisive by any stretch of the imagination, but I would like to work with them and see what their plans are,” he said. “I’m probably one of the hardest-working people on God’s green Earth. With everything I have going on in my life, I’m not stressed about any of it. I know how to prioritize things, and I’m looking forward to putting those efforts towards helping our community.”

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