For well over a decade, Nancy Hafford has been a familiar face in and around Towson. As the executive director of the Towson Chamber of Commerce, she is frequently out and about, popping into restaurants, hanging out with the crowd at a chamber-sponsored outdoor concert or festival, or chatting with vendors at the local farmers’ market.
Hafford has been the chamber’s executive director for over a decade; before being named to the top spot, she was involved with the organization for six years, and served one term as its president. Under her leadership the chamber has thrived, growing its member ranks, and increasing the number of events it organizes. Monthly meetings that used to attract 25 members now routinely draw over 100.
Prior to joining the chamber, she managed a network of Gold’s Gym locations, with responsibility for over 20,000 members. That management experience has served Hafford well at the chamber, where she oversees a small staff, hundreds of volunteers and more than 80 outdoor events a year, including farmers’ markets, holiday celebrations and Friday night concerts. The largest event, the annual Towsontown Spring Festival, debuted over 50 years ago and continues to grow in popularity, attracting 250,000 people to the downtown area over the course of a single weekend. (This year’s Spring Festival will be held May 6 & 7.)
The events organized by the chamber take up four or five hours of Hafford’s average day; much of the rest of her time in—and out—of the office she spends interacting with local business and property owners. She also keeps busy in an advisory capacity, sitting on a variety of boards and advisory panels that influence local tourism, business and governmental decisions. In 2016, in recognition of her many contributions to the community, she was honored as Baltimore County’s “Woman of the Year.”
Hafford credits her success to growing up in a family that stressed the value of hard work and integrity. She is also quick to recognize the unwavering support she receives from those around her – her staff, board members, volunteers, the County, and her family. “All these bright lights around me make me shine,” she says with pride.
Hafford is 60, but has the energy of someone much younger. “I walk everywhere,” she says. She also works out for about two hours every day. “That’s what gives me the ability to do what I do,” she says, laughing that the exercise keeps her even-keeled enough to deal with all sorts of stressful situations on the job.
Hafford lifts weights, swims, cycles and does yoga, but running is her biggest passion. Over the years, she has run 20 marathons and three ultramarathons. In 2016, she ran or walked over 1,975 miles. Her goal for this year is 2,017.
Last fall, Hafford became even more of a Towson fixture, when she and her husband sold their four-bedroom home on 2.5 acres in the Loch Raven Reservoir area, where they had lived for 30 years, and moved to a condo in The Palisades. The trendy high-rise apartment building is located just a hop and a skip from her office and many of the Towson businesses she frequents. She absolutely loves it.
“I decluttered my whole life, and it is wonderful,” she says. “I had kids in that house for years— there were four or five people there all the time. It’s nice. I’m enjoying this next phase.”
Hafford and her husband have four children, plus grandchildren and great-grandchildren. (Her husband has an older daughter from a previous marriage.) Despite the move, she says she still has plenty of opportunities to spend time with her family, most of whom live in the area and visit once or twice a week.
Hosting her family—and others—gives Hafford the chance to spend time in the kitchen cooking; she describes the room as her “peaceful spot.” “Nine out of 10 days, I cook dinner, even if I’m not at home,” she says. “And the more the merrier at our dinner table.”
In the years since she took the helm at the chamber, Hafford has watched Towson evolve from a “9-to-5 town” to a 24/7 community where people live, work and play. “I’m very happy to see we’re becoming more of an urban environment where everyone is welcome. The university has played a big part in that. I just love it.”
Hafford has no plans of slowing down any time soon. There are businesses to advocate for, dinners to host, panels to serve on, festivals to organize. And she still has to run over 1,000 more miles before the end of the year. Time’s ticking.
“I’m going to slow down when I’m ready to slow down,” she says. “Age is just a number.”