Background & Bio
Born and raised in Oplin, Texas and a 1984 Clyde graduate, Darrin Black’s Big Country roots run deep. After high school, Black jumped straight into the plumbing business and joined the Abilene Fire Department a few years later. Serving the fire department three days a week, and plumbing on his days off, Black worked to gain his master plumber li- cense and in 1994 launched his own business: Black Plumbing.
Today, he leads a business of 65 employees, owns other businesses and volunteers for the Abilene business community as chairman of the Chamber of Commerce. Despite a long list of volunteer work – serving on more than seven nonprofit boards, an honorary commander at Dyess, an usher at Beltway Park Church – Black tries to keep his focus on his family and the community that he serves.
“It’s not my legacy; my legacy is my kids and my grandkids, my family,” Black said. “I didn’t do anything here, the whole Chamber did every- thing – our volunteers, our staff – I’m just the guy that gets to hold the gavel.”
Twenty-five years in the Abilene Fire Department taught him the importance of volunteer work.
“In the fire department, you were volun-told,” Black said. “It instilled in me the value of giving back to our community.”
Black devotes about 40 percent of his time during the week to Chamber of Commerce meetings. Because the chamber connects to so many other committees and partnerships in town – Abilene Convention and Visitors Bureau, the Abilene Cultural Affairs Council, the Military Af- fairs Committee, etc. – there’s no shortage of meetings to attend.
The Chamber influenced his own life in a big way by connecting him to his wife, Terri. They met at a Chamber event in November of 2015, when Terri was running a booth for the Abilene Sports Alliance. Another Chamber member had mentioned months before that Terri might be a good match for Black. The two have now been married for three years, and their marriage is just one more reason Black is thankful to be a part of the Chamber.
One major contribution he made to the Chamber during his time as chair, was a shifting of focus back to the “basics” of the Chamber’s mission.
“The basics is taking care of what is needed for our businesses, to make them better, stronger,” Black said. “There’s gotta be an added value to being a member of the Chamber. Going back to the basics, it’s imperative that we remain focused on our businesses now more than ever.”
That idea of getting back to the basics came to Black’s own life back in 2002, a turning-point year for him. It was a year of hardships in his person- al life and deaths in his family, and it was also the year he made the decision to drastically change his company. He fired every single one of his employees and hired a whole new staff of employees who believed in his vision for the company.
“I was looking for individuals that believe in our industry, our trade, our professionalism,” Black said. “I wanted to go back to 50 years ago – a lot of pride in the work, people were grateful for their job, they were grateful for the customer.”
Prioritizing that foundation is what Black believes made his business strong and his team trustworthy. He knows he can trust them to get things done even when he’s away from the office working on Chamber duties.
During his time in the fire department, working two jobs and being a single father, it was difficult for him to be there for his children’s sports and extracurricular activities. That’s something he doesn’t want for his employees, so he’s made work-life balance a priority and tried to make his employees feel like family.
Focus on the Future
One of the biggest projects for the Chamber for the last few years is the Downtown Initiative. It involves getting investors and business owners to invest in downtown Abilene – centered around a convention hotel project. This project, along with the new Abilene Youth Sports Authority facility and renovations at the Taylor County Expo Center, are expected to bring more business to the Abilene area.
It’s been a long time coming, Black said, and 2020 was supposed to be the year that would set the stage for it all.
And then the coronavirus pandemic happened, cancelling events and slowing investment efforts. It may have put a pause to some of the progress, but Black said the structure is in place for the full project to still happen and bring huge changes coming to Abilene over the next ten years.
“The one thing that didn’t change is Abilene,” Black said. “We didn’t lose leaders, we didn’t lose the game- players, we didn’t lose our people. We lost a little bit of time, but as soon as we recover, we will persevere.”
By Haley Laurence