The Madras-Jefferson County Chamber of Commerce didn't have to look far for a new director. After interviewing four people for the position, the chamber has named Holli Van Wert to replace her husband Parrish as the new executive director.
"Holli brings to this organization experience that the board looked for in addressing our membership needs and wants, along with taking community event management to a higher level," noted Joe Krenowicz, chamber president.
Assisting in the selection process was the five-member interview board including Madras City Councilor Melanie Widmer, County Commission Chairman Walt Ponsford, chamber board member Ray Potter, Mountain View Hospital District Administrator Jay Henry, and fire marshal Mark Carman with Jefferson County Fire District No. 1.
The Chamber Board of Directors was expected to confirm Van Wert for the position Tuesday.
"I'm confident we have the right person for our immediate needs and the opportunities we have in the very near future," said Krenowicz.
Van Wert, 39, is excited about the new position. "This gives me the ability to stay hands-on with the events and build new ones, and gain more knowledge on economic development," she said.
A small business owner, Van Wert has owned and operated La Tas Fine Coffees -- located next to JJ's Auto Parts -- for nearly 10 years.
For the past seven years, she has been involved with all chamber-sponsored events. This year, she was co-coordinator of the Collage of Culture with her husband. For the past two years, she was the sponsor chairman, and also served as the chairman for arts and crafts and entertainment.
Since 2004, she has coordinated the Fourth of July Party in the Park, sponsored by the chamber, and has always worked behind the scenes on other chamber projects.
"To me, this will be a gentle transition for everyone, including myself," she said. "I know all the players, and if I don't know the answer, I know who to contact for the answer. Parrish will be an available resource."
In April, Parrish Van Wert, who had served as chamber director for nearly seven years, accepted the position of community development coordinator for the Deer Ridge Correctional Institution -- under construction in Madras.
After Van Wert's departure, a crew of volunteers, including Holli Van Wert, stepped in to keep the chamber running smoothly.
"The past three months of chamber activities saw no blip in performance, due to our very capable office staff and volunteers," said Krenowicz.
Assuming the chamber director position should be easy for Van Wert, who estimates that she has spent 50 to 60 hours per week volunteering for the chamber since February.
Besides the time spent on chamber-sponsored events, Van Wert also wrote three grant applications this year for chamber projects. All three were awarded to the chamber, for a total of $4,500.
Van Wert graduated from Madras High School in 1985, and just completed training for festival and event management at the University of Oregon, for which she will receive a certificate in August. She has two children, Stephanie, 17, and Richard, 13.
"I love activating people and building relationships," said Van Wert, who is looking forward to helping guide the community's development. "Right now, we have everything in the world to be excited about."