A new face will soon be visible at the Prineville-Crook County Chamber of Commerce as the new executive director took the helm on Monday.
>Holli VanWert, the former director of the Madras Chamber of Commerce, gets unanimous approval
The chamber has chosen Holli VanWert for the vacant position, which has been filled by interim director Joe Becker for the past few months. Former Executive Director Bill Gowen resigned earlier this fall.
“We are extremely grateful to both of them for their service and leadership,” said Chamber Board President Ed Yoder of Gowen and Becker.
VanWert, who resides in Culver, served as the executive director for the Madras-Jefferson County Chamber of Commerce for five-and-a-half years. As the new executive director for Crook County, VanWert sees herself as a personal advocate for local business owners and looks forward to encouraging and supporting these leaders in the community. She believes that if existing business owners are thriving and well-supported, it will attract new business to Prineville. She also believes that Crook County has a lot to offer in terms of recreation.
“I’ve played in Prineville and the Ochocos all my life, and we have what so many are dreaming of when it comes to recreation and outdoor entertainment,” commented VanWert last week of the Prineville area.
She understands the demands and challenges of running a small business, and looks forward to equipping area leaders with the tools and encouragement they need to succeed.
“As a Madras High School graduate and a 30-year Central Oregonian, I spent the last 15 years involved with the Chamber of Commerce. I started volunteering at events and completed that time with five-and-a-half years as Executive Director of the Madras Chamber of Commerce,” noted VanWert. “It takes honesty, courage, and perseverance to lead in such a dynamic time as we are now. I was raised to keep my eyes wide open, to look to the future, and create opportunity where others might not see it.
“I know what the Chamber is capable of doing, and what I want to know, is what the business community wants from the Chamber. I would like input. What do they want? What would they like to see? That is what is important to me, is to get their input and see if we can build their Chamber around their wants.”
City of Prineville Manager Steve Forrester was on the hiring committee for the new executive director for the Prineville-Crook County Chamber of Commerce. He said there were five finalists for the position, and the hiring committee and the board of directors declined on divulging the names of those candidates.
“We had five very good, top-notch candidates, all of which could have done the job well,” commented Forrester. “It boiled down to a candidate with a good background in previous chamber management and a local knowledge of the Central Oregon region.”
VanWert noted in her news release that her style of leadership was not for everyone, and this is where the Board of the Madras-Jefferson County Chamber of Commerce decided they should part company. When asked about this very thing from the hiring committee, Forrester said they were comfortable with her answer.
“She learned from that experience, and I think that is a great character quality in a leader,” explained Forrester.
Yoder said that it also wasn’t a concern to the board. He said it was difficult to have so many highly-qualified candidates, and it made it a hard decision since any one of them could have done a good job. He said it came down to who was absolutely the most qualified.
“She was absolutely the unanimous choice — while there were five exceptionally-qualified candidates, she was the unanimous choice of the hiring committee,” noted Prineville-Crook?County?Chamber if Commerce board member Christa Papke.