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New director, new direction

Brandi Hereford is named new executive director of Chamber of Commerce

by: KEVIN GABOURY/CENTRAL OREGONIAN - Prineville native Brandi Hereford is the Chamber's selection for executive director.

After interviewing a number of well-qualified candidates, the Prineville-Crook County Chamber of Commerce has named its new executive director, selecting Prineville native Brandi Hereford.
   Hereford has worked as administrator of the Chamber since June of 2007.
   When the executive director position opened up around two months ago, she jumped at the opportunity to make her mark in the community.
   "It's very exciting. Being here nearly a year now, I've seen a lot and really worked closely with our membership, so I feel like I have some really good insight on what our members would like the Chamber to turn into and what the community thinks about the Chamber," Hereford said. "I'm really excited to get the chance to put a lot of my goals and ideas into play."
   According to Chamber Board President Jay Porter, some 35 applicants from states as far away as Nevada applied, and Chamber directors were able to narrow the list down to three who were called back for an interview. He feels the board's final selection was the perfect one.
   "She's very enthusiastic and she's got a lot of roots here in town," he said. "She knows the Chamber and the issues. She also has a lot of skills with people and that really pushed her to the top."
   According to Porter, of the candidates, only one had actual chamber experience, working at the staff lever, and the other had significant experience in nonprofits. A large number of the 35 applicants worked in real estate or mortgage and were simply looking for a new job, he said.
   Hereford earned a bachelor's degree from Oregon State University, where she majored in general agriculture. She worked for more than five years as the event and exhibit coordinator with the Benton County Fairgrounds and was the membership account executive for the Oregon Festival & Events Association.
   Her list of goals for the chamber is lengthy and all-encompassing, and each fits into her long-term plan of continually growing the chamber and getting more members involved.
   Her first act of office will be to look at the benefits offered to chamber members.
   "We need to really regroup and refocus them and make sure they're easy to understand," she said. "We have a lot of members who see this two-page list, but they don't fully understand what the benefits are, so I really think getting the benefits reorganized and getting our membership to understand and take advantage of them [is important]."
   Another objective she mentioned is to give members who have not been involved more options.
   "We have many members who don't get involved at all. I see a check in the mail and that's it," she said. "I really want to find out what they're interested in. A lot of people say they'd like more networking opportunities. [I'd like to] go out and ask them what they'd like to do and what they have time to do."
   She would also like to make the chamber a stronger community entity.
   "That can be done through co-sponsorship of events, helping non-profits, going to more committee and club meetings, and just really getting our name out there and getting the community to understand what we do," she said. "And in turn, that will benefit our members because it will be getting their name out there even more."
   In five years, Hereford sees the chamber becoming a much more energetic organization and even becoming a household name, synonymous with successful networking between businesses.
   "I think one thing we're really lacking is energy," she said. "Having our members desire to get involved, having the community wanting to be a member - I really see that being much more prevalent. that's what I'd like to become: relatively a household name that everybody knows about."
   Jim Lane, owner of Prineville Men's Wear and a long-time chamber member, has known Hereford since she was "just a baby."
   "Brandi's a nice young lady," he said. "I think she could do a very good job. She could be open to listen and have some suggestions and she'd be easy to work with."
   Mark Severson of the Mark Severson agency of American Family Insurance in Prineville feels confident that the chamber made the right decision.
   "I'm confident that the board made a good decision," he said. "I'm confident they went through a successful procedure and picked the most qualified person."
   Carolyn Severance of the Associates Real Estate and Debbie Smith, co-owner of ABC Fence Company, who commented in a previous article, could not be reached by press deadline.
   To those who feel she may be somewhat young for the job, the 25-year-old has a response: "I think that in my time here, I've proven to a lot of them that age means nothing," she said.
   "I've had many of the business owners who have been in our community for decades come to me and say they love my energy and they love that I've come and asked them questions; that I want to know what they want out of their chamber. They're the ones who pay the dues. I think in a lot of ways, I've been able to show people that there's a lot more to me than just age."
   Hereford starts the job on March 1, but will be transitioning into the new role immediately.