Oregon Impact gets new executive director

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by: submitted photo Janelle Meredith

When outgoing Oregon Impact Executive Director Susan Lehr trains her replacement, she probably won't have to give her the customary tour of the area.

The new director, local business owner Janelle Meredith, knows it pretty well.

Meredith, who officially takes the reins at the Oregon City-based nonprofit June 1, owns Stargazer Baskets and Blooms in Milwaukie and graduated from Clackamas High School. She's also on the board of the North Clackamas Education Foundation, and has two sons who attended area schools. - Tony graduated from Milwaukie High School and Spencer graduated from Clackamas Middle College.

Oregon Impact is best known for its reenactments of crashes at local high schools during the prom season, but their goal is to educate and prevent against all kinds of impaired driving, including texting behind the wheel.

'Impaired driving is now a whole different world,' said Meredith, who noted that a texting can have the same impact on a teen's reaction time as drinking four beers.

Oregon Impact has ramped up its efforts to teach teens about the dangers of texting while driving, and is branching out into area middle school. Meredith hopes to help teens develop good habits before they get behind the wheel, making it a habit to toss the cell phone in the glove box before starting the car.

'Hopefully we'll prevent a lot of tragedy that way,' she said.

Still, the DUI crash reenactments are the biggest events on Oregon Impact's schedule. Each year, they select three high schools and surprise students with what looks like an outdoor assembly. But when the tarps are removed from the items in the middle of the stadium, they see some of their classmates in prom gear, covered in fake blood and slumped over their wrecked cars.

Before Meredith opened Stargazer Baskets in 2000, she spent 19 years working for a local cable company that continually changed hands (it's now Comcast). She worked in event planning and community outreach. While Meredith will devotes her time to Oregon impact, her son Spencer will take over the family business, so Stargazer will remain open. Meredith is already working with Lehr, and will assume the executive director role on June 1.

'Susan has done an outstanding job expanding awareness and education throughout Clackamas County for Oregon Impact; she will be missed by our board members as she has more than fulfilled our expectations,' said Angela Fox, chair of the Oregon Impact Board of Directors and publisher of the Clackamas Review and Oregon City News. 'Janelle brings a diversity of skills and qualifications that will lend her much success. She has built many business relationships in the county, which is very important to an organization like Oregon Impact. The board members and I are very pleased in having Janelle as our upcoming Executive Director and feel she will be successful in taking Oregon Impact in the same successful direction as Susan has accomplished.'

Lehr is leaving to become the new CEO of the North Clackamas County Chamber of Commerce, a role she'll assume July 1. Current Chamber CEO Wilda Parks is stepping down from that role, but will remain active as the chamber's vice president of external affairs.