by: JEFF MCDONALD  - Don and Rhonda Judson announced plans to step down from the Woodburn Area Chamber of Commerce at the end of the year. Six years into his term as director of the Woodburn Area Chamber of Commerce, Don Judson decided it was time to step down.

Judson, 65, announced the decision Wednesday following a board of directors meeting. He and his wife Rhonda Judson, who is office manager at the chamber, will retire by the end of the year, he said.

“We think the chamber now, after six years, is finally in a good place operationally and financially,” Don Judson said. “It’s time to be chasing golf balls and grandkids. It’s time to retire.”

Judson is a former bank president and CEO of Woodburn-based Mid-Valley Bank, which sold to West Coast Bank in 2006. West Coast Bank is now Columbia State Bank.

A year into his then-retirement, the chamber called and asked him and Rhonda to return. The chamber had a $30,000 bank loan due, only $5,000 in the bank and $15,000 in past due bills, he said.

“I turned to Rhonda and said, they’re going to want to hire you back as office manager and they’re going to want me back as executive director,” he said. “Two hours later, we got the call.”

The chamber billed members early for 2008 dues, renegotiated with the bank and deferred eight months of salary. Rhonda Judson worked for free, Don Judson said.

Other reductions over the past five years included reduced rent by moving out of the downtown area to the chamber’s current Young Street office, he said.

“We didn’t do anything spectacular, but by the middle of this year, we felt the chamber was where it needed to be,” he said.

Under Judson, the chamber also changed the way it got reimbursed from the city for tourism promotion. He created Woodburn Area Tourism in 2008, which collected $48,000 annually from the city’s transient occupancy tax revenues collected on overnight lodging properties.

Previously, the chamber had been reimbursed by the city after its promotion efforts were made, he said.

Dale Nelson, who serves as the chamber’s board treasurer, commended Judson for fixing the chamber’s financial health.

“The chamber started out with a deficit when he took over a few years ago,” Nelson said. “He’s leaving things in good hands.”

Another area to watch for the chamber is whether it will continue to operate Fiesta Mexicana.

The chamber took over operations of Fiesta on a three-year contract in 2010.

The chamber board will decide at its September board meeting if it wants to continue running the event, Don Judson said.

“I’m very encouraged because when we took this over three years ago, there was doubt the city wanted it to continue,” he said. “We know how important the Fiesta is for promoting Woodburn. We have a lot of sponsors in place. We have the right people in place.”

For Rhonda Judson, stepping down from the chamber means she can give more time to her other hobbies, including golf, crafts and cake decorating, she said. She and Don also plan to travel to Virginia and visit her mother, who is 92.

“We’re not saying goodbye,” she said. “We’re still going to be around. We would like to become (chamber) ambassadors and stay involved in community activities. But we’d also like to spend more time with our four grandkids.”

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