Retired Forest Grove teacher will be consensus builder for hybrid group

Former Forest Grove High School government teacher and activities director Howard "Butch" Sullivan will come out of retirement to lead the newly-minted Forest Grove/Cornelius Chamber of Commerce as its executive director.

The Chamber board selected Sullivan, 56, from among three other applicants. He will start his new job May 1, replacing interim director Ray Giansante, who stepped in after former executive director Teri Koerner was terminated last November amid questions of financial mismanagement.

"Our committee felt very strongly that Howard is someone who understands the culture of Forest Grove," said Giansante, who had served as Chamber director from 1997 to 2001. "He has longtime relationships in town — he knows a lot of people."

The last five months have represented "a wonderful opportunity for me," Giansante added. "It's been an energizing experience. I hope I've done something good for the city in trying to move the Chamber forward."

Sullivan, who taught in Forest Grove schools for 33 years, said he had been at a social function last fall when the news about Koerner's abrupt departure surfaced.

"Someone said, 'You could do that job,'" Sullivan recalled. "That got me to thinking … my skill set could be of some use."

He threw his hat in the ring after the first of the year, hoping to parlay his experience as an activities director at FGHS into support for the Chamber.

"I think it's really similar to what I did before I retired" in June 2012, said Sullivan. "I was promoting the activities of the school and Forest Grove High itself.

"Now I'll be promoting the City of Forest Grove and the businesses of the city."

After he walks in the door next month, Sullivan said he'll begin the next chapter in his life — and the Chamber's — by "getting out and about, meeting people and listening."

His greatest asset, he said, is encouraging people to come together.

"I'm a consensus guy," Sullivan said. "I understand Forest Grove. I'm going in with my eyes wide open."

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