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MEEKER I Shondah Otwell’s job description won’t change much, except to remove the word “interim” from her title.
Otwell, who has been filling in as temporary executive director of the Meeker Chamber of Commerce, was given the position permanently last week.
“We are thrilled to have Shondah on board,” Margie Joy, chamber president, said in an e-mail to members Oct. 29. “Her background of finance, operations and fundraising, with an understanding of our rural way of life, is the perfect mix.”
Otwell replaces David Cole, who left in August, when he and the chamber parted ways.
“Many (chamber members) have had the chance to meet Shondah over the past couple of months, while she has been filling in as the interim executive director,” Joy said. “During that time (she) has put the 2010 budget in place, including applying for grants and assisting with the other many chamber activities.”
During the interim period, Otwell has been working with the current chamber staff: Ellene Meece, membership director, and Dee Cox, visitor and tourism director, who will continue in their current positions.
“Serving in the interim director position actually inspired my interest for pursuing the full-time position,” Otwell said. “After performing the job for a few months, I had a much better feel for what was needed and I knew that I could complement the existing team very well. We, Ellene, Dee and I, work together and balance each others’ strengths and weaknesses.”
Before taking on the interim director role, Otwell was already involved with the chamber as its bookkeeper.
“I have worked for the chamber for a little over a year as its bookkeeper, and have seen up close the wonderful things that are happening at the chamber,” Otwell said. “When the executive director position became available, I offered to fill in until they could find a permanent replacement, hoping that I could help keep the positive momentum that was in place going. After working as interim, I found that I really enjoyed the job and felt that I could be a real asset to the organization.”
Asked what excited her most about the job, Otwell said, “Our mission is to help our members not only survive, but to thrive in these tough economic times. The opportunity to help so many businesses, large and small, in a variety of ways appeals to me greatly. I love to work on tough issues, and come up with solutions that make a difference to the business owners and the community as a whole.”
Otwell said she is joining a good team.
“The chamber currently has a very strong staff already in place,” she said. “Ellene Meece is a wonderful membership director, and is doing great things with that part of the program. Dee Cox, our visitor and tourism director, is very knowledgeable about the area and interacts with the visitors so well. The only weakness in the chamber that I saw was in the actual business side of the operations, and that is where my strengths lie. I have a BS degree in finance, have owned and operated my own small business for the past 10 years, and have worked as a business consultant with companies ranging in size from two employees to 300-plus employees. I have been involved in several budget processes, as well as organized many fundraising events, large and small. I felt that these strengths would lend a solid foundation to our already successful program.”
Otwell and her family moved to Meeker in 2008.
“The small-town atmosphere, rural way of life and abundance of outdoor recreation opportunities available in Meeker really appealed to our family,” Otwell said. “In April of 2008, my husband, Randall, began working at White River Electric as their substation technician. We then relocated our family to Meeker in June of 2008 and have truly enjoyed our time here. Our children, Krystal and Colter, both attend Meeker High School.”
During these tough economic times, Otwell said the chamber can play an important role.
“I believe the chamber is a support organization during all economic climates. We are currently working on building partnerships with the Small Business Development Center to bring resources that they offer closer to home, so that our business members do not have to travel so far to learn about loan programs, grant opportunities, and the other business resources that the SBDC offers. We also have developed a wonderful business networking program with our monthly after hours gatherings, and continue to offer monthly education for our members through our Business Essential series. We will continue to look at new avenues of support for our members to continue to maintain and grow a strong business community in Meeker.”