Chamber hires new executive director

The Sequim-Dungeness Valley Chamber of Commerce is whole again.

After a one-hour meet and greet and a 30-minute executive session Thursday evening, July 31, the board of directors unanimously agreed to hire Vickie Maples, of Sequim, as the organization's executive director. The decision took place nearly seven months after the dismissal of Lee Lawrence, former Citizen of the Year, from the position Jan. 18.

"I am thrilled to be working with the Sequim-Dungeness Valley Chamber of Commerce," Maples said. "I plan to start meeting with the board, implementing a business plan and working on immediate needs and meeting the membership as soon as possible."

Mark Ozias, manager of the Sequim Open Aire Market and vice-chairman of the Sequim Planning Commission, also was being considered for the job. Another Sequim resident, Carolyn Cooper, was among the top three finalists but voluntarily stepped out of the running prior to the meet and greet.

The decision to hire Maples came after a 13-person panel, comprised of president Bill Littlejohn and other board members, listened to speeches by the final two candidates and asked questions about their intentions.

"How will you get the chamber more involved in the school district?" asked Stephen Rosales, a father of two young girls and an active volunteer at the Boys & Girls Club Carroll C. Kendall unit.

Ozias said he would be interested in exploring the possibility of internships. Maples said she would consolidate task forces involving the city, chamber and school district to match education with business.

"How would you describe the relationship between the executive director and the board of directors?" inquired Deborah Rambo Sinn, a Sequim business owner.

Ozias said the board provides guidance and direction for the executive director. Maples said the director implements policies the board develops and acts as a liaison to the community.

"Some members are not very active," Littlejohn noted. "How can we reach out to them and help them get more bang for their buck?"

Maples suggested luring chamber members with food. "Feed them and they will come," she said with a laugh, sharing an experience where she helped organize a raffle complete with champagne and strawberries in an effort to raise awareness about an issue.

After individually answering half a dozen questions, Ozias and Maples went home for the evening, awaiting a telephone call to hear if he or she got the job. The board of directors met privately before making the decision public.

"They are both very capable people who we could work with easily," Littlejohn said. "Vickie has a certain edge and is coming in with a lot of experience. Mark is very personable. Both have very good references and both have a history in Sequim."

"We feel that with her experience she will have an excellent relationship with the city, the economic development council, new members and old members," Littlejohn continued about Maples. "I think this is a good decision."

Maples was born and raised in California but spent summers as a child visiting her grandparents in Sequim. Her mother was born in Sequim, grew up on a dairy farm located at the corner of Kitchen-Dick and Woodcock roads and graduated from Sequim High School. Her mother, Myrna Maples, originally a Cameron, now lives in California with her husband, Jim Maples. "It's through their efforts that I'm where I am today," Maples credited her parents for making it possible to visit the peninsula regularly as a youngster.

Maples relocated to Sequim from California in February. She lives less than 100 feet away from the house her great-grandparents once lived in, enjoying the company of a black Lab mix and a Chihuahua/Pekinese mix dog.

"I moved here with the goal of getting employment," Maples said. "When I saw the chamber announcement I thought, 'That is great. That is for me.'"

Maple's background includes business administration, municipal consulting and serving on the Porterville, Calif., Chamber of Commerce board of directors. She is a California State University graduate and describes herself as "a supervisor, a team leader and the lone 'worker-bee.'"

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