Twenty years ago this month, I was lucky enough to embark on a career which enabled me to use my marketing and management degree. The greater skill set that I brought to the chamber was my years of volunteer service. Those opportunities, acquaintances and friendships made along the way, helped me get the perfect role for me.
Two decades later and as our Chamber is about to embark on its 50th year, I can tell you it has been an extremely rewarding ride. It really started several years before when my husband and partners formed an automotive business which joined the Chamber; upon the urging of good friends, the Neumayers. I represented the business in the Chamber and shortly thereafter, participated in Leadership West Orange. Soon after graduation from this Chamber program, I learned that the president/CEO of the Chamber had resigned from her position. I took a leap of faith and applied for the job.
When I interviewed for the job, I thought being selected to lead the chamber, which at that time was 30 years old, was a long shot. First, I hadn’t had a full-time job outside of the home in 12 years. In addition, I was the only female in a group of eight candidates and my name wasn’t the easiest to pronounce. Yet, they still picked me!
The first year or so was extremely challenging. However, due to the great community and collaboration amongst some of the best leaders, once again, the Chamber began to thrive. Collaboration is the key to the Chamber’s success! The chamber brings people and organizations together to tackle the challenges that our community faces. We don’t take credit for any single improvement project that has benefited all the communities of West Orange. Yet, we take pride knowing that the strength of our membership has enabled the Chamber to bring leaders together to find solutions.
The widening and beautification of Highway 50, the continual improvement of the water quality of Lake Apopka, supporting our schools with the passage of the half penny sales tax schools and partnering with Winter Garden Heritage Foundation to develop a tourist brochure highlighting the historic and natural assets are just a few of our wins. Yet, shepherding our members through the past two years with the pandemic has been the most important work we have done to date.
I am proud of everything the Chamber has accomplished these past 20 years. The Chamber has been able to accomplish so much because of our wide range of membership. I know there will be more to come in the next 50 years of the West Orange Chamber. Yet, for me personally, the friendships that I have made beginning with Leadership West Orange and through the years gives me the greatest joy and some of the best memories. I look forward to many more and if Kristi Gomen, the gracious publisher, and owner of Lifestyle, who I also call a dear friend, will allow me, I will continue to share the chamber’s journey for years to come.