Chelle Krantz has taken over as the executive director of the Philomath Area Chamber of Commerce. (Photo by Brad Fuqua/Philomath News)

The Philomath Area Chamber of Commerce’s new executive director has been on the job for just over six weeks now with local resident Chelle Krantz settling into the position. She replaced Lisa Watkins, who stepped away this summer to spend more time with the family business and grandchildren.

Krantz, originally from Spokane, Washington, became familiar with the Philomath area seven years ago when her husband, Jarrett, took a job with Stokes Construction Co. They lived in Blodgett but ended up moving back to Spokane to take care of personal matters.

“The ultimate goal was to someday move back here and we just thought it was going to be when we were older,” Krantz said during an interview earlier this week.

The desire to return became a reality 2-1/2 years ago when the real estate market in Spokane improved to the point that they could sell their home combined with her husband being able to return to employment with Stokes.

“Being a part of the community is very important to me,” Krantz said when asked why she decided to apply for the chamber job. “We’re here, we’re trying to establish permanent roots and I love people, I love contributing. That was kind of what lured me in — just all the community interaction that this position has.”

The chamber had an internal announcement Aug. 31 that Krantz had been hired for the position with her first day on the job following Sept. 6. Krantz beat out a good-sized pool of applicants that had been narrowed down to three finalists.

“We had three really good applicants with Chelle being one of them and then we had two others — one from the Lebanon area and one that was from Burnt Woods,” Philomath chamber board president Alyssa Lewis said. “All three were really good, really strong applicants but with Chelle’s previous involvement with Philomath Community Services, it just made her stand out above the rest of them.”

Krantz worked for Philomath Community Services for a little longer than a year and a half — starting out as a part-time bookkeeper and later moving into a management position.

“It was a good segue into what I’m doing now,” she said. “I was introduced to the nonprofit world and PCS is amazing, they do amazing things for our community. But I needed something a little bit more and this just presented itself at the right time.”

Lewis mentioned Krantz’s connection to the community as a major reason behind the hire.

“She was already really ingrained in the community and knows a lot of the individuals that work with a lot of the nonprofits and the businesses in the area,” Lewis said. “She lives in Philomath, she has a son that goes to the elementary school, and honestly, she was a really natural choice for us to pick and she’s been doing a great job.”

As she gets into the job, Krantz shifts her focus between members and the community at large.

“Growing the chamber, getting more business involvement with events,” she said. “The last couple of years, they’ve done a really great job but just kind of expanding on that, refining some things. Just being involved in the community is the biggest part of it.”

The chamber, which has 120 members, will see changes in the next few months based on how its board election turns out in November. There are four candidates trying for the two positions, one of which is currently held by Lewis, who has served in the board president position for a dozen years.

The new board will be installed in January and have its annual retreat, where decisions for the coming year are made. Lewis will no longer be involved but said there are a few ideas on the table for possible networking opportunities and other events.

“Based on past conversations we’ve had, we really want to be able to provide more to our members — lunch-and-learn opportunities, more networking,” Lewis said. “We’ve tried to implement a business after hours (event) and I think that’s going to be more of a focus this coming year to really try and get businesses to participate in that.”

Lewis said an important part of the process is having that “boots-on-the-ground” person in the organization to be able to “go to our businesses, find out what their needs are and be that really strong representative that we need for the chamber and for our community.”

As for community events such as Sip and Stroll, Trunk or Treat and the Christmas tree lighting, Lewis said there are currently not any plans to add to the lineup.

“That could change at the January retreat if the board decides to implement a new event of some kind so stay tuned for that,” Lewis said. “But we will continue with our greeters, our luncheons and then like I said, we’d like to start getting more individuals to sign up and want to be a part of the business after hours.”

Krantz works out of a home office with the chamber no longer renting space. The organization recently partnered with Philomath Museum as a location for its Visitor Center.

Brad Fuqua has covered the Philomath area since 2014 as the editor of the now-closed Philomath Express and currently as publisher/editor of the Philomath News. He has worked as a professional journalist since 1988 at daily and weekly newspapers in Nebraska, Kansas, North Dakota, Arizona, Montana and Oregon.