Chamber under new direction

Posted: Friday, August 01, 2003

Although she's only been on the job as executive director of the Soldotna Chamber of Commerce for a couple weeks, Keren Kelley said she believes she's found her dream job.

"It's the best job I've ever had," Kelley said Wednesday following the chamber's weekly luncheon.

Kelley stepped into the position formerly held by Justine Polzin just in time to oversee the chamber's biggest event, the annual Soldotna Progress Days celebration. She said that experience alone was enough to convince her that the Soldotna chamber is her kind of place.

"The staff here has been just incredible," she said. "The parade was awesome."

Kelley said she's spent much of her time at the chamber just getting acquainted with business leaders from the community and trying to deal with the hectic pace of a Soldotna summer. Her main concern so far, she said, is trying to maintain some degree of calm during the city's busiest time.

"I'm trying to just slow down."

Kelley said one of her first priorities as executive director will be to develop a new strategic plan for the chamber. She said she hopes to complete a survey of area businesses in order to find out what direction the chamber needs to move in.

"Strategic planning is a living organism," she said. "You have to always think ahead."

She said she hopes to have a new plan developed within six months, with solid goals for the chamber and its 650 members to strive for.

"We've been talking about some different ideas," she said. "You need quantifiable goals to work toward."

Originally from Colorado, Kelley came to Soldotna from Dillingham, where she lived for six years and served as the director of the Dillingham Senior Citizens Center.

She said the cultural diversity and natural beauty of the Soldotna area was a perfect fit for her family, which includes her husband, Matt, and their two sons, Taylor, 10, and Tanner, 8. The couple also has a daughter, Korrine, who attends college in Sitka.

"I think this is our ideal community," she said.

Kelley said she and her family enjoy spending time outdoors, and the central peninsula will enable them to take advantage of the area's wilderness opportunities as well as some of the more modern amenities not always available in Dillingham.

"We found it all in one place," she said.

In her short time in Soldotna, Kelley said she's been overjoyed at the reception she's gotten from community and business members alike.

"The people in this town are fabulous," she said.

As she settles into her new home, Kelley said she'll spend much of her time simply meeting with chamber members and getting to know people in the community.

After that, she said her only plan is to try and keep up with the diverse Soldotna business community.

In the long run, Kelley said she'll work to help local businesses plan for upcoming events, such as the 2006 Arctic Winter Games, as well as offer any other help the chamber can provide.

"There's so much to do," she said.

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