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Chamber of Commerce selects a new director

The Vashon Maury Chamber of Commerce announced Monday that it has appointed Deborah Richards as the chamber’s new executive director.

Richards, a 30-year Vashon resident, has worked at the chamber for the past six years as the assistant to the current executive director Lee Ockinga. Ockinga will retire at the end of the month and Richards will assume the position in November.

The chamber, hoping to expand its services and strengthen relationships with local businesses, is increasing the executive director position from part time to full time, said Linda Bianchi, president of the chamber’s board of directors. Ockinga, who has headed the chamber for five years, opted to step down at that time so she could continue her career at Vashon’s Learn 2 Earn.

“We’re happy with Lee. She has done a great job for the chamber,” Bianchi said. “This is just as an expansion she doesn’t want to grow with.”

The chamber chose Richards from 35 applicants to fill the position. The top three candidates were put through an intensive interview process.

“It was a very difficult decision,” Bianchi said. “We had some fabulous applicants.”

Richards, who has extensive experience in retail, advertising and marketing, said she is excited to become the chamber’s new director during a time of growth for the organization. In addition to expanding its hours, the chamber hopes to reach out to more Island businesses, begin offering business education opportunities for the community and create a website aimed specifically at Vashon tourists.

“I’m very excited. I think the possibilities are endless,” Richards said.

Bianchi said everyone on the board was pleased to see Richards fill the expanded director position. They unanimously approved her appointment.

“We’ve had so much experience with her. She’s been a fabulous assistant. We know she’s going to be an even better executive,” Bianchi said.

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