Amy Drayer hired as executive director of Vashon Chamber

“I look forward to the chance to collaborate with the community that first taught me how to combine grit and imagination, and how to come together to create solutions to tough problems.”

The board of directors of the Vashon Island Chamber of Commerce has announced a new hire — Amy Drayer will serve as the new executive director of the organization.

She will succeed Ben Stemer, who departs this month to pursue a graduate degree in Scotland.

Chamber Board Chair, Cheryl Lubbert, expressed her excitement at finding a strong, solutions-oriented leader for the position.

“The primary goal of the Chamber is to help island businesses thrive,” she said. “We’re thrilled to bring Amy on board because we believe she has the experience, the connection to Vashon, and the vision to do just that.”

Drayer said that she viewed her new job as an “incredible opportunity” to serve her hometown.

“I look forward to the chance to collaborate with the community that first taught me how to combine grit and imagination, and how to come together to create solutions to tough problems,” she said.

Drayer joins the Chamber at a critical time for the organization and for the island. And though the overall economic environment remains challenging for many in small business, the Chamber itself is in a healthy financial position, Drayer said, thanks to the hard work, expertise, and leadership from the board and community volunteers throughout the pandemic.

Originally from the island, Drayer graduated from Vashon High School in 1995 and received a bachelor’s degree from Scripps College. From there, she worked in politics and organizing for six years in Washington, D.C. Among her most influential experiences, Drayer cites opportunities to work for social change-makers, including Gloria Steinem, who left a lasting mark on her professionally and personally.

“Working for Gloria Steinem really taught me how to listen,” Drayer said. “She listened to everyone, equally – activists and national leaders – but also to the folks on the ground … Seeing that level of genuine investment in people from an iconic role model, understanding that listening was the key to leadership, changed me.”

Drayer also has executive-level nonprofit management experience through her tenure as the vice president of strategic initiatives at the GLBT Community Center of Colorado. There, she oversaw special events, marketing, and a volunteer program that managed over 500 individual contributors annually.

Drayer is excited to apply what she learned at the GLBT Center and her years there leading Denver PrideFest.

“We experienced significant, consistent growth with the festival,” Drayer states. “Every year I learned more about what it took to make a large-scale festival more entertaining, more inclusive, and more meaningful.”

While Drayer was quick to point to the economic success of the event, she also said that cultural significance was always her primary driver.

“Pride was the name of the festival, but it was also how I wanted people to see our community, and for attendees to feel about the event itself,” she said. “…. Making sure we ran a tight ship, that sponsors, vendors, volunteers, and entertainers wanted to work with us year over year — that was core to what I wanted to get done.”

Listening will also be key to her approach at the Chamber, Drayer said. What she learns through conversations with members will inform the Chamber’s strategic approach to member services, programming, and the Strawberry Festival.

In early conversations with the board, Drayer emphasized her three key priorities leading off 2023: delivering solid benefits to members, building connectivity in the community, and ensuring that the Strawberry Festival is by and for the island while also meeting financial goals for the Chamber and Vashon businesses.

Longer-term, Drayer hopes to position the Vashon Chamber as a leader in best practices for small island chambers; particularly those balancing the need to sustain economic vitality with the challenges gentrification can bring. It’s a goal she knows will only be accomplished through listening, she said — “to what other chambers in the Northwest are doing, and to the people, businesses, and organizations on the island who have hard-won wisdom to share.”