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Road to establish county chamber was a bumpy one

By Sally Voth

Six months after slamming how the creation of the Shenandoah County Chamber of Commerce was progressing, Strasburg Chamber President Rich Orndorff is striking a more conciliatory note.

The county chamber had its first meeting Wednesday evening at the Edinburg Mill. The individual chambers in Woodstock, Mt. Jackson and Edinburg have dissolved, with their towns' businesses being represented on the new board.

And, while the chambers in Strasburg and New Market are members of the county body and those towns are represented on the board, they also are keeping their own chambers open.

Back in July, Orndorff had likened the transition from individual towns' into one county chamber to "a Wall Street hostile takeover."

"We're not joining at this point at my board's direction simply for the fact that we don't have enough information," he said. "We have no idea of the financial structure. We have not seen a budget. The other concern we had was the board makeup."

And, at Wednesday's countywide meeting, new chamber President Wade Zirkle acknowledged the process hadn't been an easy one. He referred to a "pretty heated meeting" at the mill last summer, but said that had culminated in the creation of the county chamber.

On Thursday, Orndorff said his concerns had been addressed.

"I was at the first meeting at the Edinburg Mill, and it was a contentious meeting where I and some others from Strasburg, our board, expressed the fact that this needed to be beneficial to all parts of the county, that right now, Strasburg's members seemed to want to maintain our chamber of commerce, [and were] open to the idea, but that this couldn't be an extension of the Woodstock chamber, or viewed as a hostile takeover," he said. "It needed to be a collaborative effort.

"I think they got on the right track. I know they did. I think their idea to have all five towns have representation was wise."

Orndorff noted that the Strasburg chamber's secretary/administrative assistant, Jackie Thompson, and one of its directors, Clay Arthur, are on the Shenandoah County Board.

"We look forward to working with them," Orndorff said. "So, there's no adversarial relationship from Strasburg against the county chamber. I think once things got ironed out, it moved in the right direction. We're very happy that they've gotten established.

"The only reason that we've not dissolved our chamber is it seemed to be the desire of the majority of our members and our citizens and our community that we maintain our autonomy and continue to operate independently."

He did leave the door open to the dissolution of the Strasburg chamber at some point if it seems beneficial and is desired by members.

Orndorff said about 70 chamber members have paid dues for 2013, and that the chamber is still in the midst of its membership drive.

At the southern end of the county, New Market Chamber President Cathy Wittig-Donald said her chamber generally has about 100 members.

While she said she hopes being a member of the county chamber -- she is one of two board members from New Market -- is helpful, there's been no desire to dissolve the town one.

Contact staff writer Sally Voth at 540-465-5137 ext. 164, or svoth@nvdaily.com


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