Information scant on departure of longtime executive director; board declines to comment

Sheryl Kelsh is no longer president and executive director of the Chehalem Valley Chamber of Commerce.

Kelsh's removal was sudden and sent shock waves through the business community, yet no formal statements have been released as to the reason for her sudden exit.Kelsh

"As a current member of the executive board of directors for the Chamber, and on behalf of the entire board of directors, out of professional courtesy to Ms. Kelsh, we're not able to comment on her separation from the Chamber at this time," said Carr Biggerstaff, chairman of the board.

Although Kelsh's responsibilities in Newberg and the surrounding area were highly visible, no explanation has been provided for her sudden removal.

However, an unnamed source who requested anonymity alluded to possible management problems that transpired under Kelsh's supervision, as well as issues with her performance.

"We consistently set yearly goals that she didn't meet," the source said, "like (telling her not to) volunteer for organizations out of the area and then she would consistently do it. It meant she would not consistently be in the office to supervise and get the necessary work done. It was my impression that she was more interested in elevating her stature statewide, rather than doing the daily grind. She also had a tendency to blame others for her failures."

Conversely, the unnamed source praised some aspects of Kelsh's tenure at the Chamber.

"I cannot tell you how critical the Chamber members were in funding the (Newberg-Dundee) bypass. Sheryl was a very important piece in organizing regular business people's interaction with every (chairperson) of any committee having anything to do with money, business, infrastructure, etc. We even visit with every committee member of at least two or three critical committees (in the Legislature). We have done similar work every session but never to the degree we did in the session where the funding was passed. (Also) she has also done a good job in stabilizing funding for the Chamber through the city hotel tax.

Biggerstaff did provide some background on Kelsh's tenure as executive director of the organization.

"Sheryl Kelsh served as the Chehalem Valley Chamber of Commerce executive for 12 to 13 years," he said in an email. "When she took the position, it included the responsibility for hosting the city's visitor center."

Newberg's visitor's center is primarily funded by the city through its room tax, as well as some funds from the Chamber.

"The Chamber was contracted many years ago to do the visitors center, to answer questions and be a contact point," he said. "She worked on programs for promotions whether that was print advertising in magazines or things like that."

As the city grew, the need for information about the area increased along with the need for familiarization tours to be added at the center. The main focus of the visitor's center is to bring in tourism from outside of the community.

Kelsh also served on the Transient Lodging Tax (TLT) Ad-Hoc committee; she was primarily responsible for the marketing plan for the organization. The TLT ad-hoc committee is funded through the transient lodging tax.

As in a business, the chamber board hires the person to be the CEO to manage the operations and staff. "We are not in a hurry to fill this position. We view this as an opportunity for us to improve what we do and reach out to our members, gather input and see what we want to accomplish in 2018-2019. From that, we will make our decision," said Biggerstaff. "In the meantime, we have four on our executive board who are filling in to help our staff and to keep the chamber humming along. We are here to serve our community and members to make any improvements that we can make, that is our focus."

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