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The Yale University grad gets the nod from the board with plans to make relationship-building a key focus

GARY ALLEN - Shannon Buckmaster took over as CEO of the Chehalem Valley Chamber of Commerce on June 4.

Shannon Buckmaster has been appointed chief executive officer of the Chehalem Valley Chamber of Commerce with plans to make relationship-building a key focus. Buckmaster's official first day was June 4.

"By the time I received the offer from Express (staffing agency in McMinnville) on behalf of the Chamber, I knew this was a fantastic opportunity to serve our community" she said. "I believe that all of the teams are very thoughtful and mindful of the eventual goals of the chamber."

Buckmaster has a bachelor's degree in religious studies from George Fox University and a master's degree in divinity from Yale University. Since returning to Newberg after graduate school she has worked on a number of volunteer projects, with nonprofit agencies and in staging events in town. Husband Paul is a Newberg native and the couple has two children: Anna, 15, and Bennet, 9.

"I saw this as a natural extension of the investment that I already made in this community," Buckmaster said. "I genuinely enjoy connecting people, connecting resources and connecting opportunities. In this position I am able to do all of that more effectively and at a greater level."

Buckmaster was raised in southwest Washington and was in foster care several times on the Oregon coast. She points to her success to people in her life that provided encouragement, direction and support. One of her passions is to raise awareness for abuse victim recovery and pave the way to bring aspects of the community together.

"Really it is a string of helpers, the professors who helped me to push me into directions. I had wonderful foster care … the kindness and compassion was formative," she said. "There are always helpers at every stage in life. None of us are exempt from life happening, it continues to happen. So, when you slow down with that vulnerability, that hope and positivity you always see the helpers show up. I'm certainly not an army of one."

Buckmaster is charged with redesigning the vision of the chamber and to modernize the organization after the departure of longtime Chamber executive director Sheryl Kelsh in January for reasons unexplained by the board of directors.

"(My job is) to help the chamber be more flexible, more adaptable and more authentic," Buckmaster said. "As a resource for the business community we are evaluating the value we offer for membership and we are evaluating the value we offer for non-membership."

Chamber officials lauded Buckmaster's background in making the decision to hire her.

"Shannon brings the character, skills and experience that the board of directors identified as necessary to fully engage our membership and provide the resources and service our members need to grow their success," the press release.

Buckmaster said she has a clear understanding of the path that lies before her and her staff.

"We're all on board that this particular transition is an opportunity for growth, for re-evaluation and appropriate for change. It's a re-invention of the chamber," Buckmaster said. "I am honestly genuinely grateful to serve at a greater capacity. I view this position as a gift and an honor. … My best may not always be perfect, but my intention is to honor the confidence that my community is showing me."

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