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New board members Daron Wallace, Ronda Hills and Kyle Boggs each have goals for the chamber.

They may have different work histories, but Daron Wallace, Ronda Hills and Kyle Boggs have one thing in common: They are the newest volunteer board members with the South Columbia County Chamber of Commerce.

The South Columbia Chamber is bouncing back after a difficult few years. It remains short-staffed, with no executive director, but a new board is taking shape with bold ideas for the future direction of the Chamber and South Columbia County's business community.

COURTESY PHOTO: JAK MASSEY - Daron Wallace joined the chamber board earlier this year.
Daron Wallace

Wallace, a lead accountant at Hurliman CPA in Scappoose, joined the South Columbia County Chamber's board earlier this year and has had prior experience with the board, having worked with the Chamber's bookkeeping.

Asked what prompted him to seek the board position, Wallace, who has lived in St. Helens most of his life, said, "I thought it would be good people to work with and a chance to learn a new aspect of the businesses I work with."

Looking at the region of the county that the South Columbia County Chamber covers, Wallace sees potential.

"I think there is a lot of potential in this county," he said. "I think the problem is that for too long, we've been just a bedroom community."

Noting that while small businesses, such as restaurants, are important to the community, Wallace said, "I grew up in the days of Boise Cascade and Armstrong out here where we had big manufacturing companies in town, and we knew it because we were much better-funded. We had the money for schools. Since Boise shut down, we've watched our water bills go up."

By bringing big employers back to Columbia County, Wallace said, "That helps many of the small businesses in the area also, because they will have people living out here, working out here. The money stays in our community."

Wallace added, "It's going to be the small businesses that help us stabilize the community so that we can bring in bigger industry, to then grow the community from there."

COURTESY PHOTO: JAK MASSEY - Ronda Hills is the latest to join the board of the South Columbia County Chamber of Commerce.

Ronda Hills

Hills, who lives in St. Helens and grew up on Deer Island, works for Ticor Title as sales director and is the newest member of the board.

"In the world of marketing, we're always out and about in the community," said Hills, who is also on the Chamber's events committee. "If you're good at sales, you plug yourself into any events and anything happening in the community."

Asked about the role she wants the South Columbia County Chamber to take in the community, Hills answered, "I think this is a huge opportunity to network with different business owners in the community. Together, we're stronger."

Hills added, "We're really talking about shopping local, supporting small business, but also as a representative of the chamber, I want us to be seen in a professional manner. We're not just getting out there having fun, we're also professionally backing up other businesses in the community."

Hills' role with be helping out with events.

"I bring to the board years of experience in Toastmasters," she said, noting she has given introductions, speeches and has emceed many events. "I think it needs to be done well. People need to be put in a good light and that it be done professionally."

COURTESY PHOTO: JAK MASSEY - Kyle Boggs joined the South Columbia County Chamber of Commerce board in April.

Kyle Boggs

Boggs, who currently serves as community and public relations specialist with Columbia River PUD, joined the Chamber of Commerce board in April.

Boggs joined the board in the hopes of seeing the local economy continue to thrive and improve.

"I'm hoping to be able to make sure the community knows, and the business community in particular knows, that the chamber is here to support them, their events and really encourage people to spend their hard-earned dollars here in Columbia County," Boggs said.

Boggs believes part of the role of the Chamber is to get the word out about new businesses, especially smaller businesses that may not have a storefront.

"Let other people know who they are, what they're doing, what services and goods they provide and they have available to offer," he said.

Boggs also previously worked for the St. Helens Chronicle.

Going forward

Left unresolved at the Chamber is whether there will ever be a new executive director.

There are no plans currently to name an executive director and Jak Massey, the Chamber's member relationship manager, said funding for other management positions are not in the budget at this time.

Massey added, however, "I'm able to manage the responsibilities of the executive director position with the support of the board and our ambassador program."

The South Columbia County Chamber of Commerce laid off its last executive director, Chrissy Marquardt, in March 2020 after just eight months on the job.

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